Visited July 10, 2010
Written by Tyler
Rochester Westside Grub hit the road last weekend and headed to the 27th annual Taste of Buffalo, the largest two-day food festival in the country. Fifty-six food vendors, six wineries and dozens of other promotional displays flooded the streets of downtown Buffalo on this hot, sunny weekend.
Greg, Joe and I attended last year and were very pleased by the variety and quality of food. Greg and I brought along Drew this year and the results were much of the same.
After the approximately 60-mile commute and a short subway ride, we strolled in to Buffalo and headed right for the food-ticket line. Each vendor has about five items available, usually ranging from three to eight tickets (a sheet of 10 tickets costs $5).
The ticket concept may seem asinine to an outsider, but it really is convenient. It speeds up the process and makes it easier than having to pull out debit cards or odd amounts of change every few minutes. The food is fresh and ready as soon as you make the quick ticket exchange at each booth.
Our first sampling was Texas-style chili from Fat Bob’s Smokehouse, a popular barbecue joint in Buffalo. I had a small-sized “taste” (three tickets) of the chili and enjoyed the few hearty bites I had. Greg ordered a larger seven-ticket sample and was blown away, ultimately declaring it the best of the many items he ate that day.
Greg: It was loaded with tasty ingredients, of which it had a very acceptable ratio of meat to veggies and had good texture and consistency. I made the mistake of putting too much Frank's Red Hot in it, making it a little hotter than I would have liked, but the chili's smoky barbeque flavors still came through with flying colors.
My personal favorite item of the day was the Smoked Bourbon Chicken Sandwich from Chester’s Cajun Grill in East Amherst.
The smoked chicken was chopped up and had a reddish color from its bourbon-based marinade. A tangy mustard-based sauce was the perfect partner for the chicken, and the sandwich’s contents blended together perfectly between its Kaiser roll. It was easily one of the best – and most unique – chicken sandwiches I have had, and I get them quite often.
Chester’s is highly regarded in western New York for all foods Cajun, and won “Best Overall Food” at the 2009 Taste. This year it won the “People’s Choice” award for its Blackened Shrimp over Cajun Rice, which also won the honor of “Best Seafood Item.”
Among other award winners, Rochester’s own Dinosaur Bar-B-Que won “Best Meat Item” for its pork sliders, which came as no surprise to us. For the record, Dinosaur was the only Rochester-area vendor.
One interesting item that had an authentic Buffalo twist on it was the Buffalo Wing Burger from Giacobbi’s Pizza and Pasta in Hamburg. Greg and Drew each sampled one – topped with bleu cheese and Buffalo wing sauce – but neither was too impressed.
Greg: The burger was kinda lame. It was good, well cooked and tasty, but nothing about it really expressed Buffalo wing-ness except for the weird bleu cheese concoction on it, which was a bit scant and lacked hotness.
Drew: I didn’t care for the Buffalo burger. I think I could use the concept, however, and create a new dish in (my) house.
Overall Drew was disappointed by the lack of chicken wings available. With that in mind, he said he enjoys the National Buffalo Wing Festival, held on Labor Day weekend in Buffalo, more than the Taste.
Greg dropped $30 on food and, needless to say, tried a lot of different things. His other favorite items included a Philly cheese steak from Buffalo-area chain Jim’s Steakout, and BBQ Meatloaf Sliders from BW’s Barbecue in Orchard Park.
Greg: The meat (on the cheese steak) was well cooked and there was an adequate amount, but the cheesy sauce was its crown jewel. It was cheesy, as a cheese steak should, but was also a little tangy and a tad sweet, having almost a Thousand Island-dressing sort of kick to it. However, the roll wasn't much to sneeze at, but that's the least important part of a Philly cheese steak.
“BBQ meatloaf is a rather novel idea and (BW’s) pulled it off well,” he added.
Greg also liked the Buffalo Chicken Wing Soup from Danny’s Restaurant in Cheektowaga.
“(It) was very tasty … adequately hot, but was a bit waterier than I would have liked and lacked ingredients, especially chicken,” he said.
There is a sample of what we sampled in Buffalo. In all it was a good experience, even though it was hot, crowded, an hour away, and some of us (Greg) took a hit in the wallet.
Actually, in my opinion, the prices weren’t bad, although I didn’t eat/spend nearly as much as Greg. But I can say that my chicken sandwich essentially cost only $3, and I would gladly pay more than twice that amount to eat one of those again.
The Taste wasn’t perfect, but it was something for us to do, enjoyable for the most part and it gave us ideas of where to eat whenever we are in the Buffalo area.
In conclusion, we agreed Buffalo tastes good.