The last trip I took before Covid hit and the last one for which I wrote a report that was posted on the roadfood message board was to Buffalo in late October of 2019. My friend John, who I grew up with, and I drove up there to see the Eagles beat up on the Bills.
In the weeks and months leading up to the trip, as was always the case for whichever trip I had in the pipeline, I spent countless hours doing online research, mostly on where to eat, but also to find worthwhile activities. I enjoy studying history and tend to look for museums or sites with historical value.
The first task was finding a place at which to stop for lunch on the way up to Buffalo. One of the things I would look for while browsing online was any restaurant that had good-looking pie. If it was some sort of cream pie with a nice layer of meringue on top, all the better. It turns out, so I discovered, that there is a portion of north-central Pennsylvania that can be called a mini pie-belt. There were a handful of diners and small-town cafes to choose from, and I settled on Me-Ma’s Country Kitchen in Tioga, PA (I’m not making that up), which I see has since been renamed to Rosie’s. It was Friday, so the special at Me-Ma’s was fish fry. I went with the special. And of course, I also had a slice of pie.
Although the game was Sunday afternoon, we arrived in Buffalo Friday evening. After checking into our hotel, John and I headed over to our first Buffalo dining spot, Charlie the Butcher’s, for a beef on weck. This sandwich is to Buffalo what a cheesesteak is to Philly. And Charlie the Butcher’s is known as one of the best spots to get one. There are a few Charlie’s in the Buffalo area. The one we went to had a classic look and feel. The sandwich was great too. It’s hot roast beef on a kimmelweck roll, which is topped with salt and caraway seeds.
We started Saturday with breakfast at the Original Pancake House. This is a national chain and there was an outlet pretty close to where we stayed. They have regional owners, but they are generally good and some are great, as was the case with this location. I’m going to go out on a limb and say this may have been the greatest breakfast I’ve ever had. The Dutch Baby pancake with blueberries was as good as it looks, and both the bacon and fresh-squeezed O.J. were over-the-top good.
One of our reasons for getting up to Buffalo early was to take the short ride up to Niagara Falls, which we did after breakfast Saturday. We didn’t go over to the Canadian side, but I had been there before and we still had some spectacular views from the American side of the Falls. While there, we also gave a shout out to the Birds.
After seeing the Falls, we headed back down to Buffalo to visit one of the city’s major historical attractions; the home in which Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in as president. President McKinnley was assassinated in Buffalo, which led to T.R.’s elevation to the White House.
Then we made a funny discovery, also of historical significance. Buffalo has a huge cemetery in which many of its leading citizens have been buried going back for many generations. It turns out that buried relatively close to each other, given the size of the cemetery, were none other than President Millard Fillmore and “Superfreak” Rick James. That’s up there with Brezhnev and the Rifleman as far as unlikely pairings go.
There was a funeral a few stones over from Rick James. Grief didn’t stop the attendees from taking photos of the Superfreak’s burial spot. And one could argue that he had a more successful career than Millard Fillmore.
Perhaps surprisingly, given its northern location, Buffalo is arguably the ice cream capital of the United States. It has a handful of classic old shops that sell both homemade candies and ice cream, often with homemade toppings, in addition to a good frozen custard scene.
We went to Antoinette’s, which was close to where we stayed, and there was no disappointment with our selection. My spectacularly made sundae featured vanilla ice cream topped with homemade hot fudge, marshmallow, crushed nuts and whipped cream. It was so rich that I needed to sit for a few minutes after finishing it.
We still managed to find room to go out for a late dinner that evening. Our destination was another Buffalo area chain: Ted’s Hot Dogs. And again, there was no disappointment. They had several types of hot dogs. John and I went with all-beef and agreed that it was one of the best hot dogs we’ve had. We also got to watch them being cooked on the indoor charcoal grill and the flames really shot up. It was a nice show.
Sunday finally arrived. We met up with Paul, another friend we grew up with in Southampton, PA. It poured before the game, but we found shelter and then got to watch the Eagles beat the Bills, 31-13. We listened to a lot of crap from Bills fans in the parking lot and during the game. But we walked out of there with the last laugh and our heads held high.
As always, a lot of Eagles fans traveled for the game. We had plenty of help cheering the Birds on throughout. In fact, we stopped at a McDonald’s to eat on the way home late that night and it was packed with people dressed in Eagles green and giving the familiar, “Go Birds.”
It really was a great weekend, both in terms of food and activities.