245 Allen Street, Buffalo (716) 882-8843
The Allen Street Hardware Cafe has been at the heart of Allentown since 2004. Housed in an old, 19th century building which was once, you guessed it, a hardware store. The ownership, and attitude, is tied in with the Black Rock Kitchen and Bar. They have live music regularly and jazz on Monday nights in the back. They are open seven days for lunch and dinner.
Food: Do not bring your healthy diet to this corner. Full flavor comfort food- plenty of butter and carbs is what they serve up here. Our group started with the fried calamari and bruschetta. Someone thought it was “the best bruschetta they have ever eaten.” I wouldn’t go that far but it did have a uniquely creamy sweetness to it that was very appealing. The calamari was cooked right, and accompanied by a lemon and tomato vinaigrette that was delicious.
For entrees we ordered:
- The Pan Seared Duck Breast (special) with a cherry and fresh vanilla bean port wine sauce, bacon garlic risotto and grilled asparagus. The duck was prefect, the sauce outstanding and the risotto rich.
- Portobello Panini- goat cheese, roasted red peppers and hot peppers ($10). The term “best ever” was used again, but they are young and perhaps experience lacking.
- Roast pork sandwich with brie, wild mushrooms, caramelized onions and rosemary gravy served with fries ($15). This had great flavor and lived up to the what the ingredients promised. I wish I would have ordered some rosemary gravy to bring home. It was grilled with a fair amount of butter.
- Flat Iron steak with (I think a port wine sauce), mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus ($18). A nice piece of meat cooked as ordered. The potatoes were real, the asparagus properly charred and the sauce added a nice depth of flavor.
Menu Items we sadly missed: Poblano Chili Pepper stuffed with black beans and rice, served with fire roasted tomato and chili sauce- $11; Fried Catfish Poboy with lettuce, tomato, red onion, and creolaise; served with fries – $9; Meatloaf Panini with pesto, swiss and tomato -$11; The 12 oz. choice burger with a great and big list of available toppings (including fried egg) – $9; Buttermilk Fried Chicken with your choice of two daily sides -$15
Scene: This is a neighborhood bar that has some tables, walls decorated by local artists and quality food. This is not a restaurant with a bar. As bars go this is a nice set up, horseshoe bar in the middle and an attractive, homey decor. I’d guess what Applebee’s aspires to but never quite reaches.
Service: Our service was comfortably casual. We were certainly never rushed, and on occasion our waitress was chatting with customers at the bar, but we were never left alone too long. She was friendly without being annoying and all our questions were knowledgably answered.
Menu: The menus go well beyond bar food par usual. The standard included appetizers like cheese platter, a baked brie with dried fruit, nuts and a balsamic reduction; a creative selection of salads, sandwiches, burgers (beef, lamb and veggie), paninis and a few entrees like buttermilk fried chicken and a marinated roast chicken. Most of which you can see on their website.
The special menu included such items as: appetizers- a smoked trout salad ($13), BBQ pulled pork tacos (2 for $12); entrees – grilled swordfish skewers ($22) and oven roasted stripped sea bass ($21).
Clientele: This is a neighborhood bar not a family restaurant. I didn’t see anyone under the age of 18, but an adventurous family would be fine. Most of the people were middle age or older, ranging from business people in a suit to the neighbor in jeans having a beer.
Final thoughts: I will certainly be back, maybe for the weekend lunch program. If anyone at one of the fake-neighborhood-tavern chains had any sense they would bottle this place, or at least steal some stuff off the menu.