After plenty of anticipation, waiting for the dedicated bike lanes on Niagara Street to come to pass, I finally got a chance to take a ride.
I started my short-but-sweet trek at Niagara and West Ferry, peddling northbound to Forest Avenue. Along the way, I passed plenty of new trees, tactical rain gardens, and even some new businesses that have sprouted up. I must say that the ride was very enjoyable. After all, how often (in Buffalo) does one get a chance to bike along super smooth dedicated bike lanes.
Typically, biking around Buffalo is not at all considered a “smooth ride.” Between the lack of bike lanes and the potholes, it’s no wonder that there aren’t more cyclists out on the roads. Even (the new) Niagara Street infrastructure – between City Hall and the Peace Bridge is a joke. But not from the Peace Bridge to Forest Avenue… this stretch is nothing but smooth sailing.
The only issue that I have with it is the car drivers who have no idea what it means to “yield” for cyclists, as they are turning into driveways and parking lots. I almost got clipped when a driver aimlessly cut me off, as she was turning into Tim Hortons – even though there are an abundance of neon yellow “yield” signs, car drivers are clueless about the rules of the road when it comes to how to navigate (interact with) the dedicated bike lanes. That said, if you’re breezing your way along Niagara Street on bike, stay alert. It’s easy to feel invulnerable in the protected lanes, but there are still plenty of road hazards.
After testing out the new bike corridor, I decided to head back home via Connecticut Street, to see if one of my new favorite restaurants was open. And it was! I have become a huge fan of Mister Sizzle’s, not only because it is in my neighborhood, but because I feel that the owners – Casey and Chris Casas – have checked all of the boxes, making it a quintessential Buffalo restaurants. To me, I think that the advent of Mister Sizzle’s is akin to the arrival of Ted’s Hot Dogs back in the day. It’s got all of the ingredients that Buffalonians love, and so much more. Unlike Ted’s however, Mister Sizzle’s has got exceptional atmosphere. It’s not just a place to wait in line for a good burger, before sitting down with a tray of food to eat. Mister Sizzle’s is fun and upbeat, and the food and drink is on par with the atmosphere.
To begin with, the bartenders are “where it’s at” at Mister Sizzles. They know their stuff. And the stuff? The drinks are killer. I’m a big fan of the mezcal drinks, and the boozy milkshakes (yup, I said it) – especially the painkiller. I never thought that I would crave a combo ‘boozy milkshake and a Plant Burger’ (Impossible burger), Mister Sizzle’s style. And I’m not alone. I have yet to go into the restaurant and not see a line of people at the counter. This place has become an overnight Buffalo sensation. Think old school diner-meets-throwback burger joint. And guess what? It’s not rocket science. It’s super family friendly (kids love it, and so do their parents), it’s got top notch burgers and fries (eat at the bar, at a table, or to-go), the music is upbeat, the bartenders know their s*#t, service is fast, and it’s a place to ‘see and be seen.’ You’re guaranteed to run into people that you know.
This week, I got the wind back in my sails again, thanks to a couple of West Side delights that I am over the moon about. I can’t believe that I can finally bike safely from LaSalle Park to Scajaquada Creek, along Niagara Street. The dedicated bike lanes are a dream come true for cyclists. Now, if we could get some more bike lanes heading East-West, that would also be a miracle. How about Forest? Porter? Delavan? Where is the connectivity? Maybe now, as more cyclists take to Niagara Street and the Jesse Kregal Pathway along the Scajaquada Creek, there will be a more pressing urgency by The City to create a city where bike culture is not just throwing a bone to cyclists, it’s actually a way of life for the residents.
When I think about Buffalo, I try to think of the things that make me happy. Over the last few days, I found happiness in new dedicated bike lanes on Niagara Street, and some sensational food and drink at Mister Sizzle’s. Sometimes, it’s all about the simple pleasures in life – a one-two-punch in this case – that signals to me that my city (our city) is on the right path.