North of downtown, before Buffalo State College, lies some of the city’s best shopping and dining in the historic and happening Elmwood Village. This brief guide will help you make the most of a visit.
The city of Buffalo is unofficially divided into 26 neighborhoods. Each has its attractions and history, but none may be so storied and thriving as Elmwood Village. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places starting in 1980, Elmwood encompasses an area bordered by Millionaire’s Row and the 350-acre Delaware Park.
Surveying of the land which would become the city of Buffalo, first named New Amsterdam, began in 1798. After gaining fame for his design of Washington D.C., Joseph Ellicott conceived a geometric village on the banks of the Buffalo River and Lake Erie. It was not until 1868 when the mostly undeveloped forest surrounding Ellicott’s design would start to take shape as Elmwood Village when the city commissioned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted.
Olmstead was already famous for his design of New York City’s Central Park. From North and South Buffalo all the way to the waterfront, his Buffalo park system includes six parks, seven parkways, eight landscaped circles, and several smaller greenspaces. Economic decline and poor planning in the early 20th century led to a slide, turned around by a revitalization period starting in the 1980s. Today, Elmwood Village is thriving.
Buffalo is the world’s first city to receive electricity, powered by Niagara Falls to the north. Elmwood Village embraces this history with a display of public neon murals. Ongoing conservancy efforts support parks, heritage, and community in Elmwood.
Buffalo is also known for its food, especially spicy chicken wings. The recipe for the world-renowned dish was created one evening to satisfy the appetites of a late night Buffalonian bar staff. The wing is celebrated every year during the multi-day National Buffalo Wing Festival (buffalowing.com). Elmwood is a terrific location to start the dive into Buffalo eats.
The Elmwood Village Farmers Market brings together “growers, makers, and producers” offering fresh and unique products. The market, past its 20th year in operation, is a unique, producer-only market and everything sold is grown or made by the vendors themselves. Items go beyond fruits and vegetables to include locally made cheeses, honey, and wine.
Designated as one of America’s 10 Best Neighborhoods by the American Planning Association and recognized by many publications over the years, Elmwood brings together residents and visitors. Warm evenings welcome the Picnic in the Parkway Summer Concert Series featuring local musicians for family-friendly entertainment. Folks make the parkway their dining room for the evening, sampling bites from local food vendors at this free event.
Where to stay
When in the Village a stay at the InnBuffalo off Elmwood (619 Lafayette Ave) is the most convenient option. Only half a block away from shops and eateries, InnBuffalo is treasured by visitors and the Buffalo community. Owner and host Joseph Lettieri renovated and opened the Hewitt Mansion, built in 1898, and continues to dig into the building’s history, which he gladly shares with guests. The welcoming inn is equipped with 13 suites, a library and other common areas, and a speakeasy-style billiards room, adorned with antiques and historic pieces.
The only other place to stay in Elmwood Village is The Edward (1296 Delaware Ave), another historic property renovated to accommodate travelers. Located on Millionaire’s Row, this former mansion was built by E.B. Green in 1910 and restored in 2019. Nine themed rooms range from opulent to affordable. For those looking for a more conventional hotel stay, the closest chain to Elmwood Village is the Residence Inn by Marriott Buffalo Downtown (620 Delaware Ave), which is several blocks south on the edge of Allentown. The Marriott offers studio rooms and bedroom suites, an attached Starbucks, and an indoor pool.
Eat and drink
Buffalo is a foodie’s town. Beyond wings, the city is an amalgamation of international and local-favorite flavors. A Polish influence places perogies on many menus. South Buffalo and the Old First Ward is dominated by Irish bars. Pizza is a serious subject, especially since the city lies between Chicago and New York City. And beef on weck is the only roast beef sandwich in town.
Evenings are always busy at Elmwood’s premiere cocktail bar, High Violet (710 Elmwood Ave). Opening at 5:00 p.m., this is a wonderful place to catch a small plate and a libation before a show or other event. The upscale menu appeals to all tastes, from caviar service to vegan tartare as shared plates. Entrees elevate the simple, like fried bologna or steamed clams.
The Buffalo Wing Trail touches down in Elmwood Village at Cole’s (1104 Elmwood Ave). This neighborhood eatery has been in business for more than 80 years. The ceiling and walls are adorned with pennants (a truly Buffalonian obsession), an Olympic rowing boat, and carousel horses. Listed on the Wing Trail as a place to get “unusual” wings, Cole’s goes beyond hot, medium, and mild to also offer BBQ and honey Cajun flavor.
Locals recommend a stop at Forty Thieves (727 Elmwood Ave) for either lunch or dinner. A blend of neighborhood bar and modern dining, Forty Thieves serves loaded nachos and refined sandwiches on contradictory paper-lined, aluminum trays. Wings are a top draw here, with flavors like hot garlic parm, beef on weck, and the highly recommended southie gold.
Elmwood has a good selection of places to stop for sweet treats. This area is home to Watson’s Chocolates (738 Elmwood Ave), the most popular destination for sponge candy. Watson’s has been selling the airy toffee-like squares covered in milk or dark chocolate for more than 75 years.
Things to do
Elmwood Village is a happening and vibrant section of Buffalo. Visitors are likely to find something going on, whether a porch concert or an area-wide promotion meant to both attract visitors and celebrate the community.
Commerce is the top priority on Elmwood Strip (elmwoodstripbuffalo.com). The collection of businesses lining Elmwood Ave even has its own Instagram account. Whether it is picking up snacks or drinks at customer owned Lexington Cooperative Market (807 Elmwood Ave) or shopping for souvenirs, the Elmwood Strip has it covered. Imaginative and locally inspired work from creatives, artists, and designers can be found at Buffalo ShopCraft (773 Elmwood Ave) while the inner chef can get lost in the rows of spices and blends at Penzeys Spices (783 Elmwood Ave). Coffee lovers will find almost every flavor they are looking for at Blue Mountain Coffees (509 Elmwood Ave) and vinyl fans can complement their collection at Revolver Records (831 Elmwood Ave), which offers used, new, and reprint selections.
In May 2023, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery will be known as the Buffalo AKG Art Museum (1285 Elmwood Ave). Collections include works from Monet, Cezanne, and Picasso, plus sculptures and installations by Rodin, Flavin, and Lehmbruck. The Burchfield Penney Art Center at Buffalo State College (1300 Elmwood Ave) is the largest public collection of works by painter Charles E. Burchfield.
To the north, Elmwood Village is bordered by Delaware Park, Buffalo’s largest park with rose gardens, a picturesque lake, and walking paths. Other parts of Olmsted’s park system in the Village include Soldier’s Circle, Colonial Circle, and the Bidwell and Chapin Parkways.