There are a surprising number of foods that are either unique to the Buffalo area (locally referred to as Western New York or WNY) or are simply particular favorites of Buffalonians. Everyone knows about hot-sauced wings and beef-on-weck. The wings you can today get all over the country but, oddly, the weck never made it out of the city.
Buffalo loves grilled hot dogs and ice cream, and they have candy stores that specialize in homemade sponge candy and Charlie Chaplins. Where else do you find loganberry, a beverage made from a berry that grows thousands of miles away and was originally made popular in the 19th century at the dearly departed Crystal Park in Canada?
The original Louie’s Foot Long Hot Dogs sits on the southwest corner of beautiful Sheridan Park in Tonawanda. Louie’s was opened in 1951 by the late Louis Turco, who you could always count on manning the counter. Today, it’ll probably be Louis’ son, Angelo, asking how you’d like your dog dressed. “The works” includes mustard, relish, ketchup, chopped onions and a pickle spear (two spears on the double-long dogs). These dogs are grilled over charcoal (you can see bags of it stacked in back, and some people come just to purchase charcoal for their home grilling), which results in a nice crunch and smokiness to go with the Sahlen’s frank.
Fries are fresh-cut, in your choice of straight or the locally preferred curly Q form. You can also get something called potato buttons, which we haven’t tried but understand to be a Buffalo-only fried potato disk (like homemade potato chips?). And they’ll fix you up with some sweet potato fries if you’d like.
Steak and spinach (formerly steak and dandelion) is a specialty of Louie’s. This is a local Italian-American favorite, kind of like the way they put broccoli rabe on Italian-American sandwiches in Philly. Bologna steak is another unusual “delicacy” commonly seen in Buffalo. Often fried, at Louie’s it’s a 1/2-inch thick slab of Sahlen’s bologna grilled over that charcoal and served on a kaiser roll and dressed, if you follow Angelo’s recommendation, with oregano-scented fried onions and peppers, and mustard.
There are two Louie’s hot dogs around Buffalo and, unbeknownst to even many locals, they are unrelated. The more common, a chain, is Louie’s Red Hots. The Louie’s we’re talking about here is Louie’s Foot Long, and there once were two other stores in addition to this original. Today, this is the only outlet and it provides a most soulful experience. There are some lovely shaded picnic tables along the edge of the park a few steps from Louie’s, a fine place to enjoy your Buffalo lunch.
Note: Louie’s is seasonal, and closes sometime in October. It opens in the spring. It would be a good idea to call before making a trip in the shoulder seasons.69 Grand Island Boulevard Tonawanda NY 14150 716-877-9701