Located on Main Street in Amherst and just a stone’s throw from both the 90 and 290 thruways, Jazzboline sits in a major crossroads in Western New York.
Partly inspired by local socialites from the 1920s, the new restaurant is also at a cultural crossroads, connecting the past to the future, while acting as a meeting place for people from all kinds of backgrounds.
The concept behind Jazzboline was inspired by Frank and Dolly Reikart. The couple were vaudeville entertainers who came to the area from Pennsylvania in the 1920s. They had a pet monkey and owned a few local businesses, but more importantly, they gained a reputation as the “first family of hospitality” for the area, according to Christian Witucki, general manager for Jazzboline.
“Any time anybody new moved to the area, they would throw a huge party, invite all the neighbors and invite the newbies to welcome them in,” Witucki explained. “So the restaurant concept’s play off of that is creating a lot of congregating, a lot of partying and a lot of sharing; just everybody coming together to have a good time.”
Named after a banjo-meets-violin instrument developed by Frank Reikart, Jazzboline the restaurant looks to fill the Reikarts’ social shoes by putting a focus on its bar area, shareable plates, craft cocktails and a pretty serious wine selection.
Food and beverage director Charlie Barone told us the concept is taking off, after being open just a few weeks.
“I think the public is really grabbing on to the idea of dinner parties, groups of six or more gathering in the bar area to eat a little, drink a little,” he said. “Our bar is 46 feet long, and we have four huge communal tables in the middle. So, we have a very large bar and we get a lot of action on the food service side of things.”
The “Bar Bites” section of the menu is specifically designed for social gatherings, when you don’t want a big, gut-busting meal. Things like oysters, calamari, charcuterie and salmon dip are all super shareable and go great with a drink. If you want something more substantial there are sliders and stone-oven flatbreads.
If ‘bar bites’ are the banjo side of Jazzboline menu, then the chef-crafted plates are the violin half. Using a brick oven, large rotisserie and assortment of other culinary toys, chef Brian Mahoney and his team serve up refined options like roasted pork tenderloin with a black currant demi glace, and a lamb duo – lamb cooked two different ways. Large plates for sharing round out the food menu, and include a seafood broil, whole chicken rotisserie and roasted lamb platter. Food is ordered through interactive tablet menus, which allows guests to mention dietary considerations.
There are a lot of great restaurants for wine in the area, and while it’s a bit early to add Jazzboline to the list, the wine selection there is quite impressive. Barone told us they are in “phase one of three” for the wine program. Currently, “80 to 90 percent” of the bottles on the list will look pretty familiar to regular wine drinkers. The next phase will involve adding a lot more Old World wine and the third phase will be outside-the-box staff favorites. Wine is available in either a 6 oz. or 9 oz. pour, and ranges from $8 to $17 a glass.
If your aren’t feeling wine on your visit, there’s also an impressive list of classic cocktails with modern twists, and 24 beers on draft, with a heavy local presence.
Of course live music would be a must at any place named after a musical instrument. There’s live jazz every Thursday night from 6 pm. to 9 p.m. and a Sunday jazz brunch, with live music from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
From the food to the drink to the vibe, there’s a lot to behold at Jazzboline, but that doesn’t mean you should feel intimidated. It was stressed to us that although the staff at Jazzboline is focusing on delivering quality, they last thing they want is the place feeling like a museum.
“A lot of people think of fine dining as stuffy and pretentious, right? That’s kind of the reputation,” Witucki said. “What we’d like to do here is to take all of the fine dining service basics, and implement those while being fun, energetic, welcoming and inviting; not having people think, ‘I’m going to a fine dining restaurant and it’s automatically going to be stuffy.’”
5010 Main Street, Amherst, NY 14226
Hours: Sunday to Thursday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 12 a.m.