Friday, December 27, 2013

Westside Stories Used Books

Once upon a time, in a land not so very far away, a book lover went on a quest for the perfect little book shop. This is the story of how the quest ended. 

A few years ago a friend told me that a little book shop had opened up across from Sweetness 7 Grant. I visited one evening after work. It was a small, cozy place full of wood and paper, and seemed to be bigger on the inside as you explored further and further back. The shop owner had greeted me by the door, and as I browsed I heard two young children talking while coloring at a short table in the children's section. The kids began talking to me immediately and the little girl asked for my opinion on some color choices in her inscrutable drawing. I stayed longer than I meant, bought more than I ought, and was thoroughly happy. As I was leaving the little girl came flying after me to give me her drawing, saying, "I drew it for you!" and totally making my night.

A few months ago I was sorting through some papers and found the drawing, which of course I have kept. I laughed and brought it with me to show the shop owners, who are now my friends. The thing about a little book shop isn't just the books: it's the character and the atmosphere in the store, created and defined by the people buying and selling within its walls. That element is what makes Westside Stories my ultimate little book shop.

I mentioned there was a kids play area - they also give away free childrens books to kids in need. Along those lines, they collect and give away dictionaries to refugees and immigrants wanting to improve their English. While the point of a business is to be profitable, Westside Stories has always included an additional mission of giving the community what it needs. For one thing, that means investing in the community's education. For another, that means opening a bookstore that silently attests to the value of the neighborhood.

You can see Westside Stories taking its place on Grant St as more than just a bookshop, although it is also an excellent bookshop. The owners participate in local activities, nonprofit boards, and business associations. They provide a venue for local artists to sell their work, and a place for people to hang out and talk about their neighborhood.

Then, of course, there are the books themselves. I always find the perfect thing I am looking for, to a degree only explained by magic and multidimensional tomfoolery. Recently I was looking for something specific, so the owners kept an eye out and sent me a message when they found just the right thing. They have a great mix ranging from beautifully bound 100-year old books (my ultimate weakness!), to current bestsellers, to locally-made bibliophile paraphernalia.

The setting is also perfect. The store takes advantage of its natural wooden walls and ceiling, and from the front desk you can see into an attached greenhouse. Everything is just in balance between very organized and suitably disheveled, allowing your browsing experience to be both targeted and surprising.

I can't mention here all of the "extra" elements that make this little store shine - you'll have to make your own list as you get to know it. For the full experience, strike up a conversation with the owners when you stop by. Also, I would recommend you plan on making an afternoon of it. At 205 Grant St (near the intersection with Lafayette), they're in the middle of other great businesses like Sweetness 7, Guercio's, Press, Global Villages, and Freddy J' there's plenty to see, eat, and shop for.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Parkside Candies

Parkside Candies is one of those Buffalo gems that you just have to know about, because it doesn't catch the eye or put itself out there. Here's a picture of the outside. See what I mean? Maybe you've heard about it because it was used in the filming of The Natural. I heard about it from a coworker, and was surprised because at that time I was driving by it every day to and from work. On one of those drives, I decided to take 10 minutes to see what it was all about. It's located on Main St near South Campus, in the same few blocks as Amy's Place and Shango Bistro. I had no trouble parking and I was pleasantly surprised by what was waiting for me inside.
Did you expect that? I didn't. It feels a bit like being on a movie set. There's an ice cream counter where you expect to see characters from It's a Wonderful Life sipping sodas. The ice cream can only be ordered if you sit down and eat it in the shop, where there are plenty of little tables and plenty to look at. 

Around the walls is the heart of the candy shop, where employees in uniform stand behind glass cases full of homemade chocolates and fudges. There are wooden shelves against wallpaper, and old-fashioned candy advertisements. Everything here is a bit over the top, but in a way that really works. They've played to the strengths of their establishment and provided an experience that is one-of-a-kind. 

I explored and took pictures, bought some fudge to share, and was on my way. I didn't mind leaving because I knew that I'd be back many times. I could easily imagine this being a fun family tradition, but if you take my advice you won't wait for a special occasion to stop by.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Forest Lawn in the Autumn

Last week I realized it would be the last time this year I could explore and take some photos of the stunning Forest Lawn Cemetery while all the leaves were still colorful. By the time I got around to posting this, an enormous windstorm had blown most of the leaves off the trees and the cemetery looked gorgeous in a different way - under a light coating of snow. 
I hope you enjoy the photos as much as I enjoyed taking them. You can always enjoy Forest Lawn during the hours they are open, but remember to be respectful of the families and comply with their Photo and Video Policy.

