Local Restaurant Week on Hertel

It’s here.

Restaurant Week

Restaurant Week is here.

If you didn’t gorge yourself yesterday on filet mignon, homemade lasagna or a lobster feast, well you’re doing it wrong.  That’s what Restaurant Week Lombardo'sis all about – indulgence. No, no actually it’s not.  In reality, it’s about supporting local restaurants. It’s about FINALLY getting to try that local joint that’s been on your “I’ve heard so many great things about these places, so one of these days…” list.  It’s about those high-end restaurants that normally cause your wallet to shed a tear at the very thought of dropping that kind of money on dinner but $20.13 is MUCH more affordable.  It’s about taking a risk and trying a place you’ve never even heard of.  It’s about rediscovering your neighborhood.

There’s close to 200 local restaurants participating in Restaurant Week – April 22-28.  But be warned, you can encounter a slight case of vertigo sifting through the menus of each place so why bother?  (Please note: if you choose to not heed my warning, please stay safely seated)  Let me help you narrow down that list to 6 restaurants found in our hood – Hertel Avenue.

1.)    Canvas@1206 – 4 words: Dark Chocolate Lava Cake.  Not many of the restaurants offer dessert and the fact that Canvas has 4 dinner options, lava cake for dessert and a killer patio to boot makes it a solid option this week.

2.)    Empire Grill – The description of their salmon entrée alone makes me want to dial the phone right now.  Pecan crusted, seared sweet chili-lime king salmon over rice pilaf with sautéed greens.  Other restaurant’s description?  “Salmon”

3.)    Gramma Mora’s Mexican Restaurant – This place is legendary.  I’m a firm believer that any chance you can get to dine here should be taken.  It’s Restaurant Week…that’s your excuse.

4.)    Jewel of India – I’m not going to lie.  I don’t know ANYTHING about Indian food.  But this is the perfect opportunity for you to step outside your culinary comfort zone. (Then tell me how it was.)

5.)    Lombardo’s Ristorante – One of my faves in all of Buffalo. I’ve had the Tagliatelle Bolognese many o’ times so if you want ensure you’ve ordered a slam dunk, you need to be all over that.

6.)    Shadow Lounge & Restaurant – Choice of appetizer, choice of entrée AND an alcoholic beverage.  That’s worth repeating.  Choice of appetizer, choice of entrée AND an alcoholic beverage.  Yep.


Sheetcakes are for Suckers

I don’t need a special occasion to eat a cupcake.  I don’t really need a special occasion to eat any sort of dessert for that matter.   I’ll walk right into a cupcake shop on a random Sunday afternoon and walk right out, one bite in and three to go.  It just so happened that THIS particular random Sunday was my father-in-law’s birthday so I actually had a reason to visit Fairy Cakes Cupcakery, which is just about a half mile from Hertel on Parkside, right across from the Buffalo Zoo.

The party was in less than an hour and despite my time crunch, I knew that I didn’t want to bother with a typical sheet cake.  Sheet cakes are for suckers.   I’m better than that.

I could sit here and talk about how friendly the Fairy Cakes staff is, how the cupcakes are all on display in cake stands for your viewing (and drooling) pleasure or how the seating area is so inviting you’d consider curling up next to the fireplace in your Bills snuggie…but I won’t.

Instead I’ll get down to the nitty gritty – the double-chocolate cupcake with salted caramel frosting.  Yep. Let the salivation begin.  Only 3 words can describe this bad-boy. Oh. My. Gawd.


First off, the only thing better than chocolate is double chocolate so there’s really no explanation needed on the actual cupcake.  It was moist and that dense type of cake you’d find in a wedding cake almost.  And then there was the frosting.  This frosting isn’t your airy, light-as-a-feather type cake topper.  This was a thick, creamy texture with just the right balance of sweetness to saltiness, almost like biting into a chocolate-covered pretzel.  Bottom line, the perfect accoutrement to the cake.

I’m going to expect you have one foot in the car already – destination: Fairy Cakes.  As for me, finishing up bite #4.

The Story Behind the Design

I can’t be alone. Among the thousands of pro-716 “BuffaLOVERS”, I think many of us have an unexplained affinity for the standing buffalo. An odd choice for a favorite animal, sure.  Especially for one that has no confirmed credit for the city of Buffalo’s name. But yet it’s slapped all over everything we love, from sports teams to street landscapes. So of course when Karen and I moved to the city, we immediately needed to adorn our new house with the burly image.

Enter New Buffalo Graphics, the standing buffalo capital of Buffalo.

The first piece that caught my eye looked like a pack of camel cigarettes. Closer inspection revealed creative detail with a purpose unrelated to smoking altogether. References to camel were replaced by buffalo both in writing and graphically. Cigarettes became clarinets and the subhead of Jazz & Geography Blend Clarinets brought it all together.

But what’s better is how those elements came about.

I inquired with Hertel Avenue shop owner and designer, Michael Morgulis (who I note is a former award winning Ad Club member), about his inspiration for this wildly interesting piece, and also (politely) demanded an explanation on how it related to Buffalo. He was happy to oblige, and went on to tell me about his days in the late 70s and early 80s where he would develop posters for the Just Buffalo Literary Center. Each poster announced an event, usually a poetry reading or other literary happening. In this case, poets and musicians from many geographical points around the country were coming to perform in Buffalo. It was sort of a rock concert, but with poetry and jazz.

He went on to tell me how the stars aligned at the 11th hour.

“So, there I was trying to meet deadline, up all night, drinking coffee and smoking one Camel after another, struggling to come up with the right combination of words and images. And then it was time to take my daughter to the Community Music School for her clarinet lesson. As usual, she complained that I smelled bad from smoking so much. So, I decided the only right thing to do was to listen to the wisdom and quit smoking then and there. All at once the elements of that moment coalesced. The sun came out from behind the clouds, the air was clear and I knew that the clarinet/cigarette rhyme and the “make music, not smoke” message was going to somehow be on the 17×22 piece of paper on my drawing board. I crumpled the pack of Camels with 3 cigarettes left, meaning to dump it forever… and then, in a double-take, uncrumpled the package, flattened it out and looked at it in an all new way.

I finished the poster in time and never went back to smoking. It was 1985.”

28 years later, it’s in my living room.