If you dated a girl who lived in the Village of Hamburg in the early to mid-2000s, there were several places you more than likely hit: the Coyote Café, the Palace movie theater, J.P. Fitzgerald’s, Makeout Point. (Wait – I think that last one was on “Happy Days.”)
Another of those places was the Buffalo Street Grill at 61 Buffalo St. It opened in 2001, right around the time I began a-courtin’ my future wife, and I remember us visiting at some vague date between 2002 and 2005.
It was … OK, if utterly unmemorable. Its most enticing feature seemed to be its location, a nice spot on the corner of Buffalo and Union streets. But that’s not high praise, is it?
That was then. In July, the Buffalo Street Grill reopened under new ownership, and trumpets a new chef, a new menu and new décor. And on a recent evening, we made our return. (Like the BSG, we’ve changed a bit: marriage, parenthood, mortgage and, for one of us, less hair.)
The Buffalo Street Grill we encountered on this day truly felt like a different establishment, one seemingly attuned to our older selves. It was a bit quiet, tastefully decorated, and the “Est. 2001” behind the bar was the only hint that this is not, in fact, a completely new restaurant.
We took a seat at the bar, a lovely wood-and-countertop thing with about eight chairs. It’s not a huge place, so timing is perhaps an issue to consider. If you are seeking a spot at the bar, keep in mind the size; the restaurant is not particularly large, either.
The size leads to a comfortable, intimate feel. The bartender was talkative and helpful, and we had plenty of time to ponder the food and drink options.
The on-tap selections are a bit limited, but solid: Stella Artois (my order), the ubiquitous Labatt Blue, Guinness, Magic Hat No. 9 and Pyramid Hefeweizen. We were rather amused by a giant dispenser of Centine Toscana red wine; my wife opted for our old friend Dr. Frank.
Since it was still a bit slow, we gave the place a real once-over, and were pleased by what we saw. The walls are adorned with Hamburg bric-a-brac (an old Erie County Fair pennant, vintage photos), but not to an overwhelming degree. The food menu was simple but not overpriced (an above-average spinach artichoke dip app for us).
I did make one odd observation: RC Cola and Diet RC Cola, rather than Coke or Pepsi. No Diet Rite or Tab?
The music was not too loud, and wildly bland, fitting for a spot that seemed ideal for thirtysomethings who snagged a baby sitter for the evening: John Mayer, the Fray, Train. There was one exception, Gary Jules’ cover of Tears for Fears’ “Mad World” from “Donnie Darko,” a nicely surreal addition to the bit-too-“Grey’s Anatomy” playlist. (I was praying the next track would be Fugazi, just to shake things up.)
It might not be the finest place to watch a game (two TVs, and we were told the sound stays down), but aren’t there enough game-night options already? As we departed, it was filling up, and the atmosphere felt contented and cheerful.
Kids are not unwelcome, but I think it’s best for date night. In our case, the days of canoodling in the back row of the Palace during “Shrek” (yes, that happened, whether my wife chooses to remember it or not), are long passed. How cool that we could find a nice place for a drink and an app just a golf shot away from our old haunts.
So Buffalo Street Grill is reborn, and well worth a rediscovery. Thankfully, its location is no longer its best feature.
Buffalo Street Grill
Where: 61 Buffalo St., Hamburg (649-2101)
Scene: Intimate, tasteful and comfortable, especially ideal for date night.
On tap: Stella Artois, Labatt Blue, Guinness, Magic Hat No. 9 and Pyramid Hefeweizen.
Music: During our visit, heavy on the alt-adult-contemporary: John Mayer, the Fray, Train.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 4 to 8:30 p.m. Sunday.