Q: My family loves going to Shea's Performing Arts Center and Sabres games in downtown Buffalo. I am frequently in Buffalo and I love it. My mom likes buffets, because she likes to pick and choose; at 81 she is kind of fussy about her food. Is there any place with a good buffet in downtown Buffalo?"
-- Jamie, Port Colborne, Ont.
We love you, too, Jamie -- and you bring up an interesting point. Downtown Buffalo is not exactly a hotbed of buffet dining. There aren't any, let's call them "stand alones" -- those large restaurants that specialize in huge lineups of food with plenty of selections (with many of those choices spending a lot of time on the steam table). You usually find stand alones in the suburbs or near malls.
All is not lost in the city, however. There are some good buffet options downtown -- especially if you're here for a late breakfast or an early lunch. Most of the hotels offer breakfast buffets (eggs, cereal, breads) that run until 11 a.m. or so.
Dining a little later in the day? Looking for a little more variation? The Adams Mark offers a lunch buffet on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays that often includes a pasta station; the hours are 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The Hyatt Regency also offers a lunch buffet Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 11 to 2. Here you find a choice of meat and potatoes, plus a deli and a taco bar.
The Harbour Club at HSBC Arena is sometimes open to the public. It starts serving one and a half hours before Bandits games, and the buffet is more casual those days. Think Buffalo wings. As for arena concerts, it depends. It's sometimes open; sometimes not. Call ahead for information (855-4155) or ask your ticket seller.
For concerts in our beautiful Kleinhans Music Hall, Henry's offers a sort of semi-buffet before every Saturday Buffalo Philharmonic concert. I say semi-buffet because your entree (choice of three) is served at your table, but you go to the buffet for appetizers, salads and desserts. You must have a ticket to dine there.
Pettibones, as you know, is in Coca Cola Field, our baseball park, with a good view of the diamond. On Wednesdays year round it holds a lunch buffet based on a theme. It could be Italian with lots of pasta; it could be American with a nice roast turkey.
On Thursdays when there's an afternoon game there is a businessmen's buffet at lunchtime. (You usually need tickets to enter when games are being held. Go in the Pettibones entrance on Washington Street.)
The column from last week about local Mexican restaurants drew a lot of comments. Here's one from Terry of Lake View, who has lived in Cleveland, Detroit, Baltimore, Cincinnati and, yes, Mexico City, and admitted to being puzzled by people who lament the dearth of Mexican places here:
"Most cities have lost their family-owned-and-operated businesses to the chain restaurants, which offer the same menu with the same processed taste. The variety which is still available in this area is diverse and unique -- most of the population in the cities mentioned above do not recognize what they have lost over the years.
"Each Italian restaurant in this area has its own flavor and unique flair for the dishes prepared, yes some better than others, but still unique. .... I can't say that I have found a crab cake that is the same as what I had in Maryland, but I don't expect to....
"If you really miss [Mexican food], ship it in via the Internet and go out and support what you got before its gone."
Next week: BYOB?