Without Merge’s twitter account, I wouldn’t have found out about Thirsty Dudes, let alone that these 3 gentlemen (Jay, Mike, Derek – above, Left to Right) are on this liquid journey in my own backyard. But thank god I found this site because I have put in several hours worth of time reading up on some of the most obscure drinks. I am quite the pop (that’s soda for anyone not living in Canada or Buffalo) fan myself and will give anything at least one sip. These guys put me to shame, they have featured over 600 different drinks on Thirsty Dudes. They’ve tried and written about drinks from countries like Korea, India, Thailand, England and even Fiji (just to name a few). So the day I found out about their site, I sent an email asking if they would like to be our newest Buffalo Foodies. I received a quick yes from Mike and what followed is maybe the longest/most in depth response to our questions that we’ve ever gotten in the 18 months we’ve been doing these “Buffalo Foodie” articles. Totally awesome.
So check out where the Thirsty Dudes (Jason Draper, Mike Literman and Derek Neuland) like to eat and hang out in Western New York….
Where do you like to eat in Buffalo?
Mike: I love to eat at Amy’s Place because it’s got some strange mixes of food that’s always good. I also like Mythos because as many times as I’ve been there, their hash browns are always good and it’s a safe place for my suburban parents. Also anything with tacos is a big score with Thirsty Dudes. Every Tuesday, Jay and myself and some other friends get tacos somewhere, typically Salsarita’s or Wegman’s and Jay dubbed it “Thirsty Tuesday”.
Jason: Pizza Plant (5110 Main St.). - Make your own Pods. Veggie Stew. Curried Garden Nachos.
This is my favorite place to eat in the greater Buffalo area. It has a very comfortable atmosphere, the wait staff is very friendly and the background music is always great (Elvis Costello, The Cure, David Bowie, The Smiths). They have a decent selection of vegetarian/vegan options, and on top of that the food is delicious. Even though I eat until I want to throw up every time I’m there, I always wish I had more room in my stomach to continue on in my gluttony.
Amy’s Place (3234 Main St) - Steak Kabob (replacing the meat with seitan). Barb Special.
Amy’s Place is a little slice of diner life for the punk/alternative crowd. Even if you don’t know the employees, they make you feel like you have for years. It may not look like much, but the food is pretty outstanding. Vegetarians have the option of getting seitan or tofu in any of the meat dishes. They also have a section of the menu where the employees create their own dishes, which are always interesting. As an added bonus, for the early risers, they have a $1.99 breakfast before 9am.
Taste Good (2308 Delaware Ave) - Vegetarian Sesame Chicken.
I have a week spot for low rent Chinese food. Unfortunately most places may seem fine while you’re eating, but they will ultimately make you ill. I have taken to only eating at Chinese restaurants that are recommended to me. Years ago someone told me to check out Taste Good because they started a vegetarian menu. I haven’t looked for another recommendation since. Some people are addicted to cigarettes. Some just can’t seem to stray away from heroin. I had an undying addiction to Taste Good’s Vegetarian Sesame Chicken. I ate there at least once a week for years. About a year ago they changed up the fake meat. When I could wind of this I thought my world was going to come crashing down around me. It turns out they somehow made it even better. The place may be dirty and freezing in the winter, but it definitely holds a piece of my heart.
Derek: Amy’s Place (3234 Main St.) is definitely my favorite place to eat in Buffalo. Friendly staff, great atmosphere, and the best vegan food in Buffalo are some of the reasons why I go there all the time when i’m in Buffalo. My favorite dishes include the Margie Meal (tofu or seitan, fries, and garlic sauce wrapped in flat bread), Biff Sandwich (seitan, bbq sauce, and spinach on a bun), or the veggie wet shoes (spiced lentils, peppers, and onions over curly fries).
Where do you like to grab a drink and hang out on the weekends?
Mike: None of us drink but we typically spend our time together either shopping strange bodega’s for drinks or at my house playing video games.
Jason: I don’t drink alcohol, so I don’t spend much time going out in bars. The only one I ever really hang out at is Mohawk Place. I really only go there to hang out with some friends. They do know how to make a mean cranberry juice and 7up cocktail for me.
Derek: Sadly I don’t know of any bars with root beer on tap so I can’t say I’ve ever gone somewhere like that to grab a drink. I do really like Village Beer Merchant (547 Elmwood Ave) for their wide selection of specialty root beers and sodas.
If you had a friend who was visiting from out of town, where would you take them out (eat/drink/whatever) to show them a good “Buffalo” time?
Mike: I would take them to Amy’s because it’s a good “youth hot spot”. Good atmosphere and good food. If my parents come in, they love Kostas way too much but my friends I would bring to a dump that has good food. I like to scare people into a good meal. I like taking people to foreign bazaars for drinks if they ask. They asked, and they shouldn’t have if they don’t expect strange places.
