We’ve Been Doing This For 10 Years. Please Clap.
I launched Buffalo Eats ten years ago on February 13th, 2009.
Ten years ago in the basement of my Mom’s home in Orchard Park, I started a free WordPress blog named Buffalo Eats. I have no idea where that name came from… it was probably a rip off of Serious Eats. I wrote a really lackluster post about Ellicottville Brewing Company’s “Pub Fries”. Later that month I would write an additional 39 (!) posts ranging from a meal at Mulberry’s to a giveaway for a Patrick Kaleta jersey to sharing our cool new Twitter account. While I wasn’t into food blogging before hand, I had gotten into the hobby of taking photos of food at restaurants, to the horror of everyone around me, and had accumulated a stock pile of pictures. Within a couple months, this website that I secretly hoped would get noticed was on it’s way to taking over almost every free moment of my life and I had already written over 100 posts.
I’ve told the origin story before but I started Buffalo Eats with my then girlfriend Alli to keep track of the restaurants we were trying. We had both recently fallen in love with Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations and wanted to try new cuisines and restaurants. At the time we literally knew nothing about the local restaurant scene. We were both in our early 20’s and our favorite restaurants were Jim’s SteakOut and TGI Friday’s. We were both starting at zero, but within a couple weeks we were trying sushi for the first time at SeaBar and were getting ripped apart on social media for not knowing anything. This blog was a chronicle of our crash course in all things food, and our small but slowly growing audience got to watch our progress.
Those early posts weren’t “reviews”, they were essentially really bad iPhone photos of food with a simple description of what we ate. As we tried more and more restaurants, we eventually attempted to start interjecting our opinions and over the years… we got better at it. Over that same time we’d meet other writers who would contribute on the blog, we’d learn about who were the important Chefs in the area (and eventually become friends with some of them) and we’d start to connect to people through our email interviews, podcasts and getting invited to food events.
Thanks to Janice Okun’s lack of appeal to internet savvy youth and our early use of Twitter, we started to gain some popularity and found our niche pretty quickly. As the follower count and page views increased, I found myself judging food events as an “expert” (shout out to Matt Carlucci and Soup Fest for being the first to ask) and having to talk on camera/radio/podcasts with an interesting opinion on local restaurants and trying not sound like an idiot. Another shout out to SJ Velasquez and Buffalo.com for putting me in front of a camera any chance they could. On the rare occasion we would run into people in public and they’d tell us that they really enjoyed reading the posts and were big fans. Thinking back on those simple 30 second interactions still makes me feel happy.
The tone of the blog and our social media voice changed dramatically over the years. Our original goal was try everything we could, but to specifically highlight locally owned restaurants. If we could break our bad habits of eating garbage chain restaurant food, maybe we could get others to follow suit. It was that simple. As we continued to meet talented Chefs and became more interested in where our food came from, our focus shifted to spotlighting places that supported our local farms and Chefs who had a true passion in what they were doing. As we traveled and saw what was going on in bigger cities, we’d start to complain about the lack of exciting options that would stand up against any city. It would lead to some arguments and awkward conversations but our standards and interests changed over the years.
The blog and our growing social media following definitely came with some perks. We were invited to preview nights of new restaurants, had the occasional dish sent to our table, took a couple free trips (how we turned this blog into a free trip to London, I will never understand), we found out about news before the public and we even sold the occasional Buffalo Eats t-shirt. However the costs and time spent running a blog as a part time (non paying) job started to pile up. We took a two month break in early 2014 as we bought our house and just needed a breather. Our friend Christa put together a weekly guest post to keep the lights on and our traffic strong, it even lead to an article going viral in Mongolia. We relaunched the website with some tweaks and started to build a team. We really hit our peak in 2015 and the result was our first (and only awards) year end rewards: 2015 Year End Awards. It’s maybe the best thing we ever put on this site and I occasionally scroll through it when I’m feeling nostalgic.
Shortly after, Alli and I found out we were pregnant with our daughter Charlie and it become increasingly obvious that we’d have zero time for Buffalo Eats in our life. We posted our announcements across the social media platforms and received some very kind comments and even a mention from Andrew Galarneau in the Buffalo News. We decided to keep the social media posts going because it took almost no effort and we had accumulated a large audience.
As you may have noticed, we pulled a Brett Favre and kind of kept the blog going even after our “retirement”. When we started to get the itch to relaunch this thing, we reached out to our friend and former contributor Tom Pyrzbylak to help co-run this thing. It’s not the same place it use to be. There’s just no way that we can pump out four articles a week in our (rapidly decreasing) spare time. But occasionally either Tom or myself will get fired up about something and this forum is still a fun place to scratch that itch.
Today, it’s safe to say that people know Buffalo Eats primarily as a social media entity and I’m at peace with that. Almost everyone I know under the age of 25 is at least familiar with our Instagram account and frankly have no idea that there’s also a website of 1,700 blog posts. In the current climate, I’m not sure there’s a big audience for people who want to read restaurant reviews or content that isn’t blatant promotion (#ad) or fluff pieces. But whether it’s a 1,200 word blog post or a quick Instagram post where we bitch about Bagel Jay’s, we try to provide something real.
I’m proud of what we’ve built over the last ten years. I’d like to think that we’ve encouraged people to try new restaurants, to become aware of the talented people who work in the service industry in Buffalo, to care about the food that is put on their table and to start to have higher standards. I’m very proud of the five Ride for Roswell Teams we’ve put together and the $39,000 (and counting) those teams have collectively raised for cancer research.
Thank you for following, I hope that we can continue to entertain for another 10.