Buffalo Foodies: Chef Michael Obarka (Ristorante Lombardo)

source: Nickel City Chef FB Page

source: Nickel City Chef FB Page

Since we are currently traveling throughout Italy and not updating the site on a regular basis, we thought we’d post some Buffalo Foodie articles this week from some of our friends. Check back every day this week for a new Buffalo Foodie article featuring some of Buffalo’s most talented Chefs.

The first great meal we had this year was a trip to Ristorante Lombardo in January; we were really impressed with the creative menu, execution and service. That meal is still one of my favorites from this year and I’ve been waiting to go back for a second visit. A couple weeks later we invited Chef Michael Obarka into the podcast studio to talk about his career and also his upcoming Nickel City Chef competition with Chef JJ Richert (Torches). I really liked talking and hanging out with Mike, he’s a really down to earth guy who can make me laugh pretty hard and also happens to make a damn good taco.

I reached out to Mike to see where he liked to eat, drink and hangout in Western New York, here’s what he had to say….

Right now, where are your favorite places to eat?

Mike: Right now my favorite place to eat is my station in the kitchen. I send out a cook that appears to have nothing to do at the moment to the Lloyd’s taco truck when it’s in the neighborhood. I’ve had an unholy addiction to tacos for about 35 years now (I’m 36 at the moment). I’m also a big fan of Shango and Black Rock Kitchen for brunch. Being a busy Chef, brunch seems to be the only meal I can sit back and enjoy. Both of those places deliver big time.

Where do you like to grab a drink after work or with friends?

Mike: When I do go out and have a drink at a bar that isn’t right outside of my kitchen, I usually like to go to Mes Que. They have a good beer list, they’re in my neighborhood, they appear to be unaware that they are on Hertel, and they should be closed when good restaurant people still want to get a drink! And if you don’t want good beer, they have the shitty beer I prefer (PBR).

If you had someone visiting from out of town, where would you take them for a good “Buffalo” time?

Mike: If there is one place to bring a non Buffalonian to, it’s a Sabres game. If you’re thinking wings you can go to Kelly’s (that’s right, Kelly’s Corner). I have plenty of other fat Chef’s to back that one up (see the guy running Torches and ask him). So, yes, a live pro hockey game is so intense, so visceral, so fun! It’s kid and adult friendly and you get to hang with Canadians!!

What are some food memories you have from your childhood?

Mike: I think if I do have any real strong food memories growing up as a kid, I think it would have to be how good the vegetables were coming out of my mom’s garden. I may or may not be on the record as saying my mom wasn’t a very good cook, but eating tomatoes out of hand that were still warm from the sun in her garden left a huge impression. Every year, it was eating scallions with kosher salt and good olive oil, plucked from the ground an hour earlier, or filling shelves with canned tomatoes we just couldn’t use up. Now that I think about it, looking at my cooler, all the pickled veg I use, maybe she wasn’t a bad cook at all.

What would you like to see more of, in Buffalo’s restaurant scene?

Mike: In my opinion, the one thing that I feel we need more of in this area is a Ramen spot or two. I know there are a bunch of people who feel the same way. Why one can’t kill it in this area is beyond me. I also think we need at least one killer late night taqueria, preferably within walking distance of my house. I think I could do a thing or two in this area, but Jesus, I work enough as it is.


We’d like to thank Mike for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. If you find yourself in the Hertel Ave, do yourself a favor and stop by Lombardo’s for a really great dinner. They’ve just remodeled the restaurant to have a more contemporary look and their 3 for $33 deal on Mondays through Thursday is a steal.


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Categories: Buffalo Foodies


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