As you can see, it's a really beautiful place. If you have a whole afternoon to explore, you can also visit nearby Delaware Park or the Japanese Garden. I'd love to start photo collections of these places in all four seasons. We are so lucky to have the variety of weather we do here in Buffalo! Each season brings its own sights and smells, food and activities. Our environment is always changing.
The incomparable Mirror Lake
I drive by some of the landmarks below every day on my way to and from work, and I love that they set the tone for my day. The archway is the old main entrance at the corner of Main and Delavan. The set of "steps" is the Blue Sky Mausoleum designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, visible from Delavan.The other photos you would have to enter the cemetery to see.


This excursion was just a chance for me to see how beautiful the cemetery is while the leaves are all changing; I plan on doing a more in-depth tour later looking for famous gravesites. Forest Lawn makes it easy with their map of the grounds HERE, as well as by hosting guided tours and events. I hope this post encourages you to explore and appreciate this Buffalo treasure! 


Monday, October 28, 2013

Cocktails in Character with Literacy New York

Imagine not being able to read a bus schedule, gas bill, prescription, street sign, nutrition label, bank statement, or ballot. You may have experienced that traveling in another country, but what if it was in your own home? What if you couldn't read to your child or help them with their homework? For one in five adults in Erie County, that's their reality. Literacy New York Buffalo-Niagara is a nonprofit working to change that reality and help people improve their lives through literacy. They connect over 300 adult students with trained volunteer tutors, as well as
running drop-in centers, classes, and after school programs.

I had the chance to be a part of LNY's mission from 2010-2011 when I was employed by them to run an after-school program on the East Side. I had a fantastic time and, while there were many challenges, I look back on my time with the kids as something I was incredibly lucky to be able to do.

I'll never forget one day when I read them old-fashioned Grimm's fairy tales and then we all talked about what fairy tales are like and why we tell them to each other as a society. They were in grades K-6 in failing schools and they were often kept awake at night by gunshots, but let me tell you, they GOT IT. Why are good people pretty and bad people ugly? Why is everyone all good or all bad? Why do good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people? I am tearing up just remembering. We all went home to different things, but those afternoons together were truly golden.

I wanted to stay involved but I couldn't commit to being a tutor. Luckily there are lots of other ways to support what they do. Volunteering, donating, and voting are all great ways to make sure they can keep doing their important and incredible work.

One way you can advance their mission indirectly is to support a culture of reading in Buffalo. I am one of the biggest book nerds you can find, and I love being in a place that publicly celebrates reading on the grassroots level. Some of my favorite ways to celebrate reading in Buffalo are the Buffalo Reading Invasion, shopping at local bookstores like my favorite Westside Stories, book clubs like the Lovin' On Buffalo Book Club, and Buffalo's Little Free Libraries.

Perhaps the most fun way to support literacy in our region is to attend Literacy New York Buffalo-Niagara's annual fundraiser, Cocktails in Character. Yes, it is what it sounds like - dress up as your favorite literary character and enjoy cocktails and entertainment! It will be held in The Hotel Lafayette, which has been such a fantastic example of the reuse and revitalization of old Buffalo treasures. It seems a perfect setting to celebrate a renewed commitment to addressing some of Buffalo's biggest ongoing struggles.

At this year's event, people with VIP tickets will have the chance to take a half-hour behind-the-scenes guided tour of the historic building. If you bought a regular price ticket but you're dying to go on the tour, guess what? There will be one additional tour offered exclusively for Enjoy Buffalo readers. An announcement will be made that night telling you where and when to meet. When you show up to take the tour, you just need to tell the organizers you are a guest of Enjoy Buffalo in order to join. If you know someone who is going, be sure they know about this, too.

There are lots of great events in Buffalo, but I have limited resources and time, so only a few actually get me to attend. This is one of them. This will be my third year attending (yes, in costume) and I hope that many of you will join me! Follow the night on Twitter using #CinC13.

For more details, ideas for costumes, or to buy tickets, see their website:

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Guest Post: Why the End of the Industrial Economy is Good for Buffalo

By Griffin Jones

“The value we create is directly related to how much valuable information we can produce, how much trust we can earn, and how often we innovate”.

