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  • Writer's pictureKaren Seiger

Guest Market: Old World Easter Feasting At Buffalo’s Historic Broadway Market

Butter Lambs, or Baranek wielkanocny in Polish

Butter Lambs at the Broadway Market, or Baranek wielkanocny in Polish

I heard the stories about Buffalo’s Broadway Market from when my father-in-law was a kid. Growing up in the Polish neighborhood on the east side of town, Fred told stories of how beautiful and vibrant the market used to be in the 1930’s and ‘40’s. James used to go shopping there with his grandma, who never forgot her tote bag.

The Broadway Market opened in 1888 to serve the new wave of European immigrants coming to settle in Buffalo, NY. Generations of Buffalonians feel deep connections to this institution, especially within the Polish American community. Today, the market remains open year-round, although it is much smaller and not nearly as bustling as it used to be before the advent of suburbs and grocery stores. That is, until Easter rolls around!

Last year, James and I happened to be in Buffalo the week before Easter Sunday to visit his mom. We paid a visit to the Broadway market while we were there. I cannot even describe the thrill of seeing the throngs of shoppers buying food for their Easter celebrations. There was an energy in the atmosphere and a distinct sense of nostalgia. Like James, most of the shoppers were probably reliving their childhood memories of going to the Broadway Market with their parents or grandparents. And now, for just this week before Easter, they can show their own children exactly what it used to be like.

So this year, just in time for Easter, I wanted to share some of the flavors and sights from Buffalo’s historic Broadway Market and the Polish culinary and cultural traditions it maintains.

Let’s start with Malezewski’s because you can’t have Easter in Buffalo without a butter lamb. They signify the Lamb of God, an important Easter symbol. They come in five sizes, and each lamb has sweet peppercorn eyes, a satin ribbon around its neck, and a little flag that says, “Alleluia.” Watch this video with Dorothy “Ma” Malezewski, who created the first butter lambs for the Broadway Market.

Butter Lamb Malezewski

Malezewski’s is the place to go for all your Butter Lambs

Ma Malezewski created the first Butter Lambs, signifying the Lamb of God

Butter Lambs come in five sizes!

Tombak’s Bakery is one of the most popular spots for the traditional rye bread for Easter. They got their start at the Broadway Market, and they have been serving up bakery goods for decades. Interestingly, although Tombak’s is wildly popular, James’ family’s Easter tradition calls for a good Jewish rye from Al Cohen’s, also on Broadway, just up from the market.

Beatiful contrast in this marble rye from Tombak's Bakery at the Broadway Market

Beatiful contrast in this marble rye from Tombak’s Bakery at the Broadway Market

Tombak's Bakery making fine rye bread for Easter

Tombak’s Bakery workers sell their rye bread for Easter as fast as they can make it.

The next stop is Redlinski Meats for Polish sausages. The Redlinskis opened a stall at the Broadway Market in 1947. The fourth generation is now working with the company. The line at their shop at Easter may be the longest one in the entire market. And well worth the wait. Their sausages will fill your home with the smell of marjoram, a scent which, every year, brings floods of childhood memories back for James and his siblings. James’ family boils the sausage and then lets it cool before serving it.

Broadway Market Decorated for Easter and the line for Redlinski's Polish Sausage

Broadway Market Decorated for Easter and the line for Redlinski’s Polish Sausage

Redlinski's Polish Sausages fill the house with the scent of sage

Redlinski’s holiday fresh Polish sausages fill the house with the smell of marjoram. Boil it and eat it hot or cold.

And what’s Polish Easter without horseradish? Personally, this Buffalo tradition nearly kills me. But James and his family absolutely love it. The Famous Broadway Market Horse-Radish with Vinegar is particularly potent and pungent. It adds a surprising kick to traditional Polish cuisine, which is generally quite buttery and mild. If you’d like to grate your own horseradish, you can pick up a chunk of the fresh, raw root at the market and grate it yourself. It’s like Polish wasabi. But be careful – my sister-in-law Amy told me that working with horseradish root too much has been known to erode your fingerprints!

Famous Broadway Market Horse-radish with Vinegar

Famous Broadway Market Horse-Radish with Vinegar

There's plenty of horseradish to go around during Easter at the Broadway Market

There’s plenty of horseradish to go around during Easter at the Broadway Market

Fresh, grated horseradish root will definitely clear your sinuses!

Sample some horseradish?

Sample some horseradish?

The Chrusciki Bakery was founded by Teddy and Hania Robieniek upon their arrival from Gdansk, Poland in 1984. They are famous for their chruschiki, also known as Buffalo Angel Wings. Chrusciki(kroo-shee-kee) are “light fried pastry cookies delicately sprinkled with sweet powdered sugar.” They make for a light dessert after a heavy Polish holiday meal. This bakery makes a wide array of baked goods, and they are a much beloved institution at the Broadway Market. Theirs is a fascinating story of modern immigrants launching a successful business in a market, just like new Americans did 120 years ago.

Chrusciki Bakery's Buffalo Angel Wings

Chrusciki Bakery’s Buffalo Angel Wings

And then there are the people. When you’re standing in line for your Polish sausages, you have some time to spend looking around. I loved seeing people wearing bunny ears and ribbons in their hair, presumably because going to the market was the perfect excuse. Entire families were spending the whole day together at the market, and you and I know that is definitely a rare occurrence today. The only person who was stressed out was the security officer managing the lines for the butter lambs. You thought political conventions were rough? Try managing an Easter crowd at the Broadway Market! I’m kidding, of course. With all the distractions, his job was more like trying to keep a bunch of cats in a line.

Bunny with sweets at Grim's Fudge in the Broadway Market

Bunny with sweets at Grim’s Fudge in the Broadway Market

Easter Bunnies abound at the Broadway Market at this time of year!

Another sweet bunny!

Security in line for our butter lambs. This is some serious food shopping!

Security at butter lamb line

Pussywillows for Easter in Buffalo

Pussywillows for Easter celebrations

Sampling luscious jelly donuts from Tombaks Bakery

Sampling luscious jelly donuts from Tombak’s Bakery

She has ribbons in her hair as she orders her Holiday Ham from Camellia in the Broadway Market

She has ribbons in her hair as she orders her Holiday Ham from Camellia Meats in the Broadway Market

This handsome fellow

And this handsome fellow

If you are ever in Buffalo around Easter time, or if you are looking for a good road trip next weekend, you must visit the Broadway Market. I bet it is equally busy around Christmas. This market is a time capsule that tells an amazing story of Polish and other European immigrants and the history of Buffalo’s East Side since the late 1800’s. It is so important for us to keep this market alive and preserve its heritage and traditions.

Polish Pride at the Broadway Market

Polish Pride at the Broadway Market

~Karen Seiger, Markets of New York City


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