The village away from 'The Village'

Elmwood offers a touch of NYC flavor

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The Spectrum

Being in college can be such a bummer. I love my new friends and all of these new experiences; the freedom and parent-less fun aren't too bad, either. But I miss everything I've left back at home.

Home in New York City meant a miniature Chinese feast every night and a welcoming bed layered with Tide-scented sheets and my Sesame-Street-colored pillow. Home is awesome; there are just no other words for it.

What I've been yearning for most is the variety I got from living in New York. A simple ride on the F train down to West Fourth Street brought me to Greenwich Village, otherwise known as "The Village." It had everything to keep me entertained for a day - from eateries galore to consignment stores and boutiques. Tattoo parlors were on every block, and narrow staircases to second-floor jazz bars squeezed in between art galleries. I don't identify as a "hipster" of any sort, but I do appreciate the underground scene lower Manhattan offers.

When Buffalo became my second home, I feared I would never find another setting that offered this combination of culture. I thought I had entered the world of vehicular-only destinations, chain restaurants and Walmart. Unsupervised living didn't seem so appealing anymore.

That is until I came upon a cozy neighborhood - baby sized compared to The Village - just a train ride from UB's South Campus.

Elmwood Village became my second "Village."

Along the spine of Elmwood Avenue and bounded by Forest Avenue and North Street is where I found my occasional dosage of retail, culinary and cultural diversity.

SPoT Coffee

It's no Tim Hortons or All The Perks, and I'm no coffee expert, but the quality in this coffeehouse exceeds what is offered on campus by far.

Maybe it's the lived-in decor, aroma of baked goods or fancy foam art the barista decorates my orders with, but SPoT Coffee is on the top of my list every time I visit Elmwood. Whether I grab a paper cup or sit down with an oversized mug, I have to step foot into this coffeehouse.

With quality impressing the average coffee consumer and prices that fit a college student's wallet, SPoT is sure to leave customers satisfied.

Similar to another well-known and upscale coffee franchise, the menu is flooded with tongue-tying names and small-sized drinks that aren't very "tall." There is also a number of baked goods, both sweet and salty, and soups, salads and sandwiches.

On cold days, I recommend the caramel macchiato. There's no such thing as too much sweetness with this hot beverage, except the oversized spiral of whipped cream drizzled with caramel sauce. It's a purchase more for a sugary treat than a caffeinated "waker-upper."

As for the hotter times, go for the Cinco Shake, a blended delicacy of vanilla and caramel white chocolate and espresso.

Your regular old coffee with cream and sugar is great as well, but who doesn't love something with a pump of vanilla sweetener or a drizzle of mocha syrup?

When I come here, it's not just for the menu items. The couches and tables are part of what I love about the d?(c)cor. When you walk in, you enter a friendly and bustling atmosphere. I'll admit it's not the best studying locale, with the constant chattering of customers and rumbling from espresso machines, but if you're into people watching and good company, this is the "spot." SPoT Coffee is located at 765 Elmwood Ave.

Fowler's Fine Chocolates

Candy is a favorite of mine. Chocolate is a must.

Fowler's Fine Chocolates is basically my happiness balled up into a tiny shop in the heart of Elmwood.

From the storefront name, it's evident as to what their specialty is. The shop is just shelves and shelves of chocolaty delights.

I'll admit, when I first entered the store, I was not amused. It's pink, the color I hate the most, and the interior was a bottle of Pepto Bismol, a complete eyesore for those with the mindset like mine.

I was able to look past that, however, when I saw the variety of chocolate. Sitting in delicately packaged boxes were assortments of truffles and chocolates. Bars were lined on tables with bags of chocolate-covered snacks. Encased in a large glass display were individual pieces fit for tasting or customizable purchases.

Lastly, on a spotlighted table was sponge candy - a "sponge" of molasses and caramelized sugar coated with a chocolate exterior - a signature Buffalo treat. It is a one-of-a kind sugary delight, something I always go back to Fowler's for.

I also recommend the BuffalOreos - your traditional sandwich cookie dipped in milk chocolate with a dark chocolate buffalo melted on top. Of course, the ice-cream station is a must. Fowler's Fine Chocolates is located at 754 Elmwood Ave.

Toro Tapas Bar

I found Toro Tapas Bar on a stroll around Elmwood with my best friend came to visit me from back home. It was late and cold and we were famished. In that moment, we found this restaurant, which had a central-heating system and trendy d?(c)cor.

Back in the city, I scouted for tapas bars, eateries serving traditionally Spanish cuisine in small portions perfect for a little of each.

The prices may not be the friendliest for two college students, but the $40-something bill was definitely worth it for what we devoured.

Like many restaurants, the meal started with fresh bread and olive oil for dipping, which we refilled it a few times too many.

The ambience was chic and mature and the waiters served us with a perfect mix of professionalism and warmness. The dimly lit space was the perfect environment for two best girlfriends to catch up.

Toro Tapas Bar is located at 492 Elmwood Ave.

Lexington Co-operative Market

It's your average grocery shopping location except - unlike Wegmans or Tops - everything is natural or organic. For those familiar with Whole Foods, this is your Buffalo replica.

The market is perfect for vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free dieters out there; health freaks are welcome as well.

Lexington Co-op is a grocery store on the smaller side. The aisles may be cramped, but it's worth shopping through the tight spaces. The cashiers are always extra friendly.

Greater prices come with the better quality; for someone who only visits now and then, a few extra dollars for something essentially the same at your regular store seems doable.

When I go, I make sure to leave with a refill of apple cinnamon and gingersnap granola -probably the best thing in the store - and gimMe seaweed crumbles. I can get what I need from Walmart or some other superstore, but it's not likely that I'll find these flavors.

This market also provides takeout buffet and salad bars. Daily menus switch each day for a variety of soups and meals. Their soups are probably my favorite part of the whole shop.

Personally, I'd stick with the few specialties when coming here; regular orange juice or milk just isn't worth the few extra bucks.

Lexington Co-operative Market is located at 807 Elmwood Ave.

Urban Threads

At the malls, I'm mainly surrounded around basic apparel retails, not even a store that's a little bit out of the ordinary.

Urban Threads gives me a break from the monogamous style I usually see. Its attire replicates a lot of street-wear I saw back in the city. It's refreshing even though a lot was worn out with a grungy feel. It is reminiscent of the boutiques from back at home.

Providing a number of brands, the tiny shop offers modern styles for men and women.

The store often has high prices, and I just go in to browse for the most part. The staff is more than welcoming to customers lingering to browse for a few extra moments. While browsing at the jewelry and accessories by the glass case at the register, I always find conversation with whoever is behind the desk.

If Urban Outfitters shrunk down to a two-floored, cramped up little shop with a whimsical Harry Potter-like background, this is what it would probably look like.

Urban Threads is located at 736 Elmwood Ave.

Elmwood Village possesses many other treasures not just from food to shops. Along Elmwood Ave, there are a number of tattoo parlors, all with clean and professional appearances. CowPok, named one of the most popular and best-piercing parlors in Buffalo, is located right down this street. A number of bars and art galleries are also scattered along the avenue.

In what my friend has deemed "hipster central," a grand variety of culture and businesses take over this neighborhood. Elmwood Village has filled in that last piece in making Buffalo feel just like home.

Email: features@ubspectrum.com