Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know about the never ending, “opening soon” saga of Hofbräuhaus Buffalo.
First announced like a million years ago in the middle of President Obama’s second term, the project known as Hofbräuhaus Buffalo has finally opened to the public, kind of.
Open seven days a week, the local iteration of the German beer hall chain currently has limited outside tent and patio seating. The soft opening menu features sausages, pretzels and beer, of course. While the beer hall will be serving suds brewed on premises, the taps are currently pouring beer imported from the main Hofbräu brewery Munich. There is also live music scheduled for every night.
To be clear, we have been hearing about the opening of Hofbräuhaus for years, which has led to an air of cynicism around the project. In many ways, the cynicism toward a Buffalo version of Hofbräuhaus shows just how far Western New York has come in the past 20 years. It wasn’t so long ago that we were throwing ourselves at the feet of massive brands and potential anchor tenants that were meant to revitalize areas of downtown Buffalo. A Bass Pro megastore was supposed to kickstart waterfront development. (Spoiler alert: It didn’t.) A downtown casino was supposed to revitalize the Cobblestone District (It really didn’t.)
What brought back Buffalo wasn’t a capitalist savior, but a renewed interest in living, working and playing downtown — part of a national trend. In the end, the revitalization was driven by Millennials and young Gen Xers wanting to live in loft apartments and brunch at urban breweries, not daytrippers looking to blow wads of cash on fishing rods or at the Seneca-owned blackjack table.
Okay. So if we don’t need Hofbräuhaus to save the Cobblestone District, now that it’s here, do we want it? After a brief trip to the soft opening, I can say yes, we do want it.
Hofbräu beer has been available locally for decades and fans will be happy to hear the beer coming out of the taps tasted spot on. The Oktoberfestbier ($6 for 17 ounces (a half liter)) held a sweet maltiness and a clean finish. The Hefe Weizen featured classic, summery banana and subtle clove notes.
The food we sampled was seasoned with Germany-via-American precision. The two sausages on the Wurstplatte ($10) were well-spiced — but seasonings were muted by a healthy amount of fat. Even my 4-year-old daughter, who thinks microwaved Brown and Serve sausage is too spicy, said she loved the Rostbratwürstl pork sausage.
The sausage platter also held two sides. The delicious German potato salad was chunky, oniony, buttery, and slightly sour. The sauerkraut was surprisingly buttery and sweet; a richness that was thankfully cut by a strong caraway flavor.
Food and beer isn’t the only reason to come to Hofbräuhaus. Located in an old Bison Chip Dip factory, the new indoor beer hall, bar and private event room looked impressive, even though on-going construction means none of these spaces will be open for another four to six weeks.
There was also traditional Bavarian music on the PA and a live accordion player kicked up some classic polkas as a Tuesday afternoon happy hour crowd poured in to examine the new digs.
Places like a German beer hall or an Irish pub are meant to transport us to another place; maybe another time. Having never been to Bavaria, it’s hard for me to say Hofbräuhaus Buffalo will whisk you away to the German region, but even in its limited, soft opening state, the new beer hall does provide an escape — something we could all use right about now.
190 Scott Street Buffalo 14204
Soft Opening Hours: Monday to Friday, 4 p.m. – 10 p.m., Saturday, 12 p.m. – 10 p.m., Sunday, 12 p.m. – 10 p.m. Kitchen closes at 9 p.m. each day.