"Janice: Do you have a short list of your favorite restaurants in the Southtowns and downtown Buffalo that you could email or mail to me? It is my intention to give gift certificates to the restaurants to relatives."
-- Marge R., Lackawanna
A: Hold on, Marge. You aren't giving me any clues as to the ages or interests of your giftees. And I'm not sure about your budget, either.
But restaurant certificates are always welcome, so I'm jumping in anyway with a few of my favorites. Most are south of the city, but the Buffalo suggestions are easily reached on the Thruway. If you choose well, you will be remembered fondly long after the holidays are gone.
For the person who loves marvelously prepared food in a dignified setting, try Daniel's, 174 Buffalo St., Hamburg. It is one of the best restaurants in Western New York. Chef Daniel Johengen prepares fine food and serves it in a somewhat formal room. He never adds any ingredients to a dish just to make it seem trendy or clever, but he pays great attention to detail. Pricey, but worth it.
For the person who likes Caribbean or slightly spicy food, or for someone who is wrestling with gluten intolerance, there is Curly's, 647 Ridge Road. Since you are from Lackawanna, you may already be aware of it, but it is worth repeating. The menu is varied, but the big specialty is Jerk Chicken, making use of Curly's own hot sauce. The ambience is warm and friendly; and it has a great gluten-free menu.
For younger folk who enjoy a happening dining scene? Merge, 439 Delaware Ave., in downtown Buffalo. You'll find live music, local art and meals with a vegan or vegetarian slant. How do you feel about Fried Pickles?
For sports fans, try the Pearl Street Grill & Brewery, 76 Pearl St., also downtown. Near the First Niagara Center, it is very hockey-centric. It is also slightly raucous, with a big "pub food" menu and lots of fun.
For Italian food fans in the Southtowns, try Mangia, 4264 N. Buffalo Road, Orchard Park. It has everything from hearty Seabass Cioppino to Penne Primavera in very pleasant surroundings and with moderate prices.
For people who like a water view regardless of weather, Templeton Landing is open at Erie Basin Marina year-round, 2 Templeton Terrace. You'll find a varied menu of standards.
For people who want a lot of choice, give Tantalus, 634 Main St., East Aurora. It might have the longest menu in the area. It can get noisy, but the food is good.
And for seafood lovers and sushi fans? Head to Seabar, 475 Ellicott St. It attracts a young and with-it crowd. Ditto and just a few blocks away -- Kuni's, 226 Lexington Ave.
Send your restaurant questions to longtime News restaurant reviewer Janice Okun at firstname.lastname@example.org.