Jason: Most of the people that come to visit are friend’s bands who are on tour. As a result they don’t have much money to spend, so I always take them somewhere for an inexpensive meal. A lot of the time they are also vegetarian, so Amy’s Place is the usual destination. For the times that there are meat eaters in the crowd that want to try “Buffalo Wings” (come on people they are just chicken wings), I take them to Voelkers Bowling Alley. I was told by a bunch of people that they are some of the best wings in the city, and no one I’ve ever brought there has ever had a word of complaint. If there are a lot of us going out to eat I sometimes take people to prepared food section at Wegmans. For a grocery store they make some surprisingly good food.
Derek: Amy’s Place for sure. I don’t let anyone visiting Buffalo miss out on trying Amy’s Place. Talking Leaves, the top of City Hall, Rust Belt Books, Spiral Scratch record store (291 Bryant St.) and hopefully there’s a good show at Mohawk Place to take them to.
What kind of food memories do you have from growing up in Western New York?
Mike: I grew up in Pendleton, a suburb of Buffalo and we didn’t really come to the city too much, but when we did, we went to Elmwood Taco and Subs and that Elmwood Ice Cream/Soda Shoppe/Milkshake stand. I can’t think of the name of it, but I remember my parents referring to it as “the blue light district” which no one in their right mind would refer to it now as.
Jason: Growing up around Buffalo my family never really went out to eat much. If we did it was generally to chain restaurants. I have no strong memories of those trips (well except my mom getting the 5 for 5 deal at Arbys and me trying to eat all five once). My mom made a lot of dinners that weren’t very memorable as well. My favorite time of year always was (and still is) the week of the Erie County Fair. The food there is so greasy and delicious. Before I was a vegetarian, I always ate obscene amounts of cheese steaks and sausages. This year I actually brought my own veggie sausage with me to the fair and had one of the stands cook it up for me to try to relive my childhood memory.
Derek: I grew up in the City of Tonawanda and didn’t get to explore much outside of it growing up. I remember going to Mighty Taco and Colosso Taco a lot as a kid. Big Daddy’s pizza in North Tonawanda was also a favorite of mine.
If there any foods you wish Buffalo had or had more of?
Mike: There’s good sushi and good taco’s so not really. God knows there are enough pizza places for everyone to have one to themselves so we do not need more of them. Jay is more worldly than myself so I’m sure he knows of something. Also, I’m not vegetarian so I’m not too picky about food.
Jason: I would really appreciate more vegetarian restaurants in general, most places have a couple things for me to choose from, but it would be nice to have an entire menu to choose from. That being said, the main food I wish Buffalo had was vegetarian chicken wings. There is a place in Brooklyn called Foodswings. They have the absolute perfect fake wings I’ve ever had. They use high quality fake chicken on wooden dowels, but more importantly unlike the rest of the country they understand that the sauce on the wings in the most important part. Franks Hot Sauce is crucial. I have dreams about those wings, and I wish they were readily available in Buffalo.
Derek: Thai food for sure, there definitely aren’t enough Thai places in Buffalo. A sandwich shop that catered to vegetarians/vegans would be really nice too.
Bonus Question: What are some of your favorite places to grab some unique drinks in Buffalo?
Mike: In the city we have had great luck with the Asian market on Busti and Niagara. There is also an Asian/Jamaican market on Bailey that we like to go to for drinks and jay gets vegetarian duck and chicken he says is good. Hoowa Supermarket on Sheridan and Amherst is super overwhelming. Spice Bazaar is a great Indian market that has awesome Indian food, catchy tunes on the overhead radio, and awesome drinks. We may have exhausted the Spice Bazaar, though, which is sad. We started doing this site in the end of fall so it was too cold to ride around on our bikes but come summer, Jay and I are going to don large bags and go to different strange stores all over the city and stock up on strange, delicious, and probably some gross drinks.
Jason: Some of the best places to find drinks that are out the normal spectrum are the Village Beer Merchant and Nature’s Market in Wegmans. Both have a decent selection of pop and iced teas.
Derek: Village Beer Merchant is a great place to find specialty sodas and root beers. Asian markets are a gold mine for weird drinks.
We’d like to thank Mike, Jason and Derek for taking time out of their busy drink tasting schedules to respond to our questions. If I’ve taken anything away from their responses, it’s that I really need to get to Amy’s Place (long overdue on that one). If you enjoy soft drinks, juices, ice teas, root beer or any type of non-alcholic drink I can’t recommend Thirsty Dudes enough. They have really built up a fantastic database of drinks and their design makes it easy to get around their site. Also become a fan of theirs on facebook or follow them on twitter and keep up to date when they post a new review!