Photo by Chef Kujo Kumro
Photo by Jim Charlier
Many of the charming homes in Allentown date back to the mid-1800s.
It may be tiny, but Allentown is packed with delicious food, historical architecture, and live music venues worth exploring.
One of Buffalo’s smallest neighborhoods also happens to be its coolest. Running the span of a couple city blocks, Allentown is packed with creative restaurants, cool cocktail bars, and trendy shops that make it a must-visit on any trip to the Queen City (a nickname that Buffalo earned at the turn of the 20th century, when it was the largest and most prosperous city along the Great Lakes). It’s also a historic place—many of the immaculately preserved homes lining the side streets date back to the mid-1800s. The nabe even hosts a variety of festivals throughout the year, meaning there’s something here for everyone.
Whether you’re most interested in fancy burgers, Victorian manors, or rock concerts, follow the walking tour below to make the most of all Allentown has to offer.
Start your day at Betty’s, a casual spot serving a range of comforting dishes, from huevos rancheros to vegan options like portobello Benedict. While it’s open for all three meals, it’s best known for its simple yet hearty morning offerings. If it’s a nice day, grab a table outside and enjoy your breakfast in the restaurant’s peaceful residential location.
Depending on the time of year you’re in town, you’ll want to head to one of the neighborhood’s many festivals next. In June, the Allentown Art Festival showcases the talents of local artists in one of Buffalo’s most popular events. Come July, the annual Garden Walk gets guests into the beautiful gardens of Allentown’s historic homes.
If you’re visiting during the colder months, go instead to the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site, where he took the oath of office after the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901. The location, which includes the original Ansley Wilcox House, now functions as an interactive museum—and the only National Park Service site in western New York. History fans might also want to check out the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, which houses the world’s largest collection of original manuscripts and documents, spanning literature, science, religion, political history, and art.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite exploring, swing by Gabriel’s Gate, a historic home that now serves as a bar and grill with some of the best wings in town. There’s an outdoor terrace for soaking up Buffalo’s short-lived warm weather. If you’re more in the mood for Mexican, go to Cantina Loco and order one of the famed burritos (the chorizo with barbecue sauce is a favorite).
Walk off lunch by strolling the Allentown Historic District, with its beautifully restored homes and gardens from the 1800s. A member of the National Register of Historic Places since 1980, the area has long drawn creative types—both F. Scott Fitzgerald and Mark Twain spent time here. The house where Fitzgerald lived at 29 Irving Place remains a private residence to this day, but Twain’s home at 472 Delaware Avenue was demolished in the 1960s after an extensive fire.
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Next, walk down Franklin and North Pearl streets for a peek at Allentown’s most luxurious homes, from grand Italianate villas to Second Empire estates and Queen Anne mansions. On the corner of Virginia Street and De Rutte Alley, you’ll find the city’s oldest private residence, the Coit House. Built in 1815, it eventually fell into disrepair but was restored in the 1960s as one of Buffalo’s first efforts in historic preservation.
Now, it’s off to eat again. For New American fare, head to Billy Club, where executive chef Nathaniel Bruce Beardsley, formerly of the Spotted Pig in New York City, serves elevated dishes made with seasonal ingredients. Another delicious option is Mothers, a favorite among restaurant industry workers for its late hours and flavorful dishes, including pan-seared scallops with black fettucine. If you seek comfort food, try Falley Allen or Allen Burger Venture, both known for their quality burgers.
Depending on how you like to imbibe, there are several different watering holes you could choose for an after-dinner drink. Stick around Billy Club and Falley Allen for expertly crafted cocktails, or stop into Savoy for such classics as a Moscow Mule, Negroni, or Old-Fashioned. If you’re more of a beer person, hit Colter Bay or local dive The Old Pink, which has been drawing crowds for decades.
After drinks, it’s time to catch some live music at venues like Allen Street Hardware, Nietzsche’s, and the famed Kleinhans Music Hall. All three spots are within a few blocks of one another and offer music as varied as bluegrass, jazz, rock, and classical—a fittingly eclectic selection for a neighborhood as quirky as Allentown.
>>Next: Plan Your Trip With AFAR’s Travel Guide to Buffalo
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