Buffalo’s food blogging scene is a little bare, to say the least. Over the last five years we’ve seen a dozen blogs come and go, which has always bummed us out. However I still get excited whenever I come across a new food blog and try to follow along as closely as possible and share their posts with our audience. I’m not sure how I came across Michael Chelus’ blog The Nittany Epicurean, but I’m glad I did because he’s been posting quality articles about beer, wine, his CSA share, recipes and restaurant reviews at a crazy pace. He’s only been blogging for four months but has already written over 100 blog posts in that time.
So it was only natural that we’d reach out to Michael and ask him about his favorite places to eat, drink, hangout and about his favorite childhood food memories. Here’s what he had to say….
Right now, where are your favorite places to eat in WNY?
Michael: My answer to this one constantly changes. My wife and I try to hit up as many new places as possible, so I’m constantly finding new favorite places to eat in WNY. It’s one of the best things about living here. That said, there are always a few favorite, go-to joints that I come back to time and time again. At the top of that list would be Black Rock Kitchen & Bar and Shango. Another favorite for more than just beer is Blue Monk. Lastly, I’m a big fan of Betty’s for brunch or anytime. There are a lot of top-notch fine dining spots in WNY, but my favorite places tend to offer amazing food and great beer & wine in a casual, relaxed atmosphere.
Where do you like to grab a drink and relax?
Michael: In the city, it’d be Cole’s. A Buffalo institution that offers an amazing beer selection in an historic, iconic environment. I also like to grab drinks at Blue Monk. Closer to home, it’d have to be a new favorite: Aurora Brew Works. Amazing beer store and bar with a laid back vibe.
If you had a friend visiting from out of town, where would you take them for a good “Buffalo” time?
Michael: Friends that visit from out of town always seem to want wings, and to a lesser extent, beef on weck. Although I’ll try to convince them to try some of Buffalo’s truly great spots like Bistro Europa, Tabree or the like, they ultimately want to go to a place with great beer and great wings. When that’s the case, I’ll take them to Aurora Brew Works for a few beers and then walk two doors down for some killer wings at Bar Bill Tavern. If the visitor would rather be in the city, I’d take them to the Blackthorn in South Buffalo. Good food, good beer and great atmosphere in another historic Buffalo location.
What are some food memories you have from your childhood?
Michael: My most vivid food memory as a child is having Sunday dinner at my grandparents’ house on Niagara Street across from the Armory. When I was a kid, my grandparents lived on the first floor of the house, and my great Aunt and Uncle lived upstairs with my great grandmother, who was a Sicilian immigrant. We’d go there every Sunday and the smell of sauce would waft throughout the house. I can remember watching my grandmother stir the sauce and encouraging me to dip bread in it. I can almost taste the wonderful meatballs and braised pork in the sauce served after the pasta.
In terms of restaurant memories as a kid, I can remember great family meals at Chef’s or down the street at DiTondo’s. Closer to home, I remember enjoying many Friday night meals with my parents and sister at Schwabl’s in West Seneca. I can remember waiting in the bar area for a table and being amazed at how they sliced the beef for sandwiches and dinners all while watching the bartenders stirring the bowl in the winter time to make a Tom & Jerry.
What cuisines or types of restaurants would you like to see more of in WNY?
Michael: Had you asked me this question just 2 years ago, my answer would have been immediate and two-part: dim sum and authentic Mexican. Luckily, better dim sum restaurants have emerged in the Northtowns, but we’re still lacking good, authentic Mexican cuisine in WNY. While I’ve enjoyed finding it Medina, I’d love to have it closer to Buffalo.