A Vegan’s Guide to Niagara Falls, NY

For those of you who may not know, I spent about a year in college being a vegetarian and six months of that time being a vegan. During this time, I learned a lot of neat recipes, and found many different delicious vegan friendly restaurants.

When I first went vegan I thought going out to eat would be inconvenient for me because I would be limited to a short menu and wouldn’t be able to get something I actually wanted. I am fortunate to say I found myself proved very wrong, and found several places that had the most amazing vegan food and other restaurants that were more than accommodating.

So for all you lovely vegans looking to visit the Buffalo Niagara Falls area, this one’s for you.

  1. Orange Cat Coffee, Lewiston, NY

IMG_2625This cafe is a simply vegan heaven. The reason is simple, everything on the menu is vegan friendly. The cool part? You wouldn’t really immediately know. In fact, here’s a funny story. I went here with a couple of friends (while I was vegan) to grab some coffee, sit down, and just enjoy time with one another. About half way through some of decided we had a sweet tooth and went to find a pastry to split. At the time we were completely unaware that any of the decadent cookies, scones, and muffins were vegan friendly, so we just stuck to our coffees. Well maybe a week later I happened to find out that everything was indeed vegan and my life has forever been changed. To this day, I still have yet to find a bake shop that sells a better snickerdoodle cookie, vegan or not. I dare you to go here and not indulge. Best part? A coffee and a cookie comes to less than 4 dollars… can I get an amen?

2. Mario’s Pizza, Niagara Falls, NY

IMG_3352Mario’s Pizza is located right downtown in Niagara Falls on Old Falls Street right across from the state park. Although Marios is not necessarily a vegan restaurant, the do offer the option to make a Pizza with vegan cheese. This isn’t just any old pizza either. This is literally the best pizza I have ever had. The downside is that I you are going to need to buy a whole pie if you want vegan cheese instead of just ordering by the slice. However, eating a whole vegan pizza may not really seem like a negative for most of you. What are you waiting for? Get yourself to Mario’s for the best vegan friendly pizza and eat the WHOLE thing.

3. The Griffon Gastropub

This restaurant has several locations, but the ones I have been to are located on Military Road in Niagara Falls by the outlet mall, and in Lewiston on the Main Street.IMG_1936 This restaurant makes the list thanks to its mouth watering veggie burger. I know what you’re thinking…  a veggie burger really? This is probably one of the most generic options for a restaurant to include on their menu if they want to be able to say they have vegan/ vegetarians. However, this burger is by no means generic. This burger is flavorful, and filling, and not like every other veggie burger on every other restaurants menu. I promise you, I do not mess around when it comes to delicious food. Don’t believe me, guess you’ll have to try it for yourself.

4. Brickyard Barbecue, Lewiston, NY

IMG_1907In the middle of a meat lovers paradise you’ll find another lovely black bean burger that tastes out of this world. I will say, if you are a vegan who really doesn’t like being around meat, I would not go here. Perhaps, though, you are traveling or visiting with friends whose dietary preferences range from carnivore, to vegetarian, to gluten free, to vegan… Brickyard Barbecue could be the spot for you. So sit back with friends, in a place where you can enjoy a wide variety of beers made right next door and enjoy that delicious veggie burger.. Maybe even split a fried pickle appetizers… just be cautious about the sauces.

5. Downtown Niagara Falls Indian and Halal food trucks and restaurantsIMG_2962

One thing Niagara Falls does not seem to be lacking in is Indian and Middle Eastern Food. If you find yourself wanting to be a little more courageous when it comes to dining this is the option for you. One of the favorite things to do when I worked downtown was during my lunch break I would grab a veggie or falafel gyro from the yellow halal food truck on old falls street and then go sit in the state park and enjoy my lunch or dinner. The food was made fresh right before me in the cart and came out hot and ever so flavorful. If you don’t know what something is on the menu I find the workers are more than happy to always explain dishes and recommend options you may have not tried otherwise.