Seth Godin, one of the most intuitive marketers of our time (and who lived in Buffalo as a kid), insists that the world has entered the Connection Economy. The connection economy has different rules from the industrial economy, and therefore different winners and losers. Thank God.

Buffalo was a loser for the last fifty years of the Industrial Economy because it rewards those who can produce the most average products or services for the lowest possible price. With massive competing economies across the globe, the situation was untenable for Buffalo and many other cities. Buffalo failed at being average so horribly, that it went from the fifteenth largest city in the country to out of the top 70 in sixty years.

That might be a good place to start in the Digital Age.

According to Godin, the connection economy “has enabled the weird edges, where people who care find others who care and they all end up caring about something even more than they did before they met”.

Sound familiar? By the way they fall on the bell curve, people who serve refugees, lobby for bicycle-friendly infrastructure, advertise Buffalo for free, form volunteer groups, and plant gardens in empty lots are the “weird edges,” Buffalo’s flatline has turned into a faint pulse because these people have connected.

“Most of all, the connection economy has replaced [average] with an insatiable desire for things that are new, real, and important”, Godin argues.

Being able to watch concerts together on our waterfront is new. Restored craftsman buildings in our urban core are real. Reusing a city, so we destroy less of the Earth is fundamentally important.

The desire for a new, real, important, Buffalo is so insatiable that thousands of people express it as the core of their identity.

“Tribes of talented individuals who are connected, mutually trustful and supported by one another are in a position to create a movement, to deliver items of value, to move ideas forward faster than any individual ever could”.

I’m guest-posting on this blog because I was able to connect with someone else who wants to improve Buffalo as much as I do. We have each found others we trust, who we want to support by creating value for them. Our tribes connect and merge as part of the process.

Buffalo is the perfect city for meaningful connection. There aren’t that many of us. For once, that’s a good thing. We live so close to each other, and can get so close to many of our problems, that we have a major advantage over places where it is harder for people to connect.

“If you interact with others, you have the ability to create something new, something that changes everything,” says Godin. Go to a group meeting. Follow a few very active “Buffalo” people on Twitter. You’ll notice that many of them overlap. The right people are connecting with each other.

Because they’re interacting, they care even more about Buffalo than they did before. They create even more new, real, and important things, and the tribes grow in the process. This is the reason you feel a different energy in Buffalo than you did ten years ago.

This shift in energy is why you should fear being uninvolved more than taking risks. What if no one reads my blog? What if people think my painted piano at Canalside is stupid? What if I volunteer to clean up a street in Black Rock and I look like a phony outsider?

It’s taking these risks that lead us (and therefore Buffalo) to get rewarded. The risk is what makes it meaningful, what makes it generous. Uninvolved is average. Average is handed to the lowest bidder and ignored. Ignored is switch cane poor in the connection economy. Take the risk. Connect. Be a part of the new, real, important, Buffalo.

Griffin Jones

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Grassroots Gardens of Buffalo

This summer I spent Garden Walk weekend celebrating, because I had just joined the board of one of my favorite Buffalo nonprofits. I first "met" Grassroots Gardens of Buffalo while I was working on Grant St, and loved both what they were doing and the fact that they had such a stellar reputation. If you haven't "met" them yet, they are a nonprofit that leases and indemnifies vacant city lots when a neighborhood wants to create a community garden.

I'd kept my eye on them over the past few years, but had never gotten involved since I'm not a gardener. Every spring I excitedly renew my dreams of being a gardener, but after killing 2 jade plants and accidentally putting the third in the refrigerator for a week (it's doing fine), I have to admit to myself that making green things grow is just not in the cards for me.

After I was reintroduced to Grassroots Gardens of Buffalo through the United Way, I searched through their online presence and was amazed at how much their vision for the city resonated with my own. Their approach is that real transformation happens because of the work of passionate neighborhood gardeners...Grassroots just clears away obstacles so that the gardeners can succeed.  

Their vision is stunning: using shared green spaces to reimagine and strengthen communities by enabling the communities to make their own changes. They are passionate about the transformative power of community gardens for our city, and it's easy to see why.

Trinity Place community garden, Garden Walk Party July 2013
A garden is a very physical thing, but when neighbors maintain a common space together, the mental effects are exponential. Some benefits come easily to mind (beautification, nutrition, camaraderie), but others benefits (civic pride, safety, education) can be even more profound. On the subject of "growing more than just plants," our website talks about how:

"After more than a decade of work, we are seeing the positive impacts of community gardens in our city. In areas that have been desecrated by high crime and poverty, neighbors are coming out of their homes, engaging with one other and working side-by-side again to beautify and rebuild their neighborhoods. Block-by-block, the city’s streets are being transformed back into neighborhoods."

