Thank you, BRO readers. Your votes for the best places for Guy Fieri to visit during his Buffalo journey were heard, and he made good. I met up with him at Sophia’s on Military Road this morning, and I have to say that any national celebrity who can be funny and gracious at 7:45AM is alright with me.
I started out by filling him in on what BRO is (Buffalocentric), and finished with, “So think of this as a bad date; let’s talk about me, and by ‘me’, I mean Buffalo.” He said that would be no problem at all. This is Guy’s second visit to Buffalo, and he loves it here.
“You know,” he said, “there’s that whole ‘hard New Yorker’ stereotype, but all I can say about the people here are that they’re the nicest people in the world. I mean, everyone in Buffalo.” I told Guy we are called the City of Good Neighbors, and he said, “Well, it’s very telling.”
(Guy and Greek beauty, Sophia)
Next I asked Guy if he could give us his entire local circuit for the taping of Diner’s Drive-Ins and Dives, or if some locations were still undisclosed. He was willing to talk about where he’s been, listing Lake Effect Diner, Grove’s Bar & Grill, Earl’s Drive-in, the Blackthorn, and “a Bill’s tailgate party hosted on a Pinto at Ralph Wilson Stadium.” I told him that if he was going to hang with the locals, he might want to say The Ralph. “Right. The Ralph. Got it,” he said. He said the owner of the Pinto fired up a grill full of coals on the hood and filled an army helmet with wings in a cook-off with a team from Chicago for Rag Top Productions, an endeavor separate from the DDD Food Network show. Guy says we’ll be able to witness the whole “Tailgating Warriors” segment on September 17th.
(Guy at Sophia’s counter)
Guy was blown away by the story behind the Blackthorn Restaurant & Pub in South Buffalo. Owned by local fireman Patrick Lalley, brother of late bartender/owner Kevin, it was the regulars who convinced Patrick to buy the restaurant form his brother’s former business partner — they couldn’t stand the thought of Kevin’s legacy going by the wayside. Mind you, I got this story from a call to Patrick himself because Guy was frankly getting a little choked-up and speaking in incomplete sentences about the emotional backstory. It’s a fact that the story, in complement to the food, is often what drives Guy to his next destination. At any rate, Patrick’s squad showed up at the Blacktorn, and it sounds like Guy got a little ride in a cherry picker to lift his spirits.
So how about the food? “Beef on weck? Oh my God, this could have been the beef on weck tour,” Guy answered. I’m satisfied. I like the industrial feel of the neighborhoods – the older buildings. It’s great that you celebrate the old here.”
Speaking of the old, Guy segued into a memory of his first visit to Buffalo that included a trip to a landmark restaurant, the Anchor Bar. “Not to buy into the hype,” he said, “but Buffalo Wings, okay? We went there again late on Monday and brought a group. It was great.” Guy said they ordered up the suicide wings in a flash and had a blast in the packed restaurant.
“The exact same food in a different environment wouldn’t be the same,” Guy stated. “Like Earl’s Drive-In. You been to Earl’s?” When I said no, he looked at me hard. “What? Listen, you could blindfold me, put me in the car, and I could fall asleep. If I woke up at Earl’s, I’d think I slept for 15 hours and ended up in Kansas. Kansas! Man. And when Earl dies, he says he’s going to have the restaurant sold and give all of the money to [Houghton College].”
I said it was time for pictures, and Guy cooperated by immediately picking up my camera and turning it on me. “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Not like that,” I said.
I snapped a few shots, and there was nothing left but to say goodbye. Guy and I walked to the parking lot together, where his trademark red ’67 Camero sat next to Bernice, my ’75 LeSabre. He posed with Bernice, and I told him to get in. “I feel like I’m being pimped here,” he laughed. I assured him that he absolutely was, and got one last shot.
Look for the seven Buffalo segments to begin anywhere from a month and a half from now to beyond, as dates for air times aren’t firmed up yet. Also, starting in mid-November, Guy will be hitting the road as part of yet another project of his, the Knuckle Sandwich Road Show, from Boston to Las Vegas. “It’s about buddies, food, mixology and rock.” Sounds like a winner.