439 Delaware Ave., Buffalo / 716.842.0600
Hours: Dinner: Tuesday – Saturday 5:00-10:00 PM; Brunch: Saturday 11:30-3:00 PM
Price: $$ / Cuisine: American, Vegetarian, Vegan
Don’t think health food, think good food. If your first thought of Merge restaurant is health food, then you, like me, are missing the point. Well, I’m not missing the point anymore. I’ve been meaning to get to Merge for a long time now, but it just didn’t seem to happen. I consider myself a reasonably healthy eater, but if you’re going out to dinner you naturally want something to get excited about. Subconsciously I wasn’t really excited about what I thought they had to offer. Wrong again.
If you haven’t been to Merge, let me tell you the real story. Yes, they have food that is good for you, plenty of things for the vegan, vegetarian and gluten intolerant. But wait, keep reading, they have really tasty food too. You know what, some good food is good food… you know what I mean. I’ll admit I didn’t see any steak, but there are plenty of seafood and chicken dishes for the omnivores. They also have a full bar, a fine beer selection and a modest but useful wine list.
Truthfully I can’t wait to go back. Everything from the service, to the food, to the beer list was impressive. There are plenty more items on the menu I need to try. The conundrum is Saturday brunch, Tuesday with a jazz band, or Wednesday with jazz guitar and female vocals.
We had a reservation for two on a Saturday night. The place was full (seats ~ 60-80) with a dozen or so patrons at the bar in the rear. The restaurant is well lit and bigger than I would have guessed from the outside. On the small stage in the center of the restaurant two guys were playing soft piano tunes. It is nicely attired with a brick wall by the back bar, plenty of interesting lighting and featured artists work hanging on the walls throughout. The crowd was an electric group that included people of all walks of life from young to old and even a few families. The live music, smiling patrons and adjoining bar give the place a relaxing, happy vibe.
We started with a pint of CBW The Whale and a yummy glass of Cote du Rhone. The menu is a nice mix of comfort and creative with plenty options. Don’t get me wrong, this is a healthy food eaters paradise. Much of it is organic and locally sourced. Items are clearly marked as gluten free, vegan and/or vegetarian.
In addition to their standard menu they offered an impressive selection of daily specials including a featured cocktail, soup du jour and three entrees.
For our starters we ordered:
- Beet Salad – A spectacular array of fresh mixed greens, sprouts, roasted beets, pickled red onions, cranberries, rosemary praline nuts, goat cheese with a spiced pear vinaigrette, $10. As you might expect they have a nice assortment of salads and you can add a variety of proteins for $1-$4.
- Mediterranean Platter – Marinated olives, falafel, hummus, baba ganoush with cucumbers, $12. This dish is perfect to share. I loved the falafel with a nice crunchy crisp exterior and a creamy chickpea flavor inside. You can use either dip or eat them on their own. The olives and cucumber are as good as they look.
For our entrees we ordered:
- Shrimp Risotto – Sweet pea and corn saffron risotto with tomato coriander jam shrimp, $10. This is from the small plate menu. It sounds like a fairly simple dish, but the risotto had a creamy richness that many cooks fail to achieve. The shrimp were perfectly done and were excellent with the tomato jam.
- Coq au Vin – Organic dark chicken meat braised in red wine served with truffled mashed potatoes and roasted brussels sprouts , $21. This dish had great flavor. It was less of a stew than I’m used to and more of a braised chicken. The chicken was excellent, tender with deep flavor from slow cooking in wine. The sprouts were perfectly caramelized and the mash potatoes with a hint of truffle were as good as any I’ve had around town, and I consider myself a bit of a mashed potato expert.
Dessert – We went with the Carrot Cake for the two of us. This is not a slice but a little cake. Pretty as the picture, the interior is dense and woody with plenty of carrot flavor. Loved it. I could almost convince myself it was good for me.
There was plenty here that we didn’t get but would have loved to try. The soup of the day was Cream of Celleric and Dill. The special entrees were Enchillasagna ($18), Maple Bourbon Chicken ($21), and Wild Caught Sea Trout with an almond crust ($22). I saw the Enchillasagna go by and I was tempted to order it to go. See more below.
Appetizers & Small Plates
- Stuffed potato skins – fresh corn salad, tempeh or turkey bacon, cheddar or daiya, chipotle cream (V* upon request, gf )……….. 10;
- Fried pickles – served with ranch (VEG) ………. 8;
- Smothered sweet potato fries – spiced lentils, spinach and cheddar or daiya cheese (V* upon request, gf )………………. 10;
- Seitan wings – served hot or bbq with vegan ranch (V) …………… 7; farmhouse quiche of the day – local eggs, side salad…………..10;
- Flying bison flat bread – spinach dates, kalamata olives, goat cheese (VEG , available GF*) ………………10;
- Harvest pizza – apple, bacon (turkey or tempeh), gorgonzola, carmelized onions (VEG, available GF*)………………10;
- Savory tart – goat cheese filled puff pastry, green bean frites, smoked apricot puree, carmelized onions, loganberry balsamic (VEG,)…………….. 9.
Live Foods – described by our waiter as complex salads.
- Raw Pizza – buckwheat crust, seasonal vegetables, an basil cashew cheese (R,V, GF)……………….11;
- Raw lasagna – zucchini noodles, cashew cheese, tomato and sunflower “meat” corn, baby spinach, and roma tomato , and a side of “garlic bread” (V, R, GF)……………….14;
- Raw crepes – savory curried coconut crepe, marinated vegetables, cashew yogurt sauce (R, V, GF)…………..13.
- Sweet Potato Gnocchi – roasted red peppers, red onion, spinach, roasted garlic, pine nuts, white wine sauce (V)…………………..15 with feta cheese……16 with tofu…………….17 with organic chicken…………18;
- BBQ Tostada – bbq braised bean curd (or pulled chicken*) served on a crispy corn tortilla, pico de gallo, shredded cabbage, rice and bean, chipotle cream and cheddar or daiya (available V, gf )……………15 with bbq pulled chicken……..18;
- Moussaka – layered eggplant, zucchini, and potato with a vegan bechamel crust served with a tomato vodka sauce and sauteed kale (VEG)……………15
- Moroccan Chickpea Cakes – ras el hanout spiced chickpea cake, pumpkin curry, date-cranberry-ginger gastrique, with sauteed local green beans (V, GF)………17
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