Running has always been my favorite way to get to know a new area. You’re able to cover a lot of ground in a short period of time, but you’re still moving slowly enough that you can spot the little playground tucked behind the public library, or the old-fashioned ice cream shop hidden around a corner. Later you can walk or drive back to visit the places that really caught your attention.
When we first moved to South Buffalo/West Seneca a few years ago, I was five months pregnant so didn’t get much further than Cazenovia Park. What had been a mild fall quickly turned to a harsh winter after my older daughter Lily was born (on Halloween!), so I mostly confined myself to the Treadmill because I wasn’t quite confident running with a stroller on snowy roads yet. By the time spring came around, I was itching to explore. I also went from working full-time down to two days a week, and Lily started refusing to nap unless she was in motion. Needless to say, we did a lot of exploring.
I kept passing this little bookstore/café that honestly looked out of place to me. It was right on Abbott Rd, sandwiched between residential and commercial spaces. One day while Lily was napping and I was in dire need of caffeine, I decided to see what Dog Ears Bookstore and Café was all about. I’ve gone back at least once a week ever since, and I don’t even live in the neighborhood anymore!
Dog Ears is a bookstore and a café (if you couldn’t tell by the name), but it’s also a Literary Enlightenment Center. They offer programming for all ages in their upstairs space, which can also be rented out for groups. Plus they recently re-started their Puppy Tales program for preschoolers during the day on Fridays, and free kids’ movies Friday evenings. And get this: it’s a completely Board-owned, non-profit organization.
To set the scene, when you walk into the front entrance of Dog Ears, you step right into the café area which is filled with an eclectic assortment of furniture for lounging or enjoying a meal. The menu is posted on a chalkboard on the wall, and it’s full of healthy options and some favorite comfort foods. They have plenty of kid-friendly breakfast and lunch choices, all of which come with a side of fruit. Their beverage options rival other local stand-bys, and they offer seasonal and holiday flavors. You can’t forget to check the specials, which always include creative combos that hit the spot. Fun fact: they originally named all their menu items after authors. But my favorite part of the café is the “day old” basket and free coffee Friday.
You read that right: every Friday before 2pm you can get a small coffee for free. Want a medium? No problem—it’s just 25 cents.
You better believe I’m in there every Friday claiming my free coffee and half-priced baked goods. Between Free Coffee Fridays and getting every seventh coffee free (they offer a coffee card), I feel completely justified visiting during my lunch break twice a week.
Dog Ears is café style, so your food is brought to you but you need to clear your own table. The service is pretty quick, but there are plenty of board games to break out while you wait. You can either sit in the front of the café which is usually bright and sunny, in the back, or outside when the weather is nice. They also have free Wi-Fi, which I and many others use on a regular basis. I work around the corner, and sometimes bring my laptop to get a change of scenery during the day.
Dog Ears is of course also a book store. They have a really good variety and highlight local authors. If there’s a book you want that they don’t have in stock, they can order it for you. I did this over the holidays, and plan to continue doing this rather than turning to Amazon Prime because it’s an easy way to support a local business. My favorite part of the book store is definitely the kids’ area. They have a space in the back of the store that I spent many an afternoon letting Lily explore while I got my caffeine fix.
Dog Ears meets my requirements for baby/kid accessibility:
- They are stroller-accessible. The rear entrance has a ramp, and the entire store is navigable!
- They have an excellent bathroom: It’s huge, clean, has a changing table, and has a basket with a few extra supplies if you forget something.
- Location, location, location. The bookstore is right by Cazenovia Park, which has a great playground and a splash pad that’s open all summer.
My recommendation: head to Dog Ears for lunch and stories with the kids (it’s perfect for a mom date too!), walk them to sleep in the park, settle down on a bench with your favorite book, then end at the playground. My only complaint is that I wish I had discovered Dog Ears sooner! With great prices, fresh, healthy options, a homey atmosphere, and an unfailingly friendly staff, it’s a go-to whether you’re alone or with the kids.
WRITTEN BY REBECCA
Becky is a non-profit project manager, wife, mom to Lily and Maggie, and a transplant to Buffalo from Woodstock, NY. You can read more about how she survives working full time, parenting two strong-willed girls, prepping semi-healthy meals, and trying to squeeze in a daily run over at Oh, Sweet Thing.