Friday, June 29, 2012

My Burger Bar in Amherst

I realized this past week that I don't really have a "go to" place for eating out. In the past year I haven't been to the same place more than once (with the exception of my local pizza place and Wegmans). There are so many options for dining out in the area and using the Buffalo dining cards has really broadened my dining horizon. 

On Thursday June 14th, after a marathon of errand running for my biggest fundraiser of the year for work, my brain was fried. My boyfriend and I drove around town trying to figure out a place to go for dinner and ended up at My Burger Bar in the Northtown Plaza in Tonawanda/Amherst. 

My Burger Bar is a relatively new place, with a "sister" location called My Tomato Pie in the same plaza. I went to My Tomato Pie earlier this year for the first time and had a good experience, so I was looking forward to trying out My Burger Bar. 

When we arrived after 7pm, there was only one other party eating (and, small world, it was people I knew!). Our waitress promptly seated us and brought our drink orders over. The menu, while small, gave you plenty of options for burgers, and a "build your own" page with meats, toppings, cheeses, etc... They also offered a salad bar option to add to your meal. My only gripe with the menu was that fries/sides were not included in the burger price. I like my "one stop" shopping option, and have never been a huge fan of a la carte menu items. That being said, I suppose it was the healthier route to go not getting fries. 

In typical fashion, I asked the waitress what items she suggested from the menu. She was eager to tell us about the Buffalo chicken wing egg rolls, so we ordered those to start with. I also ordered a "build your own burger": chicken burger, with tomato, onion, mozzarella cheese and mushrooms. I also ordered the salad bar.

We were able to get our salads right away as we waited for our appetizer to come out. The salad bar was limited in its selections. The typical toppings (tomato, onion, cucumber, chick peas, cheese, etc...) were there, but there were not many other options. There were two types of lettuce and a handful of dressings. Overall it was a good salad, but I would have liked more options. 

The Buffalo chicken wing egg rolls were delicious. They came with a side of bleu cheese and really were an unexpected surprise. I thought the whole idea of the chicken wing egg roll was a little odd, but it really worked together and tasted great. I'd definitely order these again. In Buffalo, we can turn the chicken wing into anything!

The picture I took of the chicken burger (see below), doesn't do it justice. It was HUGE! To be honest, I have to be in a mood for a burger and I can't say I totally was when we walked in. However, after a few bites it really hit the spot and I mentioned to my boyfriend we'd be back for more.  In fact, I could go for one right now. The chicken burger was cooked perfectly and the toppings were the perfect combination of flavor (for me, anyway). 

The prices were reasonable and with the Buffalo dining card it almost felt like a steal! If you love burgers, this is a great place to check out and add into your dining rotation. Our service was outstanding, and I always appreciate it when the manager comes out to see how your meal was too. (And yes, I did mention there were not a lot of people in the restaurant when we were there, but it was still nice).

The style inside the restaurant seems like it is still being developed.  There's a variety of artwork on the walls (a mixture of different kinds) and a huge screen tv. The pick up/cashier area is built out of gorgeous stone. There is nothing that really ties everything together, but they are still new. In total, there are just under 20 tables in the restaurant.

If you are stuck in a rut of always going out to the same place to eat, I really encourage you to take a break from your norm and try something new. My Burger Bar is a great option for families. It's also great for a hot summer night when you don't feel like cooking. 

For more reviews on My Burger Bar, click here:
My Burger Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Ride For Roswell - June 23, 2012

This past weekend I participated in my first Ride for Roswell event to support Roswell Park Cancer Institute. I can't take credit for the idea to participate, because quite frankly, if you told me I'd ride 20 miles on a bike a year ago, I would have laughed in your face. 

Back in high school I got into a biking accident. I was scarred physically, but even more so mentally. I refused to get back on a bike again. More than ten years later (in 2011), my boyfriend and I spent the day on Toronto Island. He wanted to rent bikes to take around the island, and, very reluctantly, I agreed. We took it slow, and with virtually no traffic, and nice paved roads, I was okay. After the day around the island I returned the bike and had no intention of getting back on one, or purchasing one for myself. 

