Buffalo, New York often gets a bum rap. People will complain about the intense cold and snowstorms, they’ll point to its rust belt roots and the economic and industrial crisis it dealt with ten or twenty years ago, and they’ll compare it, point by point and often unfavorably, to that other large city in New York State. But to focus on the negative of the Nickel City is to miss so much.
There’s the vibrant downtown and nonstop arts scene, for starters. There’s stunning architecture designed by the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright and beautiful green spaces designed by the likes of Frederick Law Olmsted. There’s great food and better music, and several institutions of higher learning and all the benefits they afford. In short, there’s a lot more to like about Buffalo than there is to dislike!
But the best part of Buffalo? It’s the people who live there, of course. There’s a reason why Buffalo is often called the City of Good Neighbors — Buffalonians are among the friendliest, most gracious, and most hardy people you’d ever want to meet. And despite their small differences, they have a lot in common, including a few things that no one else really gets about their fair city. Here are ten things only people from Buffalo understand.
It’s not upstate!
People from New York City seem to think that anything north of Yonkers falls into this large, vague category called “Upstate.” However, Buffalo is not upstate! If you look at a map of New York, you’ll see that Buffalo is in Western New York, and Buffalonians would appreciate it very much if you’d make the correction in your thinking, thank you.
Ethnicity and nationalities shift depending on what day it is.
Buffalonians take all of their celebrations seriously, but there are two for which they have a special fondness. The first is Dyngus Day, a fun holiday of Polish origin which takes place the day after Easter, and if you’re not Polish, guess what? You are on Dyngus Day. The same holds true for St. Patrick’s Day: everyone in Buffalo is Irish on March 17.
You technically don’t have to wait until you’re 21 to drink legally.
While it’s true that the drinking age in New York is 21, a quick drive over the Peace Bridge from Buffalo to Fort Erie in Ontario (heading west, not north) makes you legal two years earlier, since the drinking age in Ontario is just 19. We should add here that no matter what the legal drinking age happens to be, you should drink responsibly and always have a designated driver.
The local cuisine has its own shorthand.
Yes, Buffalo wings are from Buffalo, but when you’re in Buffalo, they’re just wings. And while Buffalonians will usually eat wings from anywhere, they usually prefer one of two places: the Anchor Bar, where wings were invented, or Duff’s, where wings were really perfected. Don’t like wings? No problem — have the weck, which is short for roast beef on a kimmelweck roll. And that meaty vinegar smell that’s wafting through the city on summer weekends?
That’s Chiavetta’s, a barbecue sauce for chicken that’s popular in the city, and usually, the world “Chiavetta’s” is all you have to say for Buffalonians to know what you’re talking about. Buffalonians also know that Mighty Taco is the world’s best food when you’re a little drunk (or even when you’re not), and sponge candy makes a perfect treat. And if it’s Friday, it’s fish fry night all through the city, whether it’s during Lent or not.
The local beverages are just as cryptic.
That can of beer may read “Genesee,” but that’s Genny you’re drinking. Or Genny cream ale, or Genny light. Same with Labatt’s — it’s just Blue. Don’t want beer? That’s OK, because we’ve got Black Rock and Loganberry. Oh, and don’t ask for a soda, because in Buffalo, it’s pop.
It’s not easy being a Buffalo sports fan.
No one understands heartbreak quite like Bills fans; the phrase “wide right” will haunt our children’s children. ESPN even did a 30 for 30 documentary recently about the Bills’ four consecutive Super Bowl losses in the early 1990s called The Four Falls of Buffalo. Hockey fans in the Queen City don’t fare much better, as the Sabres have never won a championship either. They took an impossibly tough loss in overtime of game six in the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals, and they haven’t been back to the finals since.
It really does snow as much as you think it does.
Buffalo may not be the snowiest city in New York State, but it definitely gets a lot of the white stuff in the winter. And we’re not talking just an inch or two at a time — we’re talking several feet in a single storm. Still, Buffalonians are used to it: we’re good at driving in the snow, and school cancellations are few and far between, usually reserved for only the most severe snow events.
You get used to the Cheerios smell.
You’re not imagining things — downtown Buffalo really does smell like Cheerios. That’s because General Mills has been producing this breakfast staple for over 75 years. In fact, we’re so used to it that it’s sometimes nice to have out of towners remind us that our city smells like Cheerios.
Closing time is actually tomorrow morning.
The bars in Buffalo stay open late. In fact, you can hang out and enjoy your drinks until four in the morning! A recent effort to move closing time to 2am failed to pass, which means cars can stay open until the wee hours, and almost until the sun comes up.
We did big supermarkets before everyone else.
Tops Friendly Markets and Wegman’s started trying to outsize each other in the early 1990s, and while the competition has slowed down a bit in recent years, Buffalonians now have their choice of several sprawling grocery stores at which to do their food shopping. In fact, there’s a huge Tops International and an even more huge Wegmans more or less across the street from each other just north of Buffalo in Amherst, New York.