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Sunday scouting in the University District

Zonies-Buffalo-NY-1The University District is full of potential. Although it lacks bike lanes, which was a stupid mistake made on The City’s part, there is excellent building stock and vast opportunities for small businesses to capitalize on the nearby student population.

One of the University District’s best breakfast destinations is undoubtedly Lake Effect Diner. Not only is the food very good, there’s something about eating inside a revitalized dining car filled with fresh brewed coffee and breakfast delights. Besides breakfast being delicious, the portions are overly generous. This is the only place that I am aware of that has a 3-3-3 on the menu instead of a 2-2-2.

After eating breakfast at Lake Effect Diner recently, I decided to take a walkabout around the University District (Main Street within eyeshot of the diner) to see if there were any new businesses to take note of. Since it was a Sunday most everything was closed (unfortunately), but I did notice that there was a new Zonies on its way (inset – former North End), which I believe is the only one in the city outside of the Elmwood Village (opened in 2009). Zonie’s is basically an eatery that serves calzone pockets stuffed with just about anything that you can imagine, including a turkey dinner.

Moving right along, the old Havana House is sitting empty, which is unfortunate because the interior of the restaurant is one of the best ones around, plus there is a cool little patio that adds to the overall viability of the location. It’s been a while since Havana House closed – it would be good to see a new place open soon. I also find the exterior of the building quite attractive.


I came across a relatively new pizza joint called Slice of Italy on my walk. Upon stepping inside I noticed that the atmosphere lent itself to the university student, with a wide open space and not much in the way of décor. Slice of Italy appears to be going after the take-out crowd – the history of the location puts it as a Halal Market previously and Sal’s Pizza before that. I would imagine that this place gets its fare share of customers when the university is in session.


Not far from Slice of Italy is another defunct business – Mojo’s – a former college bar that was shut down for selling to minors. The bar did apparently have some longevity, but ultimately catered to a younger crowd due to its close proximity to UB South. It will be interesting to see if new operators attempt to go in the same direction, or will we begin to see a shift along the lines of places like Shango and The Steer. Amy’s Place seems to be one of the only places around that caters to the university students, and at the same time is popular with the locals. Once you add alcohol into the mix, it’s tough to cater a business to everybody. Diners are surely good for the neighborhood and tend to attract just about everyone.


There are a few ethnic restaurants along this section of Main Street, including Doctor Bird’s Caribbean Rasta-Rant and Nette’s Fried Chicken. Doctor Bird’s has been around for a while, and I did eat there once and had a delicious meal. I have yet to try Nette’s Fried Chicken primarily because I don’t eat chicken, otherwise I would definitely take a stab at it. I’ve heard good things about their food.


All in all, this section of Main Street has got a lot of potential and some solid home runs. I am willing to bet that Zonie’s will do well in this part of town.

What direction do you think this area should swing in? The ethnic direction, collegiate, upscale, or a combination of all of the above? What is it missing at this point? Any other insight into these eateries and/or others on this series of blocks?


Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside, Buffalo Porchfest, and Paint vs. Paint. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market on Elmwood. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at Statler City, the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival, and The Flutterby Festival.

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