Niagara Gazette — When the fourth Buffalo Soup-Fest kicks off Sunday at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center, Niagara region restaurants will be represented with everything from beef on weck soup to loaded baked potato soup to a chili featuring ... chocolate?
The event will feature 28 restaurants, each serving one to four varieties of soup will take part, including Crazy's Jake of North Tonawanda and the Buffalo Roadhouse Grill of the Town of Tonawanda. Grand Island's Village Inn and Saffire Grill will be represented, as will the Lockport Pub from Niagara County.
Buffalo Roadhouse Grill has taken part every year, said manager Chad Hammer. The restaurant will serve its stuffed hot pepper with sausage soup, chicken wing soup and beef on weck beer cheese soup
"It's a lot of fun and it will be really good with this cold weather," he said.
Crazy Jake's of North Tonawanda will be serving spicy banana pepper with sausage soup, which won "Best Spicy Soup" and "Best Pepper 'Hot' " last year. Further up in Niagara County, the Lockport Pub will feature loaded baked potato, creamy tomato soup with grilled three-cheese croutons and spicy chicken and corn tortilla soup.
Ryan Flee, chef at the Lockport Pub, said this is the restaurant's first year taking part in the event. He said it's a great way to highlight small businesses in the area, as the focus is on smaller, non-chain establishments.
"It gets your business out there for people who might not know it's there, lets people sample some of your specialities," he said.
Sarah Mallare, a chef at the Village Inn in Grand Island, also praised the event, at which she has represented the Village Inn for the past three years.
"It's wintertime, it's cold and soup is warm and comforting. It's something different," she said. "And who doesn't love food?
"I think as Buffalonians, that's one thing we have in common is good food and the love of it."
Mallare said the restaurant will be featuring its lemon Tabasco clam chowder, beans and greens soup and her Mayan Chocolate Stout chili at the event. The clam chowder, she said, is a Village Inn signature soup.
"It's a Village Inn favorite, so we tend to bring that every year because we know people are looking for it," she said. The beans and greens is "comforting," and the chili, an award-winner for its category last year, is an entry in the event's Brooklyn Brewery Soup Challenge for soups using the brewery's beers.
Mallare said the soup is "very complex," with chocolate stout beer, more chocolate, guajillo peppers, a tomato base, cilantro in there, three kinds of meat (ribeye, ground beef and grilled chicken), bean and more.
"It's a really hearty chili," she said. "It's going to have a bit of heat, but it's not overpowering with the heat."
Saffire Grill on Grand Island is also taking part, serving its chicken quesadilla soup, caesar soup and hot banana pepper soup.
In addition to the soup offerings, a handful of local venues will be providing other forms of nourishment from gelato to baked goods — including the Oliver Street Bakery of North Tonawanda. Owner Nick DiPalma said his bakery will have its cannoli, raspberry pretzels and cookies available for those who might want a soup break.
"It's really popular and it's really good to be the guy with dessert," he said. "We'll definitely be there."
Due to the ever-growing crowds — there were more than 7,000 visitors last year — the event moved from the Millenium Hotel in Cheektowaga, where it began, to Hearthstone Manor in Depew last year and now to the convention center.
The event will also feature a Kids Zone sponsored by Oogie Games. A portion of the proceeds for the event will be donated to charitable organizations Empty Bowls and Buffalo FAMbaseInc. For more information, visit www.buffalosoupfest.com.IF YOU GO • WHAT: Buffalo Soup-Fest • WHEN: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday • WHERE: Buffalo Niagara Convention Center, 153 Franklin St., Buffalo • TICKETS: Admission is $5 at the door. Food tickets are $1 each. • FOR MORE INFORMATION: Visit www.buffalosoupfest.com.