Hope to see you there this Thursday!
In addition to the attractive vision, I've found that the down-and-dirty work of the organization is just plain fun. My first day was spent listening to a classical violinist on a warm summer night amidst lush plants and laughter. I love admiring a garden and then realizing, "that's one of ours."

If you were involved you might be learning yoga in a garden, attending free workshops, weeding with your neighbor, or picking your own salad all summer long. We also work closely with other stellar community organizations you've heard about, like Urban Roots and the Massachusetts Avenue Project (MAP).

There's more to say than I can fit here, so check out our work for yourselves. Our website is, and we just joined Twitter as @GGBFLO.

The next opportunity to get to know the organization is coming up on Thursday (10/17), when we will have our annual Harvest Celebration. The event is a night of food and fun where you will be able to support our work and also meet our gardeners, staff, and other supporters. See our website for more details - or, if you're not the planning type, you can stop by the Tri-Main building at 6pm.

There are many ways of making our city better. None of them is the single answer, and all of them contribute something good. If we have passionate people working on many different problems and solutions, we will be able to slowly move the city forward. Find the place that appeals to you most, and join in.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

October events and a note

First, a little about where Enjoy Buffalo is headed. I have fallen behind on posts (20 draft posts?! How did that happen?!) and have decided to begin posting some of my adventures out of order so that I can keep the blog more relevant. Does that mean I will be writing about Garden Walk over Christmas break? Yes, probably...almost certainly.

This fall I began pursuing my MBA degree part-time, I joined the board of a fantastic non-profit, I was selected to speak at TEDxBuffalo, and I am still working full-time and enjoying Buffalo to the fullest. I am completely thrilled to be involved in all those things, but they do take up a wee bit of my time now!

I update on Twitter (@enjoybuffalo) and Facebook (/EnjoyBuffalo) with great Buffalove daily, so please check out those platforms as well to find out about upcoming events, see pictures of what I'm up to, and read positive press about Buffalo.

These are the major events I am dedicating my time to in October. They each showcase some great work being done in Buffalo, and are each being held in a uniquely Buffalo location. I am helping organize the second two and I highly recommend them! Say hello if you make it out. :-)

Date: Tuesday October 15th
Event: TEDxBuffalo 2013
Organization: independently organized (see
        Ideas Worth Sharing)
Time: all day, 9-5
Cost: ticket applications ended -
                 watch livestream or on youtube                      

                 Date: Thursday October 17th
                 Event: Harvest Celebration fundraiser
                 Organization: Grassroots Gardens of Buffalo
                 Time: 6-8pm              
                 Cost: $35/person                         

Date: Wednesday October 30th
Event: Cocktails in Character fundraiser
Organization: Literacy New York Buffalo-Niagara
Time: 6-8:30pm              
Cost: $40/person before Oct. 1st; $50 after

Monday, September 2, 2013

Posh drinks: The Statler and the Hotel Lafayette

Pan American Grill, view from balcony
Two places I have been dying to check out are the Statler Hotel and the Hotel Lafayette. Both have had a lot of improvements recently and are particularly intriguing to me. I started small by going to the Pan-American Grill for Wednesday night live jazz, and going to the Statler lobby bar during Taste of Buffalo. They are both places I that I think deserve their recent good press.

Detail of Hotel Lafayette ceiling

The Pan-American was pretty empty when we got there around 6pm, but I liked the atmosphere and the servers were attentive. I had read poor reviews of their food but everything we had (& I've been back since) was great. The biggest problem was that the jazz started over an hour after it was advertised as starting, so we decided to come back another Wednesday for the live jazz experience. Now that we've been once it's easier to go again because we know what to expect.

I'm very excited to be going back to Hotel Lafayette in October for an event - I'm volunteering to help organize Literacy New York's annual fundraiser, Cocktails in Character. I've been to 2 of their last 3 Cocktails in Character events, and some of the ideas for this year are going to make it even more spectacular than before! Look for more info on their website and on Enjoy Buffalo as it gets closer.

