The Faces of Western New York

From ropes courses to five-course meals, this region offers true world-class experiences to residents and guests alike. We checked in with a few of the people who help orchestrate the magic for tips on where to explore, dine, stroll, sip, shop or just hang out.  
Ron Eaton
Master Docent, Explore Buffalo
Ron Eaton has ushered thousands of visitors around Buffalo during his years as a guide with the nonprofit group Explore Buffalo. The retired high school English teacher is one of the founding members of the group, which offers more than 80 tours of Buffalo and surrounding areas.

His favorite building in Buffalo:
“It has to be City Hall,” he says. “I especially love the Common Council Chambers on the 13th floor. The skylight is gorgeous.” Plus, he adds, the observation deck on the 28th floor gives a great view of downtown Buffalo. 

What first-time visitors should see:
“I’d visit the buildings open to the public, like the historic Hotel at the Lafayette, M&T Center's Gold Dome Bank or the Electric Tower. I’d also spend some time enjoying local talent at either the Tralf Music Hall, which is near the famous Shea’s Buffalo Theatre, or at PAUSA Art House, a small venue in the Allentown section, which is a very artsy, eclectic neighborhood. If it’s nice out, head to the riverfront for a walk or bike ride. I like to go to the Erie Basin Marina.

Where to dine:
“My favorite restaurants are Caffe Aroma on Bryant Street and Bacchus Wine Bar & Restaurant on Chippewa Street. Caffe Aroma has great happy hour specials — half-priced drinks and half-priced pasta and pizza. Bacchus is more upscale, but not too pricey. Their entrees are fantastic, and it’s in a historical building, which I love.”

No wings on the menu?
“Ha! I used to eat a lot of wings, but now I’m older and I know what they do to my arteries. I like to tell people that the Anchor Bar — the place that supposedly invented Buffalo wings — is just a few minutes’ walk from the Gates Vascular Institute.”

Ryan Moyer

Manager, Peek’n Peak Resort Adventure Park
Ryan Moyer started working at Peek’n Peak Resort in Clymer as a junior ski instructor when he was just 14 years old. Now 29, his official job tiles are assistant snow sports operations manager in the winter and adventure park manager in the summer. But really, after 15 years working at the Peak, Moyer does anything and everything that’s asked of him.

Aerial adventure action:
Moyer has seen it all on the adventure park’s ropes courses, from the kids who zip through the most challenging courses like monkeys to the tough guys who have to be coaxed across, whimpering, several stories up in the air. “You really see something new every day,” he says.

Favorite food at the Peak:
“The All-American Burger at the Gazebo Grill is amazing — and it comes with fresh-cut fries. So good, especially after being active all day.”

Favorite restaurant away from work:
“I’d have to say Ellicottville Brewing Co. at Bemus Point. It’s right on Chautauqua Lake, so you get really cool views. Plus, they have really great beers. Their Blueberry Wheat Ale is my favorite.” It comes served with fresh blueberries.

“I like to walk my dog around Findley Lake. It’s so beautiful there.”

A great day for out-of-town company:
“Definitely do the ropes course and zip lines at the Peak. They’re so challenging and so fun. Then go check out Findley Lake or shoot up to Chautauqua Lake to check out everything there is to do there. Really, you need more than a day for Chautauqua County.”

Mike Nickolson
Owner, Silver Fox in Ellicottville
Mike Nickolson and his father, Gerry Nickolson, opened Silver Fox Steakhouse in Ellicottville in 1974. While the restaurant is inside what, in 1894, was a fur-trading barn, its name actually comes from a nickname given to his father, who went prematurely gray. Nickolson’s father died in 2001, but the restaurant has continued with Mike at the helm. It is now the oldest restaurant in Ellicottville and remains a favorite of locals and visitors alike.

Growing up skiing:
Nickolson was born and raised near Buffalo but spent many happy winters in Ellicottville. “Holiday Valley opened in 1957, and my dad started skiing here in 1958. I started coming when I was 7,” he says. He ended up working as a ski instructor at 15 and moved to Ellicottville permanently when he was 18. 

Opening Silver Fox: “My dad was in the concrete construction business and used this building as a depot. He decided to get out of concrete in the ’70s, and we talked about what to do with the building. We considered an antique shop and possibly condos or apartments, but then he said, ‘How about a restaurant?’ I said sure, and, in December 1974, we opened Silver Fox. I was 21. You could get an 8-ounce sirloin steak dinner for $3.95.”

What should a first-time visitor order at the Silver Fox?
Start with a Caesar salad. Order the firecracker shrimp appetizer. Then your entree should be a 16-ounce dry-aged ribeye. Of course, you’ll need a good bottle of wine too.”

