Ask anyone what they should eat while visiting Buffalo and chances are they will answer “wings”. Chicken wings, I mean Buffalo wings, are famous. Restaurants and bars at home in Toronto often try to mimic, or advertise Buffalo-style wings.
So, on a recent trip to Buffalo I fully expected to indulge in the most famous food from Buffalo, but quickly found myself discovering that there are a few other local meats and treats that Buffalonians consider to be famous.
What are these other famous foods from Buffalo? Check it out below, and give them a try next time you head to New York State’s second largest city!
#5 – Ted’s Charcoal Broiled Hot Dogs
As the story goes, Ted came to the US in the early 1900’s and first ran a horse-drawn hot dog cart in Buffalo. He started his first actual shop in the ’20s and it’s become a locally famous tradition to hit Ted’s whenever you need a good hot dog.
Ok, so can a hot dog really be anything special? Skeptical at first, I was pleasantly surprised as soon as I rolled into the parking lot and saw the old style signage and simple decor. This is a place that doesn’t care about style, all they care about is serving up great hot dogs at their numerous locations in and around Buffalo.
Once you open the doors, the unmistakable smell of charcoal grilled meats wafts through the air and you know that if somewhere can elevate the hot dog to a higher level, this is the place. Make no mistake though, this isn’t some hipster-happy “gourmet” hot dog experiment place, this is good old-fashioned as-good-as-it gets hot dogs.
You can grab a regular, jumbo, foot long or a skinless hot dog. Sure, they have burgers and fries and such too, but the hot dogs are their specialty. You see your dog cooked right before you, and select from a range of a dozen different toppings. People in Toronto love their street vendor hot dogs, and Ted’s beats them hands down. It’s the same smell, and vibe as an Ontario institution for cottage-goers who hit Weber’s up in Orillia during their weekend escapes up north.
To finish off your meal here, be sure to order a Johnnie Ryan loganberry juice drink with it.
#4 – Peanut Sticks from Paula’s Donuts
What the heck is a peanut stick, you ask? Well, the short answer is that it is a donut covered in peanut pieces.
That may not be super appealing, so you need to delve a little further into this locally famous Buffalo food to appreciate it more. First, it’s not a classic style of donut, but more of a cake donut.
This cake-y style of donut makes it denser, but not too heavy. If you’re the kind of person that loves combining biscuits, cookies, scones, or other types of treats with your coffee and tea drinking, then this denser type of donut will also do the trick. The donuts have a nicely crisp coating, which allows for the peanut pieces to stick, to this donut stick.
The donut is elongated, not a round donut. It’s a bit of a meal to be honest. I only ate half a peanut stick and was content. Now there are other donut shops around Buffalo that serve up similar treats. Paula’s also serves up peanut jelly donuts (it’s raspberry jelly), chocolate peanut donuts and peanut round donuts. If you’re up for it, give more than one a try! The classic peanut stick from Paula’s is what I suggest though, and it’s famous enough that the popular Buffalo coffee shop called SPoT Coffee caries them, so they’re easy to find!
#3 – Beef on Weck
Another meat treat that was made famous in Buffalo.
What makes beef on weck special, is the weck. Short for a kummelweck roll, it is a special bread created in Buffalo many years ago. The secret is that the traditional kummelweck roll has a sprinkling of kosher salt and caraway seeds atop it. This unique soft, but slightly chewy roll, with it’s salty surface creates the perfect complement to a shaved, smoked beef meat sandwich.
As with anywhere that serves up piles of meat sandwiches, quality counts, so you need to find a proper place with the right rolls and good meat. If you’re wandering around downtown Buffalo at lunch time, then head over to the Historic Ellicott Square building. It’s am impressive piece of architecture and home to a couple of “quick” lunch pots inside the central atrium, including an express Charlie the Butcher.
Don’t forget to grab some horseradish too, to complete the experience. As with Ted’s hot dogs, your experience here is something that goes back decades, reminding you how big of a blue-collar city Buffalo was, and in many ways still is today. Charlie the Butcher actually goes back for more than a century, dating back to 1914. My only small knock on the beef and weck here was that the kummelweck roll only had salt on it, no caraway seeds. For people who don’t like caraway, that could be a good thing!
#2 – Sponge Candy
As I was sitting at Resurgence Brewing in Buffalo, talking about their sponge candy stout beer, I realized I didn’t exactly know what sponge candy was.
Turns out, it is another locally famous food in Buffalo! Armed with that knowledge, it was added to the must-eat list while I was in town.
I expected something to be soft, spongy, sweet. Maybe like cotton candy? Well, I was wrong. Sponge candy is a light, airy sweet and sugary treat that is a bit crumbly. It’s most commonly served in bite-size pieces, covered in chocolate.
My first sample was a milk chocolate sponge candy at Watson’s Chocolates. Arguably the home to the best sponge candy in Buffalo. People buy it here in hoards and ship it across the US and to friends and family abroad because it’s a pretty addictive, tasty sweet treat.
After learning a bit about sponge candy, I sampled some more, this time with dark chocolate. I think I personally preferred the milk chocolate version, but both were great. if you’re an expert sponge candy eater, the proper way to (apparently) eat it is to bite off the chocolate coating first, leaving only the sponge interior to savour at the end.
The sponge candy tastes like granular brown sugar, and quickly, easily melts down in your mouth to a sticky, chewy piece of candy. Experiencing the different types of sponge candy was fun. I didn’t tell all the locals that I had tried something similar before – anyone who has tried a
Coffee Crisp Crunchie chocolate bar in Canada, that is pretty much exactly what sponge candy is! I’d say the stuff at Watson’s is better quality though!
#1 – Buffalo Wings
Not a surprise here. But no famous food list of Buffalo could have any other item at #1. Pretty much anywhere you end up in Buffalo there are wings nearby. Dirty dive bars, historic restaurants and new breweries all serve them up. I had some at a local sports bar, and they were tossed in a perfectly slightly sticky, semi-hot sauce.
Now, before any astute chicken wing connoisseurs complain, the above photo is NOT the chicken wings I had in Buffalo. For obvious reasons, Buffalo wings are something you need to take a picture of before you dig and and start making a mess. I forgot to take a picture of my Buffalo wings, so the picture above is of some wings I had at home in Toronto.
What are the difference? Well, classic Buffalo wings are unbreaded (unlike those seen above), and the traditional sauce is a vinegar/hot sauce/butter mix, giving them a tangy and hot kick. It’s generally a fairly liquidy sauce, as compared to thick, sticky and dense BBQ sauces or other sauce options that are prevalent everywhere today. So, next time you are at a restaurant ordering wings and they ask if you want them breaded or not breaded, know that the Buffalo wing style is unbreaded.
I’ve never had bad wings in Buffalo, even at chain restaurants. But for authenticity, visiting the ‘birthplace” of Buffalo wings is something everyone needs to experience at least once. head over to Anchor Bar for your wings and learn from the pro’s. This is where the classic Buffalo wing recipe was created and perfected.
There you go, five famous foods from Buffalo. A nice combination of sweet treats and meaty eats. Are there any other Buffalo specialities you’d add to this list of must-try foods?
I have to give a shout out to Visit Buffalo Niagara Tourism who helped me get around Buffalo and uncover some of these hidden gems of the city!