Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Weekly Round Up 2 of 2: Shuffle off to Buffalo


This weekend was the monthly Boy Scout camp weekend, and my first "go somewhere and have an adventure" weekend since last fall.

I have a list of about a million places within driving distance where I want to go, but there aren't very many of them that are good for March.  The weather is always dicey and a lot of places are still shut down for winter.  I narrowed my list down to "out of these one million things what do I want to do the most right now that's open this time of year" and there was a clear answer.

Buffalo NY.

My Previous Experience with Buffalo

Between 1998-2004 I made many, many visits for work and passing through on my way to Canada.  Technically I've spent A LOT of time here at various worksites, hotel rooms, and in traffic on Peace Bridge, but it's also accurate to say that I've never really been here. 

I don't hate Buffalo but it's not somewhere that I ever imagined going by choice.

What did I come here for?

If you've visited my blog anytime in the past few months, I bet you already know the answer.  It's the site of not one but two Frank Lloyd Wright houses that are open for public visits.  This trip was a kind of a test to determine how much effort I want to put into traveling to see other FLW houses.

My two "musts" were The Martin House and Graycliff, plus whatever else I could find to squeeze in.  I had a list of museums, I wanted to check out the waterfront, and I was also planning to stop by Niagara Falls.

What did I end up doing here?

Achievement unlocked, I toured the Martin House and Graycliff and they were everything that I hoped they would be.  

The weather was ultra miserable, which killed my interest in taking photos.  Luckily the Buffalo Niagara tourism board stepped up to give you a one minute version of my weekend:

I don't want to go into too much detail on the houses, since the websites do a much better job of it than I can.  Instead let me give you the concept: a tour of a FLW house is (1) the experience of being inside of a work of art, (2) the technical details of the architecture, (3) the story of the people who lived in the house, and (4) the story of why the house survives today (hint: it's not because it's a FLW house and everyone was in awe of it.  Both of these houses came very close to being demolished and it was a huge labor of love plus A LOT of cash that saved them). 

If you don't have this view from your bedroom window you're doing it wrong.

If you don't have this in your greenhouse you're also doing it wrong.


(I do not have a lakefront view or a greenhouse so yes I'm doing it wrong)

In addition to touring the houses, I drove by two other FLW sites: the Fontana Boathouse (my review: it's a boathouse) and the Blue Sky Mausoleum (if you're REALLY into FLW, this can be your final resting place).  I didn't make it to the Pierce Arrow museum, which has the FLW gas station that's shown in the video, but that's OK.

The one site that I hit on my museum list was the Theodore Roosevelt Inauguration Site.  I've crossed paths with some presidential history in my local travels, and while I'm not up to speed on all of the ins and outs of the Dead White Guys, I've found that they are surprisingly fascinating.  I kind of associate the Roosevelts with New York but not necessarily with Buffalo so I was wondering what was up with that.

Correct, Roosevelt was not from Buffalo, but he did have a good friend there.  President McKinley was shot in Buffalo in 1901, and a week later when word got out that he was dying, Vice President Roosevelt made tracks to see his boss but arrived too late.  His friend's house is where he took the oath of office later that day.  The museum gives you a tour of the house and the story of that day.

My review is that if you happen to be in Buffalo anyway that it's well worth $12 and an hour of your time.

My plans to explore the waterfront and Niagara Falls did not happen.  Right after I rolled into town a winter storm warning was issued for Saturday afternoon.  I had been undecided all along whether I would stay for one night or two, and the storm warning was the deciding factor.  If I had been anywhere else I might have taken a chance, but when you're in Buffalo you take that stuff seriously.  Being outside was truly a miserable experience for the entire weekend.

What did I eat while I was here?

Food wise, I decided that I wanted to have an adventure and try new things.  I came up with a short list of restaurants: a vegan cafe downtown, a by-the-slice pizza place near the Airbnb, and a Thai place.  I don't need to have adventures for breakfast, so I brought coffee and a frozen breakfast burrito, and snacks to tide me over just in case I didn't feel like stopping to eat somewhere.

Out of my list I only made it to Strong Hearts, which is a vegan cafe.  As you know, I'm not vegan but I like good food, and I've been working up a strong case of jealously over Kim's vegan eats on her LA trip, and you should never get mad when you can get even.  The reason why this was the only place that I went to is that the portion sizes were massive and I cut my trip short by a day.

I got the Thai tofu salad and while I was waiting for it I found myself staring at the cupcakes, so I got a whiskey ginger cupcake as well (I did not take a picture but Instagram has my back - it's the cupcake at 11:00 in the "group picture" of the desserts in this post).

That Thai tofu salad tho...I had half of it for lunch and then the other half and the cupcake for dinner.

In summary:

  • I wouldn't mind eating my way through the entire menu at Strong Hearts.
  • When I got home I thought "come on, there must be a place like this somewhere near home, why have I never looked for one?"  So I hit up google and I kid you not, the only "vegan restaurant" near me is...wait for it... Chipotle.  Looks like I gotta go to Buffalo to get the good stuff.
  • Strong Heart's FAQ page answered a question that I've been curious about.  I noticed that lately I'm seeing more and more vegan food with "meat" names: for example two of my favorite Cheap Lazy Vegan recipes are "Korean Fried Chicken" and "Buffalo Chicken Wrap" which always struck me as being odd.  The FAQ question was "if y'all are vegan why do you use the terms chicken and bacon on your menu?".  I liked their answer: because those are terms that people understand, and it helps to make meat eaters more open to trying vegan food.  That makes sense to me.

Where did I stay?

At a really cute Airbnb on the lakefront near Graycliff.  Thanks to the weather I spent far more time there than I usually do on these trips.

So what have we learned here today?