Favorite season in Ellicottville?
“I really enjoy all the seasons here, but I thinks spring is always exceptionally amazing. Watching the trees come alive with growth and fresh leaves is always special. The summer is wonderful too because of events like the Summer Music Festival, where you can sit outside in a beautiful natural amphitheater and watch the Buffalo Philharmonic play.” The Summer Music Festival takes place July 3-5.

Never get enough:
“It’s been 40-plus years for us in Ellicottville, and we’ve enjoyed it all. The greatest thing is meeting new people from all directions who tell us how much they love Ellicottville, because we do too.”

Deborah Sunya Moore
Vice president of performing and visual arts, Chautauqua Institution
Deborah Sunya Moore’s life map is an interesting one: She grew up in Indiana, taught at a Trinidad college in the Caribbean and then landed a job at the Chautauqua Institution seven years ago as the vice president of performing and visual arts. Now, she and her husband, Brian Kushmau — a percussionist with the Chautauqua Philharmonic, live in Chautauqua County with their two daughters.

Why Chautauqua Institution?
“We get to explore the best in human values through the arts. That’s something that never ends, and that never ever gets boring. There’s never an ‘average day.’”

Favorite restaurant in Chautauqua County?
“Oh, that’s hard. One of my favorites is Labyrinth Press Co., which is downstairs from Brazil Craft Beer and Wine Lounge. Labyrinth has a vegetarian menu, and games on a shelf so we can enjoy a glass of wine and play a board game with our girls.”

Best day for guests:
“I love taking a walk around the Institution any time of year. It’s always gorgeous. I’m a big nature person, so I also like to get out on Chautauqua Rails to Trails and visit the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History.” 

Keeping it local:
When visitors are in town, she likes to cook for them at home — but with a local flair. “We always take guests to Reverie Creamery, the cheese shop in Mayville, to pick something out, along with Stedman Coffee Roasters in Lakewood, and Bag and String Wine Merchants for wine. There’s just so many local treasures.”

Kelley Marker
Manager, Skillmans, and Executive Director, Bemus Point Business Association
Kelley Marker, 31, is the manager at Skillmans, a Bemus Point clothing and gift shop inside the historic general store. In 2019, she helped found the Bemus Point Business Association and is now its executive director. Its slogan is “Meet Us in the Middle” because Bemus Point is located in the midpoint of Chautauqua Lake.

Born and raised in Bemus Point:
“I grew up a few miles away from the village, in the house on Chautauqua Lake that my great-grandparents built in the mid 1900s. My parents still live there.”

History at Skillmans:
Marker began working for Skillmans in high school before leaving for college. When she returned, she was hired on as manager. She recommends visiting the store simply because of its interesting collection of historic artifacts. “The ceiling is filled with artifacts that were sold there in the early 1900s,” she says. “You can also take a look at the wall behind the counter for a list of ‘Chautauqua Lake Ice Out’ dates. The store has been keeping track of when the ice melts off the lake since the 1920s.”

Summer is special at Bemus Point:
“The summers bring a fun energy that revitalizes the village, and it seems like everyone always has a smile on their face. We also have the best view of Chautauqua Lake sunsets from Bemus Point. It feels like everyone in town stops what they’re doing on warm summer nights to watch the sun set on the horizon.”

Rollin’ on up to breakfast:
“For breakfast I recommend the Bemus Point Inn. They boast about having the ‘Sweetest Buns in Town,’ and anyone who has tried their giant cinnamon buns knows it to be true,” she says.

Kevin Daughrity
Owner, Grace and Abe’s, Quincy Cellars and Sensory Winery and Art Gallery
The newest restaurant on the dining scene in Westfield is Grace and Abe’s. Owner Kevin Daughrity named it for Westfield local Grace Bedell and Abraham Lincoln. The little girl was just 11 when she wrote Lincoln a letter in 1860 encouraging him to grow a beard. The beard would improve his appearance, she told him. “The rest is history,” Daughrity says.

Grape investments in the region:
While Grace and Abe’s is Daughrity’s newest venture, it’s certainly not his only one. He also farms 90 acres of grapes and owns two wineries. “My philosophy in life is to keep improving the area I am living in. I have invested a lot of time and energy transforming our properties into modern businesses, keeping the history of our region in mind.”

Brewpub appeal:
Grace and Abe’s is frequently packed with locals and wine trail enthusiasts alike. “The neat thing about the brew pub is everything is wide open for the customer to see, including the brewery equipment and our copper-domed wood-fired oven,” Daughrity says. “That oven can cook pizzas in 90 seconds and reach a temperature of 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.”

Don’t miss this:
“One great hidden gem in wine country is the Lake Erie Grape Discovery Center located right outside Westfield. You can learn about the history of grape growing along Lake Erie, sample wines from the wineries and find some great gifts to take home.”