6. Alz Rootz Cafe at Soma Cura Wellness, Grand Island, NY

Inside my favorite hot yoga studio in the Niagara region sits a small little cafe where serve smoothies, juices, and a small menu. I haven’t tried much from this menu but I am still obsessed with the smoothie I got from there. The smoothie contained something along the lines of banana, spinach, cinnamon, oats, almond milk, and drum roll please… sweet potato. This smoothies was as rich and delicious as the best custard I have ever had. In fact, it was so good that I literally stopped at Wegmans on the way home to buy sweet potato so I could remake something similar for myself at home.

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So if you are vegan/ vegetarian and looking for a cool weekend getaway head to Niagara Falls where you can indulge and not have to worry about feeling limited in your options. In fact, you may even notice your carnivorous friends eyeing down your vegan friendly treats.

~~han

Niagara Falls and Buffalo for the Breakfast lover

This one goes out for those of you who go a restaurant and consistently choose from the all day breakfast menu. From one breakfast snob to another I have compiled a list of my favorite breakfast spots in the Buffalo/ Niagara Falls area long enough that you could literally plan a weekend getaway around eating breakfast foods.

Niagara Falls:

  1. Power City Eatery

IMG_2626Power City Eatery is a local gem in Niagara Falls, just outside of the hustle and bustle of the main touristy area. This cafe keeps there menu simple and delicious featuring pastries, coffee, lattes, egg sandwiches, soups, salads, and sandwiches. The cafe is counter service style and then you can enjoy your food to go or stay for a while at one of the many tables in the cafe. I have mentioned this in other posts, but my favorite thing about this cafe is that it is so spacious. For me, when I go to a cafe I typically go by myself to work from my computer for at least an hour at a time. Sometimes local cafes are too crowded or just too small that it either makes you feel awkward or even claustrophobic. At Power City Eatery you can enter without having to worry about it feeling too crowded or like another patron is reading over your shoulder the entire time.

  1. Third Street Retreat

Just off Third Street and Buffalo ave, almost right across from the Casino, in the bottom of the Jefferson Apartment Building is where you can find this hip little hidden gem for an excellent breakfast. There menu is pretty standard as far as breakfast goes but they definitely do it well. My favorite thing about this restaurant is the decor and the vibe. This small restaurant is decorated in kind of an old school music vibe and it looks really cool from the inside. When I travel, I would always prefer to eat somewhere local rather than the same chain restaurants I have at home. So if you are in Niagara Falls and are trying to avoid eating a $20 bunch buffet at TGI Fridays, look no further than Third Street Retreat!

Lewiston:

  1. Syros

Just off the main street in Lewiston lies my go- to and absolute favorite breakfast spot in the Buffalo/ Niagara Area. Prior to Niagara Falls I lived in the Philly area, where I never understood how lucky I was to have diners on almost every corner. IMG_2526After moving to Western New York and realizing that this was not such a thing there it took me a little to find something that compared. Thanks to a lovely Lewiston Local, my family and I were introduced to Syros.

Syros became my go to for breakfast and brunch because it has that diner charm combined with food that makes my mouth water from nearly 400 miles away. IMG_2525At Syros, no matter what you choose you cannot go wrong. If you find yourself unable to decide I would 100% the gyro omelette, which features gyro meat, and feta cheese along with a side of tzatziki sauce. The day I make the trip back to Niagara Falls this will be my first stop.

  1. Brickyard Brewing Company

Brickyard Brewing Company, or BBC is my go to option for a delicious, boozy, Sunday Brunch. Working in tourism I often have to work every weekend, however; any time I was off on a Sunday you bet I could be found at BBC sipping on Bottomless mimosas and enjoying food just as good as their regular menu. So if you can’t guess already here’s why I love BBC for breakfast: the food is incredible and they offer bottomless mimosas along with other drink specials. The only downfall is that they are only open Sundays for brunch, so it can be easy to accidentally miss it. However, I think part of the reason why it is special is because you could only get brunch on Sundays– otherwise Syros would have a tough competitor. When you go here I recommend the breakfast burger if you are looking for something savory or a stack of doctored up pancakes if you are looking for something sweet.