  • Visiting Buffalo to tour FLW houses: 10/10 would recommend.
  • Visiting Buffalo in March: 5/10 - the weather put a definite cramp in my style.  If I'm ever there in decent weather I'd do a walking tour of the city, check out Niagara Falls, and hit up the museums with a vengeance.  But I got to hit the two sites that I came to see plus the TR museum, so the trip was a success.  Dumping on Buffalo's weather is an easy shot but in fairness the weather was just as crappy back home.
  • Getting out of the house and having adventures while your family is out of town: 10/10 definitely recommend.


  1. Oh wonderful!!! Thanks for this, Birchie!
    I would love to go there one day... and I'll make sure to go in summer, ha!

    As a side-note: every time I hear someone mention the city of Buffalo, I have to think of a poem that we had to learn at school. Every single German-speaking kid has to learn it. It was written by a German, Theodor Fontane.
    It's about a ship that catches fire on the Lake Erie. All passengers survive thanks to the heroic helmsman, John Maynard (who dies in the process). It was one of the more interesting poems!

    1. Wow! I'm not sure if I've told you that my youngest stepson is taking German as his language and the boys are obsessed with the Great Lakes shipwrecks. I'll ask him if he's heard of the poem! The legend is right up their alley.

  2. CHIPOTLE. Lol!
    That food does look divine and how fun for you to just shuffle off. To Buffalo. I have never been in that area but wow, I think the weather can be super dreadful. I'm so glad you had a little adventure. I find your adventures SO inspiring! I never travel by myself and I really want to start doing that.

    1. I've never been to Calgary, but I'm guessing that you have better scenery there than in my area. I mean the Great Lakes are cool but...

  3. I do applaud your willingness to go to Buffalo in March! I'm glad you got to hit your highlights before the weather did its thing.

    1. Hey gotta live dangerously once in a while! It would have been a better trip in the summer, but I have so many other places that I want to go in the summer that it made sense to get this one done now

  4. I'm not going to laugh at Chipotle. It's frequently one of the only places my husband can eat. *sigh* They do a nice job with weird dietary restrictions there.

    I was so stressed out while I was reading this that you were going to get stuck in fifteen inches of snow because that's really the only think I know about Buffalo. Poor Buffalo -stereotyped as a blizzard hellhole that helped to make OJ Simpson famous.

    One of our friends has cancer (he's doing really well and is almost done with his treatment). His parents are from California and they've been around a lot to help him out. His mom used to work at the Marin County Civic Center, which was designed by FLW. She told me this and my ears perked up, I thought of you, and I was vastly amused when she talked about how crappy it was - always buckets to catch leaks, everything is a bit cattywampus, but that it is beautiful if you don't look too close. Now I have a mini-goal of going to see this place!

    1. Lots of leaks and buckets - that sounds like an FLW design for sure. That's the other reason why it's a miracle that his buildings have survived, because a lot of them weren't built to last.

      I'd need another reason besides FLW to go all the way to CA, but as soon as I knock out my "local" houses I have a feeling I'll be focusing on CHI & WI.

    2. If you do the Chicago and WI ones and want company, hit me up! I'd love to join you!

    3. Deal! I've got some more "local" ones to see and after that I can see making a few trips to CHI/WI and for some FLW benders.

    4. Can I invite myself on the WI ones, if you're willing to put up with a socially awkward blogger who also loves FLW? (Also - Spring Green, near Taliesin - has an awesome independent bookstore. Just sayin'...)

    5. Anne and Engie - DON'T WAIT FOR ME TO COME TO WI!!!! We're talking next year at the earliest and it might be later/never. Start checking 'em out and report back!

  5. This sounds really fun!!! Well, other than the weather. I just love the thought of setting off alone to explore a city like this. And obviously I want to eat at that restaurant. You're making me excited for my trip to Tallahassee this summer, although I haven't really looked into how to tour the FLW house. I better look into that more closely, in case it's only on certain days or something.

    1. Yes definitely check out their schedule in advance. Some of the houses are only open on certain days or for part of the year. I hope there's a good vegan cafe nearby!

  6. What a fun adventure! All these FLW houses really sound like fun places to visit (as well as the towns where they're located).

    1. Kim, you would love it! I hope that you get the chance to visit one someday. From the ones I've seen so far, they're all different and they're all unforgettable.

  7. I am so glad you got to see most of what you went for and the storm did not derail you too much! LOL at why FLW houses are still standing. Definitely NOT because of how he designed them. I am glad people/groups keep them up. Do you track all of his stuff you've seen? Have you been to the Johnson Wax Museum!

    Thanks for the s/o! Totally LOLing at get even! That salad looks good and I am glad you enjoyed it! It IS confusing when you are in a vegan place and they use those names. Even I am like, wait, is it chicken? That is why we say fake "chicken" etc at home (and why we named FakeMeats.com what we did). But it does help people know what it's going to be like!

    I am planning to go to an all vegan place for dinner tonight! Yay!

    1. FLW is a recent obsession, so I've barely scratched the surface. I've got a few more "local" ones to see and then I'll focus my attention on CHI/WI.

      I was DROOLING over your pictures. Getting a taste of the goods at Strong Hearts was kind of like seeing my first FLW house...now I get what the fuss is about and I want more!

  8. I would have gotten that salad, too. Yes, yes I did look at the menu. :) I just love that you make TIME for yourself when the guys are gone. Such a wonderful approach to life. And, it seems like you're doing things that will fill you up - but may not be top priorities for, say, the kids.
    Falling Water is practically crumbling thanks to the fact that there is actual water running under the house. I remember that from a visit decades ago with my parents... I know it's still standing but have to wonder for how much longer??

    1. I figured that there's a 0.001% chance that someone reading this will end up in Buffalo someday and be craving some good vegan food. The more I think about it, I really would like to go back in the summer sometime.