Eat. Shop. Drink. Shop. Give. Sing. Eat. Shop. Drink. Repeat. 

This is a great time of year for Hertel. Today is Small Business Saturday which is sure to have the avenue abuzz. And next week, seemingly all the shops and restaurants and bars will come together to offer a great holiday experience – one filled with music, refreshments, sales and other surprises.

I’ve learned, maybe because I’m a family man now (or maybe because I’m just getting old) that holiday shopping should be an experience that creates special memories. I’m not talking about the special memories of losing sleep and ditching family gatherings, or even worse, of tragic injuries from the mob scenes of crazed shoppers.

Rather, memories that consist of quality time with friends and family, genuine interaction between store owners and shoppers, feelings of excitement when truly unique gifts are found, feelings of fulfillment knowing your supporting the local community, great food, festive ambiance…the list could go on.

Believe it or not, those things do exist and I think you have a better shot at achieving those memories if you spend your time shopping local. So, as said last year on Small Business Saturday, make it a point to come to the neighborhood, not the mall.

Also, one last suggestion. As you focus on purchasing and consuming, give some thought to helping others that aren’t as fortunate.

During the Hertel Holidays on December 4th & 5th, Daily Planet Coffee Co., Vanity Salon, MAC’s on Hertel and The Antique Lamp Co. and Gift Emporium are all hosting drives and/or taking donations for worthy causes. And bins manned by the WNY Coalition for Donated Goods will be located along Hertel on Saturday to donate new and good used clothing which will benefit local needy families.

Tis the season for a lot of things, and giving is most certainly one of them.

Happy Hertel Holidays!

Hertel Holidays 2015

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Brunch Strikes Back!

Think back to the Empire Grill Sundays. Those filled with bottomless mimosas and an all-you-can-eat brunch that was worth more than your $20.

Well, those days are gone but a kickass brunch at the same, renovated location isn’t. Mac’s Sunday brunch is totally different, and shouldn’t be compared to that of Empire’s. But what is similar is the A-game that is brought to the offering.

I had the pleasure of joining some fine folks for a “Buffalo Brunch Club” meal last week. My Sweet Baby Ray accompanied me and provided the only distraction from our fantastic feast. Cinnamon raisin bread stuff french toast, sticky buns, steakhouse hash with poached eggs and cheese blintzes were the orders for the table. (Ray got a grilled cheese – not sure if you care. Maybe you do. Or maybe the takeaway is that they have a proper kids menu and the restaurant is very much kid friendly.)

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The Toast.

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The Hash.

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The boy.

I’m no food critic, but let me tell you, everything was delish (is that what food critics say?). Seriously, just awesome. The menu is unique and each option – including the coffees and brunch cocktails – comes with a creative take. It’s not your ordinary brunch that’s for sure. Oh, and the bloody mary. The Mac Daddy Mary. Just look at the picture. Bacon! Need I say more?

Mac Daddy Mary

So give it all a try, and if you can pull your attention away from your plate, I recommend staring at the Big Ass Fan.

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Happy (716) Day at the Fest!

Today begins the annual four-day celebration on Buffalo’s finest avenue of the Italian heritage and everything that comes along with it.

Coincidentally, it’s also the celebration of Buffalo Day: 7/16. So in the spirit of helping fest-goers while finding cool ways to use our area code, I’m going to give you my recommendation on what to buy at the Italian Festival if you had exactly $14 in your wallet.

$7 – Steak and Dandelions from Lombardo’s. Don’t be scared of the dandelions. They’re sauteed in butter and garlic and are glorious. The cuts of steak are well worth the price too.

$1 – Bottle of Water from Bing’s. The coldest, purest, wettest, purified spring mineral water around. OK maybe not, but a buck is definite the cheapest. Stay hydrated people, it’s hot out there.

$6 – Stuffed Pepper Roll from Molinaro’s. Sausage and stuffing with three cheeses, rolled in dough and deep fried. Healthy AND delicious!

An alternative could be to find one more dollar and blow it all on three slices of Campi’s Pizza. Just throwing that out there. Oh, and by the way, they have TWO Campi’s Pizza stands this year – one at Commonwealth and the other at Virgil. Mind blown.

So there are some options for you. Hopefully you have more than $14 because there are a lot of incredible eats to be enjoyed…and I didn’t even talk dessert! The usual bakery suspects are all there filling and serving their cannoli, feel free to reference the extensive research done in 2013 to help with the choosing.

Buon appetito! God Bless Buffalo. Go Bills.

716 Fest

Rock star musician meets rock star neighborhood

Thursday: Mick Jagger asks for “the best Italian in the city”. Mick Jagger goes to Ristorante Lombardo.

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Friday:  Mick Jagger asks to go sightseeing. Mick Jagger goes to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin Martin House.

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Rock star musician eating rock star Italian, admiring a rock star architect while taking in a rock star neighborhood.

Rock on Hertel!

That’s a Big Ass Fan!

I walked in to MAC’s on Hertel for the first time on Monday night with no intention of writing about it; mainly for fear that I’d be late to the party. While it’s only been open for a few short weeks, there’s been no shortage of reviews and updates over the interwebs. My friend “Tsuj” from the Buffalo News gave a good one after his first visit there and Buffalo Rising had it covered as well.

Then I saw this big ass fan…
 …and couldn’t resist writing some words about it and the place in general.

The picture does the fan zero justice, but trust me when you see it slowly spinning around the restaurant ceiling like a wind turbine your reaction will probably be the exact same. What’s even better is that I’m told that the fan is actually made by a company called Big Ass Fans. Priceless!

You’ll do a lot of “looking up” at MAC’s because, frankly, there’s a lot to take in. The fan hovers over the open space that is the 360 degree bar area. A billboard size mural of Buffalo from the Pan American Exposition adorns the back wall. TV’s line the dividing wall between the first and second floors.

Clearly, much thought and care was put into every detail and it doesn’t look as if expense was spared either. The MAC’s trolley which offers free rides for groups of 15 or more is evidence of that.

Trolley

I will say I drank more beer than I ate food on my first visit. But of the few appetizers we shared I will say they were glorious in that stick-to-your-ribs kind of way. I’m looking forward to trying out a number of things on the unique, old-time, Buffalo themed newspaper menu…hopefully from the new second floor balcony next time.

Now it goes without saying that I want all businesses to succeed and thrive on Hertel. But I think I want that even more for MAC’s. It’s just too big, too new, too awesome of a place in the heart of Hertel to not be a real destination. Good luck to them, and to each of you, enjoy!