  1. Villa Coffee House

This sweet little breakfast spot has a more hidden location just off main street. The restaurant has a super small town meets diner vibe and features a standard, yet delicious breakfast menu. Villa Diner is an excellent choice if you are looking to spend less money because they offer pretty good specials, which including a tip, would set you back no more than $10. My go to option here would be to get a create your own omelette with bacon, mushrooms, cheese, and onion, and most importantly, DiCamillo Bread. The simplicity of this restaurant is what sets it apart and makes it a wonderful spot to catch breakfast.

  1. Orange Cat Coffee

IMG_2375I have written about Orange Cat Coffee several times now so there is no hiding my love for Orange Cat! Although this not going to be a sit down breakfast option, this is the perfect place for those looking for a grab and go coffee and a delicious pastry. In my opinion, there is nothing to not love at Orange Cat. Their prices are really good, there pastries are delicious, they have rotating coffee flavors, and every time I go in there everyone is always smiling. If I had to give a downfall I would say that if you were trying to sit in during a busier time sometimes it can be difficult to find a seat. If that happens to you, I recommend taking your coffee and pastry to go and walking down main street to the waterfront and enjoying your coffee with a view instead.

Buffalo

  1. Perks Cafe

To be honest, I really have only been here one time and that was right before I moved back to Pennsylvania. That being said one time was all it took to turn Perks Cafe into a place I am looking forward to one day returning to. Towards the end of Elmwood sits Perks Cafe where inside you will find a cute little cafe/ coffee shop. The coffee and lattes were delicious, the pastries looked mouthwatering, and they did have small menu with a couple good looking food options. The thing I found most intriguing was that most if not all the tables had several outlets, so this would be a wonderful spot if you were looking to get some work done.

  1. Spot Coffee

Spot Coffee is kind of like a local chain cafe in Buffalo. The one I went to was the Elmwood location and kind of reminded me similar to Power City Eatery in Niagara Falls. The Cafe was plenty spacious so among all the other 20 some year olds on their computers I did not feel claustrophobic or awkward, and the menu was vast with many tempting options. This is a good option because if you find yourself loving Spot Coffee, there are several different locations so you can go to whatever location is most convenient to you at the time.

  1. Ashker’s

IMG_2864I initially found this restaurant during my hunt for a juice and smoothie bar. Little did I know I would find a lovely little cafe with not only delicious smoothies and juices, but also a fantastic menu for breakfast and lunch. I wish I remembered what the name was but my favorite was this fluorescent pink smoothie which I think had beets, peaches, and a couple other things. I would combine this with a breakfast quesadilla and then go about my day knowing that if everything else where to go wrong I had made at least one healthy decision.

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I don’t know if breakfast tourism is a thing, but with this lovely list you could make a long weekend out of traveling around Buffalo and Niagara Falls just eating breakfast. I really truly hope you enjoy these recommendations and much as I do and please please please leave a comment if you have any other local breakfast places you love so I can go try it out as soon as possible. Disagree with one of the suggestions leave a comment anyways have a super wonderful day!

xoxo han

11.22.2016 Sofia, Bulgaria: the start of my journey

On November 20th the start of my mini European journey began in Sofia, Bulgaria. It has been a little bit over 10 years since I had last been to Europe so this was a major thrill for me! The first thing I did once I got to Sofia was check in to my hostel… or at least attempt to.

So, as soon as I arrived the gate to the hostel was opened because people were in and out making deliveries. So I just proceeded up and into the building thinking that things would be laid out plain, simple, and easy to find. Let me tell you, it really wasn’t—at least for me. On the website there are no specific directions on what bells to ring or what doors to go through so honestly when I arrived here I was walking around this building for at least 20-30 minutes trying to find something that seemed like an entrance. I learned later, that when you come, usually the front gate is locked and you have to ring up (unless you have the key). Then someone will come, let you up, and check you in.

So, until then, I am trying to ask these workers who speak no English, where the entrance to the hotel is so I could check in and as you can probably imagine, none of them understood.

I’m not sure if this was the right thing to do but I decided that freaking out was the worst thing I could do so may as well go walk around outside for a little bit. Fortunately for me, all the luggage I had was a medium sized purse and a backpack so I didn’t look that stupid walking around. I eventually made it to where the German Christmas Market was and then walked back the way I came (take in mind I have no map at this point so I don’t really know where I’m going.