Detail of Statler lobby proper
The Statler had a much less welcoming feel than the Pan-American, but I'm pretty sure that was because we stopped by during Taste of Buffalo when they had all but barricaded themselves against the general public. The decor was great and the bartender mixed a good strong drink. Based on the glimpses we had of the rest of the building, I am still incredibly curious to go to an event there. I feel like it would be the perfect setting for a winter gala - does anyone want to invite me to one?

Statler lobby bar
Before I went to either place, I was worried about affordability. Does anyone besides me get the vague fear of being asked to enter through the back door when approaching a classy place? Valets downright give me social anxiety. Luckily you don't need to worry about that feeling with these two places. The prices are very reasonable and they each have specials on certain nights to get more bang for your buck. Definitely check them out!

Friday, August 16, 2013

City Hall

City Hall during Taste of Buffalo 2013
So, I think everyone knows that City Hall is pretty amazing. But how many people have gone inside? Looked out at the city from the Observation Deck? It's one of my must-do items when showing visitors around. I usually bring people up there on my own but I did go on a tour with Buffalo Tours once. They happen every weekday at noon and are FREE - check out the details here.

I lived in the UK for a short time and traveled just a bit, and I would always look for chances like this to get up high and see whichever city I was visiting spread out below me. It's a really unique perspective of a given place and usually free or cheap to do.

Main lobby wall and ceiling
Back in Buffalo, one awesome part of my job is occasionally leading "field trips" for refugee clients to see the view from the Observation Deck. It's a nice way for them to see the size and geography of their new city. It's often just as impressive to them that they are allowed access to the main government building in the city, since many of them have recently arrived from situations where the government had absolute power. I'm very lucky that, among other things, I get to see our civic structures with eyes other than my own.

One of the views from up top - nice mix of architecture
One man I know had to hide by the side of the road if someone else passed by because he was low caste and it wasn't proper to inflict the sight of him on someone held to be his better. I've seen him learn to look people in the eye, and I remember standing at the top of City Hall with him and a group of clients who were learning about what the building was. When I explained that the mayor was in the building at the same time as we were, that man just shook his head disbelievingly and chuckled. 
The Liberty Building, welcoming people coming to Buffalo from land or water

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Taste of Buffalo 2013

We all have them - events you always hear about and think "I would love to check that out sometime" and then the day arrives and you don't make it out. Taste of Buffalo was one of those for me. 

I recruited a friend and we explored it this year. I was very pleased with our experience because 1) it was a lovely day for a festival, 2) downtown full of people is the best, 3) delicious food everywhere, 4) we caught a tour up to the top of City Hall to look down on the festivities, and 5) We stopped by the Statler lobby bar on our way out. Buffalo List success!

I love being in busy parts of cities when there are tons of people around. Just stepping out onto the street in NYC makes me light up like you wouldn't believe. In Buffalo I've found a similar feeling, but unique in my experience. The times I've been around big crowds here have been when everyone is there just to enjoy themselves and enjoy what the event has to offer. People aren't rushing around stressed; they're strolling with their friends or sitting under trees with their dogs and savoring the moment. I like that, and I like sharing in that. Also, NYC is always a train-ride away when I need it.

Yes, I took this picture. No, you don't want to know how. ;-)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Mark your calendars - August 2013

I am involved in several events in the next few months and I want you all to have time to get them on your calendars. I'm volunteering in various ways to help make these events possible and I would love to see you there enjoying them!

This is part of my philosophy of investing in your community - when you spend your time and money on something you become a part of it in a totally new way. I didn't fully realize that until until recently, when "an event" changed to "my event." Observing a cool event or a sensational nonprofit isn't enough. Do whatever you feel you can to get involved. Those of you who already are involved, you know much enjoyment you get from taking part. Those who are looking to expand what you are involved in, what excites you? Is someone already doing it? Should you start it? Anything is possible in Buffalo. :-)

Date: Saturday August 17th
Event: City of Night
Organization: (none - put on by ELAB)
Time: 4:00pm to 2:00am
Cost: FREE

          Date: Saturday August 24th
          Event: Show How: A Night of How-To
          Organization: Communify Buffalo
          Time: 6:00pm to 9:00pm
          Cost: $10 (or $8 with canned good)

         Date: Tuesday August 27th
               Event: Moondance Cat Harbor Cruise Fundraiser
               Organization: Grassroots Gardens of Buffalo
               Time: 4:00pm to 5:30pm (arrive early!)
               Cost: $50
                        moondance-cat- fundraiser

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Shakespeare in Delaware Park

Well, it didn't take long for me to fall behind on posting about my adventures. I guess the good news is that I've managed to do a ton of fun things recently on top of all my other commitments.