A few months later, as I was putting together my "12 Missions in '12" campaign, my boyfriend suggested we participate in The Ride for Roswell as a way to raise money and awareness about Roswell Park. It took me a long time to agree to it, but finally in March 2012 I signed up. When I signed up I didn't have a bike, or any experience biking 20 miles in one outing, but I was determined. 

I've blogged about Roswell Park before, but it bears repeating that we are so fortunate in Buffalo to have the expertise and facilities at Roswell Park. They truly are making a difference in the fight for cancer. Having lost family members and friends to cancer, my mission to raise money for the organization ran that much deeper!

The event day of Saturday June 23rd snuck up on me quickly, and to be honest, I never practiced a full 20 miles of riding. I woke up with a lot of nervous energy and wanted to get going. We arrived to UB North around 8am and were anxious for our 9:30am start time. 

I need to point out, that in all my years of fundraising and event planning, the Ride for Roswell was BY FAR, the best run event I have attended. Every part of the event ran smoothly and I can only imagine the amount of coordination that event took (with over 8,000 riders and 2,000 volunteers). From the breakfast tent, to the repair tents, to having people walking around spraying you with sunscreen if you forgot, they covered all their bases, and did it flawlessly. 

When they began to call our 20 mile route to line up, we were close to the front of the group. The opening ceremony was outstanding and really geared me up for what was ahead. We started exactly on time at 9:30am. Things started off great. The volunteer road guards were incredible. There were people there to guide us at every turn of the ride and they cheered us on. It really made the entire 20 miles go by quickly. When we arrived at Niawanda Park, I honestly couldn't believe I had biked that far. We stopped at a rest stop, and in less than an hour had already completed 10 miles. 

The rest stops were loaded with food and drinks; we refueled and off we went. I can't say that the last 10 miles were as easy as the first, but it really was not bad at all. My boyfriend (a much more experienced bike rider) would get ahead of me, and eventually hold back until I caught up with him. I had a blast chatting with people as we rode. People were so friendly, and on an absolutely gorgeous day in Buffalo, everyone was in good spirits.

As I rounded the final turn with my boyfriend, and could see the finish line in sight, tears flooded my eyes. I missed my Grandma Carol Sondel who passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2001, and I was so proud of myself. We crossed the finish line just before 11:15am. As we hopped off our bikes and walked to grab something to eat, I was filled with such a sense of pride and accomplishment. 

Our team, "Lovin' On Buffalo", raised $1200 for Roswell Park. What a tremendous accomplishment! While it pales in comparison to what many other teams brought in, for our first time, the four of us (Geoffrey Testa, Aimee & Pierson Bell, and myself) did a great job! 

In total Roswell Park raised an incredible 3.7 million dollars to fund programs, treatments and equipment. Over 8,000 people rode in the event. If you want to talk about a sense of community, Saturday June 23rd was it. In true "City of Good Neighbors" fashion, we came out strong to support one of our greatest assets in Buffalo. 

To me, the Ride was about more than raising money and awareness for Roswell Park. To me, the Ride meant letting cancer know its days are numbered. It meant letting patients know we are there for them. It was a way to honor those who have died from cancer. To me, the Ride meant overcoming a fear that had plagued me for more than a decade. Probably most important though, the Ride reminded me that it is so important to find something you believe in and fight for it. I believe in Buffalo, and I believe in Roswell Park. Now, I believe I can bike too!

Thank you to everyone who supported my Ride and those who encouraged me to bike.  I need to especially thank my boyfriend Geoffrey, who inspired me to get on a bike and make a difference in Buffalo! 

The countdown to next year's event is already on. Maybe I'll even do 30 miles next year!

