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5 mildly risky food options at the Taste of Buffalo

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

There are few things that bug me more than Taste of Buffalo eaters choosing commonplace stands like Just Pizza or Applebee’s. Don’t get me wrong—those two businesses definitely have their place—but our city’s biggest summer food festival is a perfect opportunity to explore.

Sample food from a rather distant restaurant that you’ve been hesitant to schedule a trip for, dig into the offerings of a new restaurant or sink your teeth into an exotic ethnic cuisine. The Taste of Buffalo features “sample sized” portions, so if you’re not a fan of your risky venture, there’s only a few dollars lost and not an entire afternoon or paycheck. 

With this in mind, I chose five samples that I was a smidgen nervous about trying.

The “What” Burger (which doubles as the “WTF Burger” depending on the audience) from the Roaming Buffalo food truck

Description: The “What” Burger earned serious Buffalo News press this weekend, and while it’s been on the menu for a few months, I had never felt like taking the $6+ risk on a burger with crunchy peanut butter and bacon jam on it. Again, I chose the smaller ticket option, and while the crunchy peanut butter didn’t clash at all with Roaming Buffalo’s burger—the meat concoction Christopher Taylor uses is fantastic—I would ask for a little more bacon jam for balance in the future. With this tiny glimpse into the WTF Burger, I’d give it a little more consideration off the full menu in the future.

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Gorgonzola sausage cake from Manhattan’s, 4206 Lake Ave, Lockport.

Description: The gorgonzola sausage cake is defined on the menu as: “fresh handmade ground Italian sausage mixed with gorgonzola, banana peppers, onions, & spices, breaded with seasoned cracker crumbs then pan fried and topped with remoulade for $7.95.” The sausage was quality—maybe not JJ Richert and Adam Goetz quality—but there were simply too many salty ingredients, lending the cake an overbearing salty flavor and a very dry texture. Quality sausage and a nice spice to the remoulade, but just too much salt.

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“Piadina” from Iris Restaurant, 4224 Maple Road, Buffalo in Maple Entertainment Complex.

Description: “Piadina” is not currently listed on Iris’ online menu, and honestly, I had no clue what it was. Piadina is many elements of the caprese salad—fresh mozzarella, plum tomatoes and an acidic glaze—but heavy on arugula and served on a flatbread born of the Romagna region in Italy. Despite the flashy name, this wound up as a rather tame choice. While it was rather difficult to eat—the mounds of arugula kept toppling off the pita—the fresh mozzarella, tomato and balsamic combination was excellent, the pita provided a soft, chewy bed. Only four tickets, too—a solid value.

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Calamari ala Nick from Parings Wine Bar, 5893 Main St., Williamsville

Description: I unfortunately wasn’t able to figure out who Nick is, but his calamari was excellent. Not-too-thickly breaded, these beastly squid were surrounded by a fiery blend of banana peppers, sweetened jalapenos, green olives, roasted red peppers and garlic. It was spicy, really spicy, and on an 85 degree day with daunting humidity, I immediately craved a wine slushy, regardless of the connotations that suggests. In a comfortable environment armed with a Three Philosophers though, I’d destroy these spicy calamari in an instant.

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Black Diamond steak skewers from MaGavin’s, 12443 Broadway St., Alden

Description: I’m a sucker for mysterious titles, and this one truly was misleading. Thinking that “Black Diamond” must be some lost art of treating steak to make it delicious, I quickly learned it was a combo marinade—Worcestershire and soy sauce—that is actually not all that uncommon. It would have been tasty too, had the marinade actually been flavorful in the steak skewer. I couldn’t help but feel disappointed that the “Black Diamond” let me down.

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In hindsight, sampling the fare of Delhi Chaat (3545 Sheridan Dr., Amherst), a new Indian restaurant that left a favorable impression on a number of eaters I spoke with, or Buffalo Tap Room’s sausage cacciatora, which won the New York Award for the festival, may have been a better idea.

TAGGED: food, iris restaurant, manhattan's, parings wine bar, roaming buffalo, taste of buffalo, wtf burger

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