Ask Tyler Guenther how long he’s been in the restaurant business, and he’ll answer, “ever since I could walk.” He means that his parents and grandparents owned multiple restaurants in Niagara Falls, where he grew up — and which, as it happens, is just a few miles down the road from Buffalo.
So when Guenther (who moved to the Triangle with his family several years ago) decided to put a food truck called Buff-O-Lina on the road last year, Buffalo wings were the obvious choice for a specialty. But he also wanted to introduce us to a few other regional specialties he fondly recalls eating when he was growing up.
Beef on weck, for one, is a distinctive roast beef sandwich that Guenther says is Buffalo’s second most popular specialty, after wings — but which is seldom seen outside upstate New York. “Weck” refers to the sandwich’s distinctive kummelweck (sometimes spelled kimmelweck) bun, a kaiser roll topped with caraway seeds and coarse salt.
Traditionally, the cut surface of the top half of the bun is dipped in jus just before serving. As an accommodation to food truck service, where the sandwich might sit a few minutes before it gets picked up, Guenther serves the jus on the side. (“Otherwise, it can get really soggy,” he explains.) You also get the traditional horseradish on the side. Purists might quibble that the beef is a few degrees past the customary medium-rare, but it’s still moist and flavorful, and piled on generously.
You’d have to be pretty persnickety, though, to find fault with Buff-O-Lina’s award-winning (according to the menu) wings. Juicy and crispy, they’re available with your choice of seven sauces ranging from mango habanero to a North-South fusion of Buffalo and barbecue sauces. Personally, knowing who’s running the truck and where he’s from, I’m sticking with the traditional Buffalo sauce.
The menu also lists half a dozen signature hot dogs, all featuring dogs from Sahlen’s Smokehouse, a Buffalo institution that has been making sausages since 1869. Options range from the Whistlepig (topped with bacon and cheese) to the Redneck, which caters to the local market with mustard, chili, onions and slaw. If, like me, you’re a “when in Rome” type, go with the Buffolina (sauerkraut, onion and Weber’s horseradish mustard) or the Over the Falls Dog (cheese and house-made pickle salsa).
Then there’s Pizza Logs, a Buffalo favorite that this Southerner had never heard of, but which has managed to win “official finger food” status for pretty much every professional sports team in Buffalo. A commercial frozen product (Pizza Logs is actually the brand name), these crispy, deep-fried cylinders resemble egg rolls filled with mozzarella and pepperoni. Guenther serves them three to an order, with a small tub of Heinz marinara sauce on the side.
And you thought wings were Buffalo’s only contribution to the culinary world.
Prices: wings 6 for $8 (larger quantities up to 50 for $50, beef on weck $11, dogs $5, pizza logs 3 for $7
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