Like the K-Gun offense or the Goo Goo Dolls’ first album, Colter Bay holds a special place in the heart of many local Gen Xers.
However, its status as an Allenton institution had been eroding somewhat, with many customers and former employees recently walking away and describing unsavory experiences.
Enter Mike Shatzel. It was announced in January that a group led by the Buffalo restaurateur would be taking control of the space and breathing new life into it.
Just stepping foot in the old place again and inhaling deeply, it becomes apparent that the new Colter Bay team has indeed done just that. The décor is said to be influenced by bars and ski lodges Out West, and the new duds are so impressive, it makes you wonder if Shatzel and Co. couldn’t find room in the budget for a terrain park out back.
For fans of ABV and the former Blue Monk, the new Colter Bay also has many familiar touches; alternative rock pumping over the PA, a lengthy tap list on parchment paper, dim Edison bulb lighting, and a host stand at the front door to greet guests as they enter.
Of course this being a Mike Shatzel joint, there is a big focus on beer. On a recent visit, the 36-beer long tap list featured many great but familiar breweries: Smuttynose, Lagunitas, Founders, Ballast Point, Unibroue. Local breweries 42 North, Southern Tier and the Shaztel-owned Thin Man were also represented.
Colter Bay is looking to set itself apart from the rest of the pack by making hard cider a big emphasis, featuring seven on tap. Ciders widely available at your local supermarket may have given you the impression that they are two-dimensional: tart and sweet. However, fruit-based fermented beverages can be just as complex as beer or wine.
A perfect example of that is the EZ Orchards Poire, available at Colter Bay on my visit. Actually a French-style perry (made only from pears), the sample I tried tasted crisp, funky and floral, with a sensation on the tongue reminiscent of sparkling wine made.
Another unique “cider” available on my recent stop was the Zombie Killer. Made with thistle honey, tart cherries and apple cider, it had the unctuousness of a cherry pie, floral notes of honey and an apple backbone.
The new Colter Bay also separates itself from the herd by including a few game offerings in the form of an elk burger and bison meatloaf. The elk burger is actually an old favorite from Blue Monk.
“You can order it rare, medium rare, medium, well-done – anything you want,” said Tony Martina, head chef and partner at Colter Bay, as well as the former chef over at Blue Monk. “What we do is we pan-sear that because it’s a nice lean meat and it gets a really great crust on the outside when it’s seared properly.”
The rest of Colter Bay’s offerings opening week have been an array of elevated, hearty pub grub – including short rib sandwiches, pierogi, and poutine. Martina told me his kitchen will make most items from scratch, and source some products from local producers, including pierogis from Ru’s and bread from Breadhive.
The menu will stay pretty static, Martina added, but he said to expect some specials and seasonal changes that echo what he and his staff did over at Blue Monk.
561 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14202
Hours: Sunday – Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m., Friday and Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 4 a.m.