Since we started Buffalo Eats a couple years ago, the foodie culture in Western New York has definitely grown. People are getting really excited when they find out new restaurants are opening that offer different, unique and authentic cuisines. We’ve mentioned events like Nickel City Chef that are catering to this large group of foodies, but we’ve failed to mention that Dinner with Danger has also been providing WNYers similiar access to new types of cuisine and dishes you won’t find on a regular menu.
Since May of 2010, Michael Bernhardt has been putting together Dinner with Danger, a prix fixe meal in a restaurant that lets the chef offer a complete and creative meal to excited diners. These dinners have taken place in some of the best restaurants in the area: Torches, Marco’s, Bistro Europa, The Eights and more. I had a chance to meet Michael in person a couple weeks ago and realized it was a crime to have a Buffalo Foodies series and not have him on our list. Here are his favorite places to eat and drink as well as some food memories from his childhood.
Right now, where are your favorite places to eat in Buffalo?
Michael: My favorite meal in Buffalo is a combo Pho at 99, with a combo fresh spring roll and Beef short rib BBQ apps. There is such a great variety of flavors and textures that meld so beautifully! And, I always feel like a million bucks after I eat it. I also eat at the Vasilis Express right by my house all the time, I get their falafel wrap a few times a week, I have them add a little tzatziki (garlicy dill goodness), and it is delicious. Plus, it’s pretty healthy and quite affordable.
Recently, I have been hooked on the salad bar at The Lexington Co-op, and after having lunch at The Connecticut Street Sandwich Shop yesterday, I know I will be stopping there a lot in the near future. And the Phoenix wing at Gin Gins, a de-boned and stuffed chicken wing, is just scandalous.
Where do you like to grab a drink on the weekends?
Michael: I wind up surfing the taps at Mister Goodbar pretty frequently. Mothers and The Essex Street Pub have always been two of my favorites, and I have been heading to Rohall’s Corner with some regularity as well. As long as they have some Makers Mark, I can be pretty happy anywhere.
If you had a friend visiting from out of town, Where would you take them for a good “Buffalo” time?
What are some of your favorite food memories you have from growing up?
Michael: Two of my favorite dishes to this day are things my mom made, Chicken Kiev, and Veal with a Dill Cream Sauce. I love the garlic tarragon butter from the chicken, as you cut into it the butter drizzles on to the rice and it’s amazing! As for restaurants, Lone Star Fajita Grill is still a favorite to this day, though I don’t make it there as often as I would like.
What types of foods or restaurants do you wish the Buffalo area had more of?
Michael: Bay area burritos! Some have tried, but they have never gotten close. I may have to go do some research (yummy) and open my own place one of these days. Right now though, I am much more interested in doing the research. I would like to see more creativity in the food, it’s funny how you can watch menu items bounce around from place to place, more seasonal menus, and cool cafe food. I have only eaten at Black Rock Kitchen and Bar once so far, but I really love their menu, and the foie gras french toast sandwich is incredible!
How did you come up with Dinner with Danger?
Michael: Dinner With Danger sprang from my desire to eat more unique and less often served foods. When a restaurant tries a new special or menu item they are taking a risk. If they order something that doesn’t sell, they’re losing money. Having a group of interested eaters putting their whole meal in the hands of the chef allows that chef the opportunity to try new things and take risks they may not be able to take on their regular menu. It removes some of the constraints chefs deal with and really provides an opportunity for their creativity to run wild. Some take more advantage of this than others, but all the meals have been outstanding. This has definitely been the best year of eating in my life!
Do you feel that foodie culture is growing right now?
Michael: I do feel that the foodie culture is growing, and I have certainly noticed a dramatic increase in dinners like the ones I throw, over the past year. I think the localvore movement is very important, and the lessons from it should be carried over to other aspects of our lives. Spending locally is an important part of enriching our area. I love the fact that the city has so few chain restaurants, and I would like to see more interesting lower price options for eating around town. I am looking forward to NoNoo Ramen, and I am excited for the prospect of more refugee founded restaurants. After all, one can eat only so many ceaser salads!
We’d like to thank Michael for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer some of our questions about where he loves to eat and the back story to his awesome Dinner with Danger event series. If you are interested in attending one of these great foodie meals, check out his website or follow them on facebook. They average one event a month but sometimes they’ll have even more. Right now you can buy tickets to the following: Nov 14th White Truffle Dinner at Torches, Oct 24th: Authentic Thai meal at Hertel Ave’s Taste of Thai and Nov 13: an Authentic Burmese meal to support Journey’s End Refugee Services.