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Taste of Buffalo Welcomes Rookies to Festival

Leslie Church/WBFO
Landies Candies

By Leslie Church


Buffalo, NY – The Taste of Buffalo begins this Saturday at Niagara Square downtown. It's one of the biggest, if not the biggest, food festival in the country. Regardless of its title, the festival draws a crowd. It's expected to bring in almost half a million people. And there's bound to be something for everyone's tastes. This year there are more new restaurants at the festival than ever before. WBFO intern Leslie Church talked with some of the restaurateurs and has this preview.

Click the audio player above to hear Leslie Church's full story now or use your podcasting software to download it to your computer or iPod.

Click on the video player to watch Fat Bob's prepare for the Taste of Buffalo.

Check out WBFO's YouTube channel to get a behind-the-scenes look at Landies Candies and Torches' preparations for the festival.

Most residents of Western New York are preparing for the Taste of Buffalo this weekend by letting their appetites grow. Larry Szrama, a co-owner of Landies Candies, is peeling a whole lot of bananas.

Szarma and his team are getting knee-deep in banana peels to prepare their Fun-anas, frozen bananas dipped in chocolate and rolled in nuts or sprinkles. He's hoping the warm weather will draw hungry patrons to his cool desserts, which also include a hearty portion of ice cream.

Landies has a storefront in the Galleria Mall food court. It's one of several rookie restaurants that have joined the festival this year. Together they bring the total restaurant count to 60 food vendors at the Niagara Square this weekend. And they'll all be offering a sample of their best dishes.

Torches is a restaurant and bar with an eclectic menu located on Kenmore Avenue. They're first-timers to the festival, too. Chef Kevin Richert and his brother J.J. are bringing the favorite meals from their menu. But they also decided to serve an off-the-menu item that they know will score points with Buffalonians.

Like Landies and its bananas, Richert says Torches has to prepare a jaw-dropping amount of food for the hungry diners they hope to serve this weekend.

Before the newcomer restaurants could even think about the hours of smoking pork or peeling bananas, they first had to decide how much to make. For that, Szarma says they looked to the Taste of Buffalo veterans.

One of those veterans is festival favorite Fat Bob's Smokehouse. They've been in the Taste for eight years. They've topped the festival's list of highest-sellers three years running. That's been since they started bringing their St. Louis ribs and real mac 'n' cheese to the table.

Sean Euler is the general manager at Fat Bob's. He says their booth generates quite a lot of traffic at the festival. The smell of pork wafting from the slow roaster is hard to resist. So why is it, he wonders, that Fat Bob's hasn't won the the People' Choice Award yet.

But it's a set of judges who determines the festival winners in individual categories. There's best vegetarian, children's choice and best healthy option, among others. When it comes to those awards, all the restaurants in this story say they aren't sweating it. Richert, the Torches chef, says they all come to cater to their number one critic, the customers.

As a rule, restaurants are allowed to participate only if their food is different from the other menus, so each booth serves up something unique. That means a whole lot of good food to try. People pay for the food with tickets, which they can get at the event or beforehand at Tops. Then comes the fun part - browsing rows of sizzling meats, creamy pastas, and sweet desserts. Taste of Buffalo chairman Tony Muscarella advises pacing yourself.

Some of the restaurants do hand out to-go boxes, just in case you run into an eyes-are-bigger-than-your-stomach dilemma. Or, you can always come back on Sunday for more.

Click on the video players for an inside look at three Buffalo eateries that will be featuring their prized dishes at the 2009 Taste of Buffalo.