Why does every intro to every article about 2020 have to refer to how shitty it was?
It wasn’t the best year. We get it. Pointing that out ad nauseam because you think it’s cute or clever only makes it worse.
That said, I’d like to bring a bit of positivity to the tire fire that was 2020. Normally, this Best New Restaurants list is pared down to six or seven items. But in a year when more people recognized the importance of inclusivity, I think it’s appropriate to include as many new restaurants as possible. I’ve personally covered all of these restaurant openings and feel confident in recommending all of them to you, friends.
I’m also happy to point out that a good share of the best new restaurants in Western New York had a woman and/or Person of Color either running the kitchen or the entire operation. Hopefully, we’re slowly chipping away at the biased notion that a chef-restaurateur is usually a white guy in a white chef’s coat that went to culinary school.
So without further ado, these are the best new restaurants in WNY for 2020 that we’ve covered on Step Out Buffalo, presented in no particular order.
Operating out of a commissary kitchen in Chandlerville, the takeout-only Southern Junction represents the kind of thrilling progress we’ve been seeing in Buffalo for the past decade. Chef-owner Ryan Fernandez was born and raised in India, but spent his formative years growing up in Texas. The “Tex-ish” menu at Southern Junction represents this personal journey in some of the most delicious ways possible: smoked chicken covered in tikka sauce and cardamom cornbread.
It’s tempting to pigeonhole Southern Junction as fusion food, but don’t sleep on chef’s spot-on traditional Texan techniques: Dude knows what he’s doing with smoke and heat. – BLS
This year: Down was up, left was right and the long-awaited Hofbräuhaus Buffalo actually opened its doors. Yes, the perennially “opening soon” project had become a bit of a punchline over the past few years, but in the end — the joke was on us.
Our local franchise of the German-themed beer hall kind of delivers on a lot of fronts. Big affordable beers? Check. Zesty German sausages? Check. Live music? Check. Outdoor seating for Orange Zone dining? Check.
Sure, it’s okay to still be cynical, and like Taylor Swift says, haters gon’ hate — but Hofbräuhaus Buffalo, we just can’t stay mad at you. – BLS
Williamsville finally has a brewery to call its own and the new Britesmith Brewing is very Williamsville. Rather than offering fresh brews and bar snacks in the middle of a gritty brewery, Britesmith is more of an upscale restaurant that just so happens to brew its own beer on-premises.
That might sound like a diss but it’s not: Britesmith elegantly expands the range of local beer experiences you can have across WNY. – BLS
At the complete other end of the spectrum, El Viejo San Juan is a Puerto Rican takeout counter located in the back of the Mega Market on Tonawanda Street in Riverside. In these modest surroundings, El Viejo offers a crave-triggering range of Puerto Rican food that is broader and deeper than you’d find in similar local spots. – BLS
This year, the corner of Main Street and Genesee, next to downtown Buffalo’s iconic gold dome, increasingly became a hive of social activity — despite the effects of COVID-19.
The newest bee in this buzzing hive is Graylynn, a gin-focused bar-restaurant that delivers on three key fronts: drinks, food and ambience. Go there for the Earl Grey gin and tonic, chana masala pasties and early 20th century cosmopolitan vibes. – BLS
With Buffalo Public Schools going full remote schooling in 2020, city parents, guardians and grandparents needed a kid-friendly, mid-day escape more than ever. In that sense, The Cereal Spot on Hertel Avenue couldn’t have opened at a better time.
Like a good magic trick, The Cereal Spot takes a simple, everyday item — breakfast cereal — and uses it to pull a sublime experience out of thin air. – BLS
A little bit 80s and a little bit hipster, there’s something I find slightly ridiculous about Flint — a new cafe located on Fountain Square in the heart of downtown Buffalo. Maybe it’s me and my lockdown-addled brain. The food, however, is nothing to be laughed at.
*Cue Anthony Bourdain voice*: Because it’s good, very good.
If you like scratch baked goods from a stone hearth, coffee roasted in-house, craft cocktails and think Phil Collins is under-appreciated, there’s a lot to like here. – BLS
Corner dive bars seem to be getting less popular, but corner cafes are popping up all over the map, especially in Allentown and the Elmwood Village. Located in Buffalo on Elmwood, Bean Bastard Coffee came flying out of the traps with full-flavored, house-roasted coffees, and bass drop “Tex-ish” barbecue sourced from Southern Junction. – BLS
9. Cafe Godot
When you cover new restaurants for Step Out Buffalo, you bring home a lot of food for your wife to try, and when your wife says a restaurant has some of the best “food for Step Out” that she’s tried in a while, you listen to her.
Cafe Godot may be a modest West Side takeout spot on Porter Avenue, but there’s a lot of delicious international flexitarian food coming out of that tiny kitchen. – BLS
All these years, you’ve probably associated Ellicottville with cheap booze and stomach-lining comfort food. But the times, they are a-changin’, as they say out in Cattaraugus County.
This year, The Banq cocktail lounge cemented Ellicottville as a bona fide foodie destination. On top of serving on-point drinks and small plates, The Banq also oozes a speakeasy vibe that perfectly suits your Ellicottville escapism needs. – BLS
If you’re making the case that vegan food is food for the people, your Exhibit A should be Sunshine Vegan Eats. Owned by self-described “gym rat” Nikki Searles, Sunshine Vegan Eats makes plant-based food about as approachable as it gets, with vegan cheesesteaks, ‘chicken’ and waffles and ‘meatloaf’ and mashed potatoes.
Maybe best of all, the vegan restaurant slips in neatly among the East Side’s many sub shops and corner spots with low-key killer food. – BLS
When a long standing local company with a somewhat cult following expands in new and innovative ways, it’s a breathe of fresh air. Chrusciki Bakery took on 2020 with their new 3-in-1 restaurant concept after leaving their residence at The Broadway Market. Their new offerings, one of which is a Polish version of Chipotle, meet the ever-changing needs of the community well.
Think established, well-oiled bakery machine meets fast casual pierogi bowls meets formal Polish dining.
13. Shuck Shack
This seasonal oyster restaurant is basically a trailer parked in a very picturesque spot across the way and down the river from Riverworks, but that didn’t stop hoards of people from flocking to the food stand for fresh oysters with a side of vibes.
Shuck Shack features a slightly higher end picnic area with tables, strung lights, and turf, and it may sound weird, but somehow it absolutely works. This year we’ve become more open minded than ever about where and how we get good eats and dining enjoyment – this proves that perfectly.
Which new restaurant to open in 2020 do you think was the best?