Margaret Zakarian takes us on a tour of her hometown
As president of Domaine Enterprises, the company behind such New York City institutions as The Lambs Club and The National, it’s hard to believe that Margaret Zakarian—wife of Geoffrey Zakarian, winner of The Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs—wasn’t born and raised in the Big Apple.
Mom to five-year-old Madeline and three-year-old Anna, Zakarian was actually born in Niagara Falls, and although her family moved away when she was three, she still loves to bring her girls there on vacation. It’s a great place to bring kids because, “there is absolutely no pretense whatsoever. It is a down to earth town with custard stands, diners and great natural beauty. The kids love to explore Old Fort Niagara, where the Niagara River meets Lake Ontario. And Toronto, Canada is just a short drive away for some big city entertainment, culture and dining,” she says.
Zakarian suggests using Lewiston, NY as home base for a visit to the Falls. A typical day for her family starts with breakfast at Villa Coffee Shop or Mangia Cafe and ends with dinner at Carmelo’s followed by a concert or performance at Artpark. Below, this hometown girl shares her hidden gems. Although the summer is spectacular, Zakarian explains, “each season offers so much—in the fall, the entire landscape is red for as far as you can see and in the winter, the trees near the Falls have seemingly been dreamed up in a Pixar lab or could appear in a Dr. Seuss book. They are completely frozen with icicles hanging to the ground.”
“The most fun place to shop is Tom Towers Farm Market in Youngstown. The open-air food emporium is overflowing with produce and flowers that they grow on site. Almost as a ritual, we take a drive down along the river and pick up some fresh fruits and veggies for dinner that night. Niagara produces stunning local corn—so when it’s in season, we always take it. Oh, and we always seem to make time to stop at the new Barney’s outlet while we are in Niagara too.”
This culinary family recommends the locally roasted coffee shop The Orange Cat, The Silo for hotdogs and hamburgers directly on the river, and a custard at Hibbard’s. Also make sure to stop by DiCamillo’s for a peanut donut, and Fortuna’s for dinner, “I have been going there my entire life; my rehearsal dinner was there and now to be able to bring my children—it is truly special,” says Zakarian.
There are several bed and breakfast options, or the new Barton Hill Hotel in Lewiston. If you want to stay at the falls, The Red Coach Inn is the best bet. Another option would be to stay on the Canadian side in a town called Niagara-On-The-Lake, a historic town that has recently picked up steam as a wine destination. “Definitely worth a visit on a trip to the Niagara region,” Zakarian says.
“The kids love to explore Old Fort Niagara right where the Niagara River meets Lake Ontario. And Toronto, Canada is just a short drive away for some big-city entertainment, culture, and dining. Also superb are the Maid of the Mist, Cave of the Winds, and a hike down Devil’s Hole (older kids only for the hike). The Castellani Art Museum at Niagara University—a modern building filled with well-edited art set amidst the university’s Tudor architecture—is a gem. Another interesting aspect of the area is the rich footprint of the native American community and the science of Energy. The power plant offers a close-up look at how the mighty Niagara makes power for the East Coast and a monument to Tesla is a great place for your budding scientist to take a picture.” Or do as Zakarian and her mother used to do and walk through Three Sisters Islands and find a place to picnic near Terrapin Point.