If you are looking for another personal story about the Ride for Roswell, check out my friend Bryan's post about his journey this year! (title is "The Longest Mile"). 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Allentown Art Festival Recap 2012

As the weather gets nicer and summer gets closer, one Buffalo event has always officially kicked off summer for me; The Allentown Art Festival. While I enjoy attending all the local festivals, The Allentown Art Festival is my favorite for a couple reasons: 1.) It's really the first major festival of the summer in Buffalo and it sets the tone for summer, 2.) Artists are cool people to talk to! They will talk to you about their art and are incredibly proud of what they do, 3.) Looking at art in the middle of the street in one of the coolest neighborhoods in Buffalo is just damn awesome. 

This year's festival was the 55th one in the area, and it didn't disappoint. They know how to do it in Allentown!

I was totally bummed when it rained for a good part of the day on Saturday. Festivals are a huge part of income for local artists, and I was happy to hear on Sunday (when I went) that many people still came out on Saturday, umbrellas in hand. 

While Saturday was a rainy mess, Sunday was a steamy June day in Buffalo. We wanted to get going early and arrived downtown at 10:40am (20 minutes before it officially opened). There were already a lot of people exploring the booths and we jumped right in. We spent over three hours enjoying the art work, splurging on purchases and enjoying a bite to eat. It was great to see some of my annual favorites and see what new pieces they put out this year, but, what was even better was finding so many new artists!

After the day was over, there were really four booths we were still talking about and/or that we made purchases from. All four of them were "new" finds for me, so I decided to give you a little background on them. If you don't click on the links below and check them out for yourself, you are missing out! 

Four "Finds" (In no particular order):

Tanya Zabinski's "Peaceful Activist" Series: These pieces really hit home for me, and I have been thinking about them a lot since the event on Sunday (and honestly, thinking of ways to find more wall space for them). The Peaceful Activist Series consists of 25 pieces based on words/phrases; words/phrases like "do your best",  "go local", "bike" and "volunteer". The series embodies all that I try to be, and all that I promote to anyone who will listen. While it applies to all cities, I love that the series was created by a Buffalo artist (fellow Buffalo State alumni). Check out the link above to see the series. Oh, and "go local" and support Tanya!

Buffalo History: Buffalo and history are two of my favorite words, so when you put them together, I'm going to gravitate towards your booth. The booth was full of everything Buffalo from vintage prints, to modern prints, note cards, and maps of the area. My favorite find there had to be the blueprint of the Memorial Auditorium (if you are looking for this print on the website, it's not there yet. It's brand new, and they are working on getting it up there soon). What really impressed me though, was getting a six year old's undivided attention as I explained to him how the Falls froze over (he then insisted we buy one of those prints). Art is a great medium for learning, and especially a history lesson! What could possibly be better than getting a six year old to love Buffalo history as much as I do?

Shooting Star Jewelry: When we started our day of exploring I said, "If I only leave here with one thing, it is going to be a new ring." I have a thing for rings. The Allentown Art Fesitval is a great venue for finding unique jewelry, and Shooting Star jewelry had so many options. I have my boyfriend to thank for this find because I overlooked it on first glance.  He insisted I check it out on the way back down the street. They had a large selection of jewelry, and a table full of unique sterling silver rings.  I narrowed it down to two final options (although I would have been happy with about ten of them) and let my boyfriend make the final selection. I love it! 

Rusted Grain: At some point my boyfriend wandered away from our group. When I located him, he was at the booth for Rusted Grain. The second I walked up to him I could see he really loved the pieces. When he started explaining it to me, I absolutely fell in love with them too. Rusted Grain takes reclaimed Buffalo wood and turns it into furniture, cabinetry and other pieces. They work closely with the Green Demolition Team from Reuse Action to get wood from deconstructed Buffalo area homes. 

The amount of local talent in Buffalo is just incredible to me. I'm overwhelmed by the art, culture and pure love for the city that I saw at The Allentown Art Festival. I'm sure this trend will continue throughout all the festivals this summer. 

It's going to be a great summer in Buffalo. There is so much to do, it's hard to keep it all straight! One thing is for sure, there's no other place I'd rather be!