I've been to Shakespeare in Delaware Park several times so far, mostly because I'm a Shakespeare fanatic. That and, oh yes, because live theatre, performed by the side of a lake, which is BYOB, and is free...well, that's just all sorts of awesome.
This year's production of Hamlet was one of the best theatre productions I have ever seen. The actors were phenomenal and everything was just right. It doesn't hurt that Hamlet is just about my favorite Shakespeare play ever written. I saw it with my friend, who co-directed a Shakespeare play with me in college. I was hesitant about the show being so long, but we were mesmerized the whole time and would have stayed twice as long. 

I love the vibe at Shakespeare in the Park. Hundreds of people come just because they enjoy it, and you can relax in bare feet with a beer if you want, or talk to a nice grandma with her little dog, or both. We had perfect, mild summer weather (July 12th) and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Make sure that when you go, you donate at intermission. It's technically free but I want to see them around another 38 years!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Horsefeathers Market and Vera Pizzeria

I've been doing so many things lately that I've created a problem for myself - I can't get the pictures up fast enough or write in depth about each thing if I want to cover them all! So look for some combined posts like this one. Horsefeathers Market and Vera Pizzeria were both on my Buffalo List 2013 and while they are very different, they remind me of each other with the great atmosphere and the high quality of the food.

outside view of Horsefeathers
I visited Horsefeathers toward the end of the day so I think the shop owners were starting to prepare for the next day. The outside wouldn't necessarily arrest your attention, but once you walk in the doors your jaw will drop. It is an immensely pleasant space to be in, and the food being produced is incredible.

We stopped in Press, which does organic local raw food and juice. The owner gave us a sample of every juice she has going right now, and they were incredible. There was one in particular I want to go back for, although for the life of me I can't remember the name of it. It was something like "Wakey Wakey" and it made you feel good about life. Let me know when you find it, okay?

The only problem was that all the seating is for Martin Cooks, so theoretically you have to take your food from Press to-go (that day, we asked Martin if we could sit down and he very nicely offered us our choice of seats). The other shops were nice and the whole place is gorgeous. I think they're well-positioned to be an anchor business on Connecticut St the way Prish's Sweetness 7 has been for Grant St. I know I was looking longingly at some of the unused storefronts nearby...

Martin Cooks within Horsefeathers

About a week after my visit to Horsefeathers, we had dinner at Vera Pizzeria. I had heard great things about Vera - well, strictly speaking, I had heard they had good, old-fashioned cocktails. The food was a secondary and expendable concern after that point. The only seats left when we arrived were outside, and I'm glad those were available because inside was packed and too noisy for what we wanted that night.

Love Potions, Pain Killers, Truth Serums, Courage Builders
We both ordered The Earhart cocktail, which included St Germain and crushed blackberries. St Germain is one of my very favorite things in the world, too bad for me that it is so expensive! The drink was more than I would normally spend ($10) but I forgave them as soon as I tried it. It was strong and all the flavors were perfectly balanced. The only negative thing that night was how our drinks came out - can you guess which one is meant for a woman and which is meant for a man? Apparently they are going for an authentic, historical vibe with their drinks in more ways than one.

Vera Prosciutto pizza - sans prosciutto
I also ordered a pizza ($14) that normally comes with prosciutto but they made it vegetarian for me. I was hesitating to ask the waiter about a custom order (having been a waitress in the past) and he offered great advice, assuring me that everything could be custom ordered. I should have asked his name, because he was perfect at his job and added to the all around good experience. Everything we ordered came out quickly and was well-presented even though they were busy.

If you haven't noticed yet, you will soon - I LOVE food. Hit my tastebuds just right and I am a quivering wreck. My husband sometimes reminds me not to scare the waiter when they ask me how I'm enjoying my meal (think Overly Attached Girlfriend Meme). So interpret all my comments with that in mind. That being said, WOW doesn't cover it. The "pizza" had fire-roasted tomato jam (?!?!) as a base, with fresh mozzarella and diced baby asparagus. I can't describe it, you just need to go and try it for yourself. You're welcome.

In every respect, Vera was fantastic. I would pay even more for something that good, especially with the great atmosphere and service (I really hope no one from Vera is reading this!). The neighborhood is great, too, and a lovely walk. If I am looking for a go-to spot to take visitors, it will probably be here. Any excuse to get back, really.