Anyways I walked back to my hostel and I am so thankful that this time, it just so happened another person who was staying there was walking in. This allowed me to get in easily and took a lot of stress off my plate. It turned out that for the first night I would be staying at the sister hostel, called The House, which was just down the street. This hostel was awesome, and similarly, in another awesome location just off the main shopping street Vitosha, which means it is also an easy walk to all of the main sites.

If you plan on coming to Sofia anytime soon, I would definitely recommend staying a block or so off this street because it puts you very close to many shops, cafes, and restaurants and all the tourist attractions are basically within what felt like only a 0 minute walk.

Well, my day basically ended as soon as I entered my hotel room around 3pm because within 10 minutes of sitting in my bed I fell asleep. Call me boring but nothing is fun when you are exhausted.

The next day I woke up around 8:40 am so that I would have time to shower and get something to eat before having to head back to Guest house 32 to check in again at 12. For my breakfast I decided I would basically walk up and down the Vitosha street until I built up enough courage to go in somewhere. I made my first attempt in this one cute café when I realized I could not pay with my card and needed Bulgarian currency. Stupid me though, did not convert any money to Bulgarian because for some reason I thought I read that using a card or Euros would be fine everywhere. Nope. IF you are going to Bulgaria do yourself a favor and get some of the currency so you don’t end up like me at an ATM withdrawing only one days worth of cash.

After my ATM stop, I was embarrassed to go back to that same café so I walked up into this store Rois, which sold fruit and nuts and got myself a medium sized bag of roasted walnuts. Let me tell you, I am not really a fan of salted nuts but these were absolutely incredible.

One of the challenging things about the language barrier for me here was that even though the language both looks and sounds completely unfamiliar, the people do not so there is still a small part of my brain thinking I’m going to here a hello when really the most familiar thing I overheard was some French. Another struggle I faced was when I would try to ask someone something or order something, people would come up to me and speak completely Bulgarian in fast sentences, which then caused me to have to explain I spoke English.

So I then continued along the road again until I reached the café Shortcut, so I could hopefully get a quick coffee and sit outside. If there is one thing I have learned it is that if there was some sort of universal language, the word ‘cappuccino’ would be in the dictionary. As usual, the man behind the counter started speaking only Bulgarian when I looked at him and said cappuccino. Immediately he knew what I wanted and made it. I then took my drink and enjoyed it outside.

This cappuccino was incredible. Plain and simple. This is going to be one of those flavors that I remember forever. I ended up sitting here, eating my nuts, savoring the flavor of my cappuccino, and taking in the sights and sounds until about 12:00pm when I went back to my first hotel to check out, so I could check into Guest House 32. I was very impressed when I finally got in and was showed my room! The staff was very friendly and my room was perfect for everything I needed!

After I was checked in my goal was to go and see some of the sites, such as the Russian Orthodox Cathedral and the Aleksander Nevsky Cathedral. I walked out of the hostel to Vitosha street and proceeded in the direction of City hall. I eventually reached an intersection where to the left is a huge column looking statue with a golden angel on top. Here I made a right. This road would apparently bring me to the Russian Orthodox Church (and many other things). As I was walking, I noticed I had passed the park with the German Christmas market in it, which helped to orient me.

I kept walking and eventually ran right into the church. It was so beautiful! The outside had these beautiful golden domes. The inside was painted so beautifully I wished I could have take a picture however, we were not allowed. The church is not that big so it didn’t really take a long time to tour.

Once I finished, I walked through a little park area to the Aleksander Nevsky Cathedral. This Cathedral is huge so by this point, you can see exactly where you need to go, it doesn’t really matter how you get there.

This cathedral is absolutely breathtaking. It is so architecturally brilliant from the exterior, you would think it would be hard for the inside to compare. Nope, the inside is just as or possibly even more beautiful. The inside is painted from ceiling to floor with these brilliantly detailed murals—and like I said this cathedral is huge so these paintings are no joke. I think I must have lucked out with the time of day I chose to visit because along the right side all of this light was coming in creating the most spectacular green glow. I could have stayed in here for hours just staring and feeling so tranquil I literally had to force myself up to leave. Even once I was out I took another lap around the building just taking in the enormity and the beauty.

