If you were ever a 20-something living in Western New York, you know a right of passage is stumbling around drunk at the annual Ellicottville Fall Fest, held each October.
You know the routine: Pregame before driving down, shots at the Gin Mill, chugging beers at Balloons, squeezing into Ellicottville Brewing Company, spending the rest of the afternoon looking for your friends, avoiding creepy old dudes and finally, passing out in the back seat of a Chevy Cobalt during the drive back home.
All these years, you’ve probably associated Ellicottville with cheap booze and stomach-lining comfort food. But the times, they are a-changin’, as they say out in Cattaraugus County. With new places like West Rose, and now The Banq Cocktail Lounge, Ellicottville is slowly becoming a foodie destination.
According to this statistic from The Villager’s apparently disgruntled web guy, tourism is up in the EVL.
When you stop to realize that city slickers from Buffalo, Toronto, Cleveland and Pittsburgh all go to Ellicottville for skiing and winter activities, it seems obvious that the opening of trendier food and drink spots was a long time coming.
After local restaurant owner Dina DiPasquale purchased the old M&T Bank building and started converting it into a cocktail lounge, she hired Jame Czora to act as GM. Having worked in Ellicottville as a bartender more than a decade ago, and then moving on to become a beverage director for Pegula Sports and Entertainment, Czora has an ideal background for this new chapter in the development of Ellicottville, and he told us he’s happy to be a part of what’s going on.
“There are so many places that are just institutions in this town – the Gin Mill, Balloons, Madigan’s and EBC (Ellicottville Brewing Company) – and everybody’s constantly evolving within their own business,” Czora told us. “But there hasn’t been a whole lot of outside influence in the past, uh, forever. So, I think I have a pretty interesting perspective, having worked in Ellicottville for so long, leaving and then coming back.”
“Businesses like West Rose and The Banq, all that we’re trying to do is make sure everybody’s raising their game just a little bit and moving Ellicottville and Cattaraugus County into the 21st century.”
The former bank has been completely revamped. A deep green on the walls, classic artwork and vintage design pieces give off a cozy luxuriousness. The speakeasy motif may have become a bit of a formula at this point, but it’s still pretty stunning when pulled off right; as it has been here.
However, this being Ellicottville, you’re coming to The Banq to drink. Escapism is the name of the game in this resort town, and the cocktail list is meant to be fun and unique. Expect showstopper cocktails like a bourbon drink with hickory smoke rising out of the glass as it’s served.
“We do try and push the envelope with cocktails, but we try to keep them approachable, and what’s more important, replicate-able. We really want things to be fun and vibrant. When people see a cocktail being walked through the room and delivered to a table, we want someone to say, ‘What is that drink? That looks great. Can I have that?”
There are 13 different beers, 9 wines by the glass and 20 different bottles of wine available at The Banq. There is also a rotating menu of small plates available, with menu items based on popularity and seasonality.
Czora noted that The Banq is now looking to book private events, up to 85 people in size. With bachelor/bachelorette/wedding season coming up, it might be the perfect excuse to bring the squad down for some Fall Fest story swapping in the new-look Ellicottville.
The Banq Cocktails and Lounge
9 Washington St, Ellicottville, NY 14731
Hours: Wednesday to Saturday 5 p.m. – 12 a.m.