The Pine Hill
neighborhood, in the southeastern first-ring suburb of Cheektowaga, lies right on the border of Buffalo
proper and shares amenities and some identity with the big city. Cheektowaga has its own distinctive qualities, however, and residents appreciate its low cost of living, easy commutes to Buffalo and the suburbs and greater sense of open space - provided in part by the large number of cemeteries here. Pine Hill sits near the campus of Villa Maria College and is convenient to the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. Cheektowaga has a sister city in Poland, Lowicz, and about 40 percent of the population here claims Polish ancestry. That means, yes, you can get some fantastic sausage in this part of town.
Schools in Pine Hill
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Restaurants & Nightlife
Dining out in the Pine Hill neighborhood might mean sitting down in a vintage home or corner market converted into a restaurant. These funky little places, like Raymondo's Pizzeria, Sugo Pizzeria and Submarine Restaurant, and the landmark red and white candy-striped Bonetti's Pizzeria, give the area charm and regionally distinct home-cooking. Authentic Italian, Polish food and soul food dominates the area, in deference to the ethnic origins of the population.
Peter K's serves Polish-inspired cooking, including pierogi, stuffed cabbage and polish sausage with sauerkraut. The locals come for the legendary potato pancakes, which come stuffed with beef, sausage or spinach and mushrooms. On Tuesdays, $7.95 gets you a plate of three pancakes, plus as many more as you can eat within the hour. (The record? 18 cakes.)
Friday night fish fries are a Buffalo tradition, and the Edge of Town Restaurant and Lounge has a great one, with huge servings, low prices and a laid-back setting in an old building with a tin ceiling. Pool tables, darts and a small bar make this a favorite local hangout. The Happy Swallow also serves a popular fish fry.
Friendly, family-run Mattie's Restaurant serves rich home-style and soul food cooking. Start the day out right with chicken and grits or grilled catfish and eggs with home fries. Dinner comes with two sides and corn muffin and features meatloaf, fried or grilled fish, burgers or chicken. On Tuesdays, Maggie cooks oxtail too.
Raw food might seem a bit far out there for this old-school neighborhood, but Raw is Life might change that. The tasty energy-boosting raw and organic smoothies, cakes and pies and raw lunches have become a habit for Pine Hill's health-conscious eaters.
History & Culture
The Erie-Seneca tribe called this area Ji-ik-do-wah-gah, "place of the crabapple tree," and even today, crabapples can be seen blooming in yards and parks across the area. After the Six Nations tribes were expelled from the area during the Revolutionary War, the region quickly became a farming zone, and crops were grown here for consumption in Buffalo. In 1839, the town officially incorporated and, following the expansion of rail lines into the area, the population boomed. By the 1880s, it was already a suburb of Buffalo, and electric trolley lines enabled the rise of commuter culture. In the 1920s, the Buffalo Municipal Airport opened just east of town and successful waves of development erased farming from the area.
Every June, the town celebrates Crabapple Festival, a three-day community gathering that includes a parade, fireworks, food and music. In July, the Polish American Arts Festival showcases Polish foods and crafts.
Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority runs numerous bus and rail lines through the neighborhood, including a downtown-airport express line. Fares cost $2 or $75 for a monthly pass.
Bicyclists do OK here, although riding in these tight streets takes vigilance. Only one bike-friendly road, Harlem Avenue, has been identified in the neighborhood, a north-south route that runs along the cemeteries.
These century-old neighborhoods are designed for pedestrians, and sidewalks run throughout. A good number of neighborhood markets make small errands on foot possible. The area gets good taxi service (on call) and Uber and car shares are other options for the car-free. Those with vehicles can get onto the Kensington
Expressway very quickly, as it cuts straight through the neighborhood.
The Pine Hill neighborhood enjoys a lower cost of living than much of the Buffalo area, due partly to airport noise and to the utilitarian nature of its boom-town housing. This isn't the place to find an ornate Victorian, although you can find numerous simple homes
from that era, designed for the working class, as well as post-war GI family housing. This area suffered severely in the foreclosure crisis and prices are rebounding only slowly. Rent for a one-bedroom
apartment runs about $500 a month. Gas prices are high, at about 20 percent above the national average. A beer at a local pub runs $2 or $3; this isn't the land of craft brews. If you want a deal Rafferty's Irish Pub charges $5 for three bottles.
Locals shop at the big Save-a-Lot on Genesee Street, but community pride and neighborhood relationships are important here; so the Pine Hill area has a thriving independent market scene. Every few blocks, a corner market sells staple goods and deli items. An Chau Asian Market supplies imported and fresh Asian foods. The Pine Hill Halal Market is widely lauded for its fish selection.
When Hanzlian's Homemade Sausage shows its customers the difference between fresh, handmade sausage and the store-bought stuff, they become converts. This shop sells eight kinds of sausage plus runs a meat deli selling ham, beef, cheese and other take-home foods by the pound.
The Shirt Guy sells popular T-shirt designs and $10 custom T-shirts to families, teams and anyone with a great idea. The shop's pet
parrot, Kramer, chats with customers while they check out the vast selection.
A scattering of independent retailers and dollar stores provide basics to the Pine Hill neighborhood, but most people head to the Walden Galleria Mall area, just a 10 minute drive east, for shopping. The 200-store indoor shopping mall features national brands like Apple and Sears and is flanked by smaller strip malls and big-box stores.
The Pine Hill neighborhood has plenty of green space, but it comes mostly in the quiet form of cemeteries. Four of Buffalo's most scenic resting places are here, and many residents enjoy walks through these park-like places, beautifully set among gentle hills and mature trees. More active play happens at Cheektowaga Town Park, which has ball fields, tennis courts and a seasonal outdoor pool.
The closest bit of nature in this fully developed area can be found 15 minutes southeast of Pine Hill at Stiglmeier Park, a large wooded park with trails through forests and meadows. The city of Cheektowaga suggests that dog-walkers try the rails to trails system, which utilizes former rail lines in the area.