One thing to note is that you can take pictures inside this cathedral; you will just have to pay 10 lev for a photo pass.

After I was finished here, I walked around the area a little bit longer and then headed back in the direction of the Christmas market. I sat on the exterior for a little bit in the park just taking time to myself to journal and reflect. What a blessing it was to be able to say I was able to just casually sit in a park in Sofia, Bulgaria and Journal.

After I walked through the Christmas market to try to get a little snack for lunch time and ended up getting these sliced potato things. I don’t really know what exactly they were called because I honestly just walked to a stand and pointed at something since there was no hope for me trying to read the menu. Fortunately it was delicious!

After I made my way back to my hotel to take a little nap and rest my feet for a bit. It’s crazy how you don’t really realize how much walking you’ve done all before 3:30 until you find yourself stretching in your hotel room. Okay so my little nap is a bit of a lie. I ended up sleeping until about 6:45 and left the hotel again around 7 to see the monuments lit up at night.

Again, I was completely blown away by the Aleksander Nevsky Cathedral. If you think it is brilliant during the day I urge you to see it again at night. Seriously. You would think that because it was dark you’d be able to see less but for some reason the way the lights illuminate all the crevasses and created all these intricate little shadows it seems as though you can almost see more.

Once again, I had to force myself away, back the way I came so I could go and get dinner. I went into this restaurant called CORSO, which is basically right across from the Russian Orthodox Church. I went here because I noticed the menu had English on it and I saw something that said vegetarian options. For most of the options on the menu, this place did not really fit my budget; however, one of the vegetarian options was significantly cheaper than the others so it ended up being perfect for me!

I ordered the Eggplant bayildi, stuffed with Ratatouille and quinoa, which also had tomato sauce. When the waiter brought out my meal I think I quite literally drooled. I’m not kidding. This thing looked so good I could not wait to eat it. If this thing were to look as good as it tasted they would need to find a way to make it look even tastier. Did that make sense? Probably not—lets just say it tasted so good I was ready to order a second.

Instead I went for the dessert of the day, which was some sort of cake with mascarpone nuts, biscuit, and all sorts of deliciousness. Once again, delicious. If you are coming to Sofia I cannot recommend this restaurant more! All the waiters spoke good English so I didn’t feel awkward ordering. As well, they have sections of their menu where it lists Bulgarian dishes, which is awesome!

Once I got the bill I made my way back to my hotel and went to bed. By this time it was about 9:45 and I was honestly impressed with myself for making it out this late. My flight to Athens the next morning (or in about 20 minutes as I write this now) is scheduled for 10:40am so I planned on leaving my hotel at around 7am to make sure I could find a taxi and get to the airport early enough.

I was able to easily find a taxi on the end of Vitosha street (opposite the end where city hall is) and it cost me 20 euros (which I think was probably too much) to get to the airport.

I am so happy I got to visit Sofia—what a great city! I was genuinely surprised at how not touristy the town was! There was no trouble at all seeing the landmarks and it was crazy how you really did not overhear a lot of English at all!

As far as dos and don’t go I would say don’t think you will be able to get away with just using a credit/debit card. I definitely learned this lesson the hard way and will not make the same mistake again.

One thing I 100% do recommend to do if you go to Sofia is to walk the monuments at night. What would recommend is to walk down Vitosha street towards city hall. I am not sure what the exact street is but you’ll make a right when you see a huge statue of what looked like some sort of angel on top of a column on your left. You will end up walking between two beautiful, grand buildings. This street will ultimately bring you to the Russian Orthodox Cathedral nad the Aleksander Nevsky Cathedral.

This is ultimately the same route I took during the day time; however, I would definitely recommend it for walking around at night because it truly is well lit, which is good if you are a little bit hesitant about going out by yourself at night.

As well, besides my little difficulty finding the entrance to my hostel at first, I would still definitely recommend it! The location was absolutely perfect and the inside was well kept and everything that I could have hoped for! I would definitely stay here again, and or recommend it to a friend!

If you are considering Sofia, Bulgaria as a destination stop on your next trip definitely just go for it! In my opinion, it makes the perfect destination for any day-weekend length trip!

Hope you all have a great day!

Hannah