UPDATE: Nick has since left WGR 550 and now can be heard on WECK 1230
UPDATE #2: WECK 1230 has since closed, you can follow Nick and his career on his website NickMendola.com.
Nick Mendola is slowly becoming the face (or voice rather) of sports in Buffalo. Not only can he be heard on the Howard Simon Show as the show’s producer every Monday through Friday morning, but he’s also a play by play man for various University at Buffalo sports teams and is helping make soccer in Buffalo relevant with FC Buffalo (for which he is the Director of Public Relations and Partnerships as well as an owner). I honestly could keep going, but I would delaying an awesome Buffalo Foodie post.
This Buffalo Foodie article will be a little different then our previous postings. Nick has essentially taken over and has gone all out listing his favorite Buffalo restaurants. He even threw a couple places out there that we’ve never heard of!
It all started from this simple question….
Where is your favorite place to eat?
Nick: That’s all sorts of unfair. What’s the best song ever written? Alright, I’m taking over Buffalo Eats for a spell… gonna get my formatting going right. You should probably know that I don’t eat meat. That doesn’t make me boring, just skinnier. I fully expect to find out half these meals aren’t strictly vegetarian as this gets out there. How special!
(Disclaimer: I’ve had several concussions, and am not responsible for leaving out a favorite place or seven. Hopefully, Buffalo Eats will let me add some stuff in after the fact)
To the “meatheads”: People who matter to me tell me that Gabriel’s Gate has the best Wings, and Ulrich’s is the best for everything else meat-related. I won’t be bailing on vegetarianism any time soon, but the Roast Beef Sandwich at Schwabl’s when “No Reservations” came here looked awesome. Now let’s do what every Buffalonian does and snowmobile before roasting a giant beast. Just being real.
Mexican: Now that they have a Club America jersey hanging up, I feel even more at home at El Canelo, just off the 190 where it meets the 90. It’s fresh, they get the food ready right quick, and they have massive 32 oz. beers. My buddies Erik and Josh think they can pound 10 of these during a single Bills game. We plan on watching their untimely deaths at some point this season when I don’t have to work a post-game show at WGR. Vegetarian Burritos, fresh Salsa and Chips, Chile Rellenos… oh my.
Italian: I spent almost half a decade working at Big John’s Pasta House in Tonawanda, NY, on Niagara Falls Boulevard near UB’s South Campus, so I’m absolutely partial to that place because not only have I eaten almost every dish there — I worked there before I went meatless — but working in the back with Ed, Brian, Jay, Mike & the rest of our small clan, I developed an incredible sense of faith in the place. Folks love the Chicken Cacciatore. Small places in Buffalo tend to the best.
Like seemingly everyone else, we’re big on Chef’s before Sabres games. The place is unusually good. One of my secret ego desires is to one day matter enough to have my photo on the wall by Irv Weinstein.
Diners: My wife’s from South Buffalo so I’ve been properly introduced to the Wayside over time. $1.75 fried egg sandwich? Get out of here! I probably spent most of my band days getting loose at the Olympic on Military Road. When I wasn’t there, we were at Pano’s. Omelets and such.
Asian: I’ve tried just about every Asian place in the area looking for the best chicken replacement to go with General Tso’s sauce, and Red Pepper on Maple Road is A-plus. We’ve brought a number of out-of-town friends to eat there. Happy Jack’s across the border does the trick, too.
Dessert: Cheesecake Place on Sheridan Drive. Same side of the road as Great Skate, just down the street from the 290 exit for Sheridan/Harlem. Spot makes a mean carrot cake.
Pizza: I had to cross this bridge a few months back when we were doing our bios for the FC Buffalo site, so I’ll copy and paste:”Either Imperial Pizza in South Buffalo (hot peppers or mushrooms), Big John’s on Niagara Falls Boulevard (Garlic Romano Crust) or Franco’s on Eggert (just cheese). I also like Di Paulo’s, Bocce Club…”
I’ll be massive once I stop playing iced hockey and grass soccer.
Summer: Louie’s veggie dogs are the most legitimate form of summer eats in the area, and we like to hit up the one on Sheridan as one as the one in the city. I say summer because the Sheridan one is the only open Spring/Summer/early Fall. If you’re at the Buffalo location, get with the sweet potato fries with honey and butter. Just another big contribution from my dad.
The Hatch down by the waterfront has an unruly Veggie Burger with some great fries.
Ummmmm… and I know this is a certain amount of sacrilege, but my girl Kate Dahm is a manager at the locally-owned IHOP on Maple Road. You can find me crushing sourdough toast with hot sauce when I get my chocolate chip pancakes there. In other bad news, Manhattan Bagel on Sheridan (kitty corner to My Tomato Pie, also kinda great) has the best coffee in the area. Sad, but true, local joints! Pano’s is probably second.
Bar: It’s a horrible idea for me to start naming names here, because I’ve been treated so well by so many. The Mohawk Place is the best of the best, but a lot of it has to do with the music and the cheap beer. I laugh when Erik tells me people try to order super fancy drinks there. Grab a PBR and enjoy the floor.
The Pink was a college haunt. Their Snakebite works right. Founding Fathers is where our wedding party went for a toast after our wedding rehearsal. Frizzy’s and The Town Ballroom are good Buffalo spots. And I can’t even get into the suburbs… I feel like Shenanigan’s on Niagara Falls Blvd. is an up-and-coming joint. Most Irish pubs work for me. WJ Morrissey’s in the Arena District is the sort of place that is doing things right. Real wood from Ireland there, and delicious beer. Good place to watch soccer.
A hidden gem is The 911 Tavern for shuffleboard and homemade hot sauce. A pal named Solly once bought me a mason jar of it as a gift. It’s much better than that sounds, but I’m not deleting it. That’s Buffalo.
Straight vegetarian: Everyone says Amy’s Place, but that’s the gateway drug. We haven’t been to Betty’s on Virginia for a spell, but its Sunday brunch is A-plus (Scrambled tofu hash… as my buddy Scoggles would say, “GET WITH ME ON THIS”). Merge is a super nice new joint, but we’ve been there several times — and I don’t know if it’s my facial forest — and the service after food was served was as efficient as the Bills offense against the Browns.
Spot does their granola RIGHT. Get it with yogurt. Do it. Now. Right now. Now now.
Best food for UB folks: Zetti’s by the Dipson Amherst is a can’t-miss-combo (the one with brocolli and ricotta works like a charm). They opened one near North Campus recently. Obviously, Jim’s Steakout works, and you should try a cheese sub with barbeque sauce, bleu cheese and sweet peppers. I miss the pizza place in the UB Commons.
Any types of food you specifically grew up on?
Whatever Rose Mendola, Diana Jo Ponticello, or any other of the food gems in my family were cooking up. My Aunt Roz makes a chocolate cake. In exchange for a piece, I would punch you in the face.
Once I hit 15, I grew up on Gino’s Pizza across the street from Kenmore East High School and Mighty Taco. That’s about it.
Buffalo Eats would like to thank Nick for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer back with an incredibly awesome response. We hope that you will take Nick’s advice and try out some of these places. To keep up to date, follow Nick on Twitter, or read his thoughts (more than 140 characters at a time) on his blog on WGR’s website. If you looking for something to do on Thanksgiving Eve, check out his band Tuco (Nick handles the vocals) playing at Mohawk Place, opening for Roger Bryan And The Orphans for their Record Release Show (starts at 10pm).