Occuping the building at Lackawanna's central intersection Nelson's ridge perfectly captures the neighborhood’s charm. The eatery takes its name from nearby Our Lady of Victory Basilica's well-loved leader, Father Nelson Baker, and furthers the connection with menu names derived from religious icons. Chefs churn out classic diner fare such as burgers, hot sandwiches, and fried chicken for lunch and dinner, but the biggest crowd pleasers are their served-all-day hotcakes, stuffed with bananas and chocolate chips, blueberries, or diced apples and bacon. In true diner fashion, Nelson’s feeds hungry diners at a long counter dotted with bar stools, and floor-to-ceiling windows offer gorgeous views of its namesake basilica.
Each day, the chefs at Center Street Smokehouse slow-cook their St. Louis cut ribs with hickory and oak wood to infuse the meat with a smoky flavor. In addition to their menu of barbecue beef brisket, Carolina pulled pork, and New York strip steaks, the chefs bake baskets cheese biscuits for every table.
Occupying the same spot on a blacktop parking lot since the 1950s, the walk-up windows at Fran-Ceil Custard jog nostalgic memories of generations past. Although the sweetery has been under its current ownership for the past 30 years, the legacy of the shop's namesake Frances and Celia—wives to founders Tony and Michael—lives on not only in name, but also through the same French-style custard that has filled cups for more than half a century. A rotating menu of weekly flavors, such as pistachio, tangerine, or black raspberry, spirals into cones alongside the original chocolate and vanilla custards, and 13 varieties of hard-scoop ice cream form a decadent base for banana splits, fudge brownie sundaes, and poorly constructed suspension bridges. Over the years, homemade sherbets have been added into the mix, making rotating batches of lime, raspberry, and orange scoops.
Francesca's Ristorante Italiano's eggplant fra diablo won Taste of Buffalo's 2012 Pat Sardina Memorial award for Best Comfort Food, and the lemon strawberry sorbet won Taste of Buffalo's award for 2013 Independent Health Foundation's Healthy Options, but those aren't the only items on the eatery's menu that could have qualified. Other dishes with sumptuous, rich flavors include the eatery's rustic Italian pizzas, which chefs paint with a signature red-wine sauce or garlic-cream-cheese spread, as well as the osso buco with tender, slow-cooked beef shank and oyster mushrooms packed into ravioli. While navigating forks through tubes of housemade manicotti stuffed with ricotta cheese, patrons can enjoy the melodies of occasional live music or launch paper airplanes off the outdoor patio. Dark wood accentuates the fully stocked bar, replete with wine, beer, and cocktail makings.
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Gino & Joe's supplies quick workday lunches and leisurely family dinners alike with barbecue chicken pizzas, hot subs, and Italian food. In the kitchen, pizza specialists hurl discs of dough into the air before topping them with mouthwatering tomatoes or sausage, while cooks nearby assemble subs with thin-sliced capicola or bundle together veggie wraps. Pasta sauces are made fresh each day from imported tomatoes before they coat trays of savory meatballs or dinners of cheesy baked ziti.