Ten Buffalo Chefs You Should Know

With two Buffalo restaurants named James Beard Award finalists, dining travelers are adding the Queen City of the Great Lakes to their itineraries.

While the honorees Waxlight Bar a Vin, with its creative menu and remarkable wine and drink list, and Southern Junction’s Indian-spice infused barbecue fare are first on the list for curious eaters, Buffalo is home to many culinary talents and menus worth traveling for.

Here are 10 Buffalo-area restaurants where the chefs are masters of their craft, feeding people with dishes drawn from their lifelong pursuit of cooking that makes any meal a celebration.

Photo: Grange Community Kitchen (Facebook)

Brad Rowell

Grange Community Kitchen

Born in Buffalo, Rowell graduated from Hamburg’s Frontier High and the French Culinary Institute before opening hit restaurant Colt & Gray in Denver. He returned to launch dinner service at Elm Street Bakery’s restaurant side before opening Grange Community Kitchen in 2016. House-made breads, a pizza oven turning out Neapolitan-style pies with seasonal ingredients, mains drawing from local producers and world cuisines, and adventurous weekly desserts are standards. Grange launched sister restaurant West Rose in Ellicottville, breakfast sandwich and pastry takeout Grange Outpost, and Wayland Brewing Co., a stylish brewpub featuring 16 house beers, and a bocce court.

Waxlight Bar a Vin owners (l-r) Jessica Forster, Tony Rials, Joe Fenush, Ed Forster / Photo: Waxlight Bar a Vin

Joe Fenush and Ed Forster

Waxlight Bar a Vin

Fenush, born in Tonawanda, and Forster, born in North Tonawanda, are the chefs who turn local ingredients and a world of inspirations into a relentlessly creative menu of locally-driven dishes each week, with unusually wide-ranging price points: $4.50 to $59. Fenush and Forster were chefs at beloved local restaurants, like Toutant, before they and other veterans decided to combine their talents at Waxlight. The menu changes weekly in season, but you might find kohlrabi marinated and grilled among the small plates. Find big plates like dry-aged beef coulotte, misoyaki hasselback potato, haricot verts, and charred onion hollandaise with the beef entree.

Photo: Toutant (Facebook)

James Roberts


Born in New Orleans, Roberts opened his restaurant, named after his family’s bayou fishing camp, in a century-old building outfitted by designer wife Connie Roberts. Exposed brick and tables made from Kentucky horse farm fenceposts lend a rural air to broadly Southern feasts. Roberts airlifts seafood from Gulf of Mexico dockside contacts. Barbecue of the week, shrimp po’boy with authentically crackly rolls, and a Nashville chicken tender tower on dill brine white bread are some of the most popular dishes.

Dina Mattiello

The Dove

Born in Buffalo, Mattiello was trained in Italian restaurant cooking by her father, Naples native and restaurant chef John Mattiello. Two decades after The Dove opened in Orchard Park, its vision of dinner, and its bonanza of welcoming freebies with your entree, remains unchanged. Expert servers led by partner Sherry Davies greet guests with warm house-baked bread, whipped butter, and a meatball in tomato sauce. After ordering, pasta fagioli with onion and Romano cheese arrives. Then a salad with house-made creamy parmesan dressing enlivened with toasted breadcrumbs, and a shot of chilled limoncello. This is why reservations are required.

Photo: DiTondo

Fabio Consonni


Born in Lombardy, Italy, Consonni was cooking at a boutique hotel on Lake Garda when he met a sommelier named Rita DiTondo. Later, they would move to Buffalo and reinvigorate the Seneca Street restaurant founded by Rita’s grandfather. A dim tavern barroom known for its sausage sandwiches and spaghetti parm became a high-ceilinged space with an open kitchen that floods with sunlight at dinnertime. There, Consonni goes beyond fresh pastas and focaccia of the day to offer regional Italian specialties like pesce spada alla griglia, from a Calabrian village town known for its swordfish, and a pristine tiramisu. 

Photo: Abyssinia Ethiopian Cuisine (Instagram)

Zelalem Gemmeda

Abyssinia Ethiopian Cuisine

Born in Ethiopia, Gemmeda learned the restaurant business in a Yemeni refugee camp, to make money for her children’s education. Arriving in Buffalo, she opened her Ethiopian restaurant in the West Side Bazaar, a nonprofit business incubator. After a fire, she moved to the Theater District as one of five restaurants in the new Downtown Bazaar, where she and husband Gezaghne Derseh serve vegan, vegetarian, and meat dishes, typically in assortments on injera, a sourdough pancake that’s used to scoop up bites of food. Injera is gluten-free because it’s made from teff, an ancient grain.

Photo: Prescott’s Provisions (Facebook)

Vincent Thompson

Prescott’s Provisions

Buffalo-born Thompson worked his way up to executive chef at Buffalo Chophouse. In 2018, he opened Prescott’s with a menu that prizes steak, lobster and casual pizza. The result is a menu of creative appetizers and special-occasion blockbusters, with a view of the Erie Canal. Premium ingredients exploited with canny cooking, plus expert service, has put Prescott’s Provisions at the top of many local diners’ splurge lists. Steak, seafood, fresh pasta and stylish desserts are the headliners here. Gnocchetti with boar ragu and wood-grilled chicken sausage with grilled ramps, giardiniera, black garlic, and chicken jus are two long-standing favorites.

Tab Daulton

Winfield’s Pub

Born in Rochester, Indiana, Daulton moved to Buffalo to feed its biggest room, as executive chef of the KeyBank Center arena. In 2014, he turned a neighborhood tavern into a showcase for elevated standards, often drawing on local producers. That means pasture-raised chicken pot pie, duck confit poutine with duck gravy and cheddar curds, and a warm Velveeta-based potato salad with green olives. Weekly specials like shrimp scampi may feature foraged ramps. Wife Cherryl shepherds customers in the dining room, while son Thomas jams out on custom cocktails behind the bar for one of the tightest family acts in Buffalo. 

Photo: Sharon Cantillon

Ryan Fernandez

Southern Junction

Born in India and raised in Texas, Fernandez fused the home cooking of coastal Kerala with reverent Texas barbecue sensibilities to create a classic barbecue joint that also happens to serve vegetarians well. Here, the applewood-smoked chicken gets a dip in spice-infused coconut oil and caramelized onion and curry leaf accent. Carnivores swoon over smoked beef brisket dipped in coconut curry sauce, while animal-avoiders tuck into smoked cauliflower Manchurian. Get in line and wait, like all great barbecue joints. Or do what the regulars do: Hit the bar as you send one in your party, with your orders in hand, to wait in line for everyone.

Photo: Nancy J. Parisi

Oded Rauvenpoor

Falafel Bar

Born in Israel, Rauvenpoor has served Buffalo classic and obscure dishes of the Levant and Greece for two decades. Dignitaries, faculty members, and others in Amherst for the University at Buffalo have made Falafel Bar a frequent stop for vegans, halal eaters, and people who want thin, crispy Israeli-style chicken schnitzel speckled with sesame seeds. They go for fluffy falafel with emerald-green insides, Israeli street food like sabich (fried eggplant, hummus, salad, tangy mango hot sauce) and fresh hummus topped to order. Sunday brunch, once a month, brings khachapuri, the Georgian cheese schooner.

The post Ten Buffalo Chefs You Should Know appeared first on Visit Buffalo Niagara.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *