Word of Mouth: Buffalo, New York

Western New York's hub of art, culture and iconic food—and surprising architectural gems

One of the great joys of the vastness of the United States (and even New York state itself) is the vibrant local pockets of distinct culture. During the summer months, many New Yorkers’ minds trail to the Hamptons or the Hudson Valley—well-branded escapes within arm’s reach. And yet, at the end of inexpensive 45-minute flight rests Buffalo. Where the Erie Canal meets the Great Lake it took its name from—this city is more than just a quick drive to Niagara Falls, it’s home to world-class art museums and food ranging from Buffalo wings and beef on weck, to locally made toast variations.

Even if you aren’t struck by how friendly the people are, and how beautiful the waterfront is, its array of architecture will surely impress. While in Buffalo this past weekend for their annual food fair, Taste of Buffalo, we had an opportunity to scope out the following 10 must-stop spots. There’s plenty more to do in Buffalo, but this is definitely a good start.

Burchfield Penney Art Center

With a focus on artists living, working, teaching or once having resided in Western New York, Burchfield Penney Art Center is truly superb. The facility draws its name from acclaimed watercolorist Charles E. Burchfield, known for his elements of synesthesia. Burchfield works are always on display, but the center has so much more. At present four other temporary exhibitions are on display—with the largest being Tonawanda-born illustrator Philip Burke’s “The Likeness of Being.” Burke, well-known for his editorial paintings of politicians, celebrities and public figures, delivers a bright and thoughtful show, that happens to be fun.

Albright-Knox Art Galley

A home for one-of-a-kind works from the likes of Rothko and Mondrian, as well as cutting-edge temporary exhibitions like the current

“Screen Play: Life in an Animated World,” the Albright-Knox Art Gallery pairs their remarkable collection with a vision for the future. Housed in a turn-of-the-century palatial facility, with a more modern ’60s wing, stunning pieces lay around every corner. Perhaps the most fascinating part of the museum is looking at the purchase dates of the works. From founder Seymour Knox himself to the present day, the curators have been ahead of the curve in the art world—whether we’re talking about Jeff Koons and Theaster Gates or Joan Miró and Henri Matisse.

Five Points Bakery

Five years ago, Five Points Bakery opened in West Buffalo with a view in mind to make bread from wheat sourced only from local farms. Recently, they’ve moved to a much larger space—with plenty of room to sit and eat—in the same neighborhood. And from superb offerings to an eye toward doing good for the community, it’s a real gem. Try the Extra Sharp Cheddar, their whole-wheat bread stuffed with chunks of local cheddar and accompanied by pickles, hot sauce, sour cream and blue cheese. Not only is it filling, it’s one-of-a-kind.

Allen Burger Venture

A gastropub in the heart of Buffalo’s Allentown neighborhood, Allen Burger Venture definitely stakes claim to the best burger and tater tots in town. On tap they’ve got quite the selection of local and craft beers, while their cocktail offerings round out the menu. A few steps from Buffalo’s famed “Bubbleman,” this hot spot has an environment worth sitting in for a while.

Darwin Martin House

Between 1903 and 1905, Frank Lloyd Wright developed and built the Darwin Martin House. This architectural wonder is one of the best examples of Wright’s prairie home style, and a tour of the inside reveals the level of detail all around. From his “tree of life” windows to the cross-axial plan and low pitched roof, this style broke the world out of Victorian architecture—and Buffalo offers it first-hand.

Kleinhans Music Hall

Another one of Buffalo’s architectural wonders, Kleinhans Music Hall, designed by Eliel Saarinen with his son Eero Saarinen in the late 1930s, plays host to a broad selection of musical events. From a night of Bach, Vivaldi and Handel paired with local beer—dubbed Baroque and Brews—to performances from the likes of Fiona Apple and pop acts, the space emphasizes the music within. As far as great music halls in the US go, there’s really nothing quite like this venue and any act is an excuse to experience it.

Anchor Bar

Undeniably, Anchor Bar created Buffalo wings as we know them. The restaurant was established in 1935, but Teressa Bellissimo actually invented them here roughly 40 years ago. Medium wings are the most-consumed, but options range from mild to three tiers of suicidal—and they’re all fantastic. Anchor Bar has plenty of other things on the menu, but it only makes sense to hit them up for what they’ve caused the rest of the States to love.

Silo City

Skyscraper-like grain silos dot the Buffalo landscape, remnants of their industrial past and present. A collection of some abandoned silos, dubbed Silo City, now plays host to frequent programming and tours. The structures themselves are curious enough to visit on their own, but this past weekend’s jazz festival lends an edge to the landscape.

Images by David Graver