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New: The Barrel Factory Reinvents Itself With a Seasonally Curated Menu Focused on Local Ingredients

Food & Drink, Food & Drink News

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Written by Brett Llenos Smith

Published on January 18, 2023
The Barrel Factory Kitchen / Photo x Brett Llenos Smith for Step Out Buffalo

You can’t overstate just how much COVID-19 completely disrupted the bar and restaurant industry. We lost some of our favorites and some places completely reinvented themselves.

The Barrel Factory in the Old First Ward falls into the latter category. The old brick building mostly had tenants to provide foods and drinks, but when COVID hit, major tenants decided to pull out and building owner Steve Bystran had to pivot: He renovated the space and opened The Barrel Factory Kitchen, a restaurant serving elevated New American fare. The building still houses Barrel Factory Distilling and features beers from Pressure Drop Brewing.

”Before, The Barrel Factory was more of a tasting room than a bar-restaurant, where you could have a few Barrel Factory Distilling cocktails and Pressure Drop beers,” he explains. “I don’t want to say it was an afterthought, but food was a modest offering. If you came for drinks and didn’t want to go somewhere else for food, you didn’t have to, but it wasn’t like people came here from Clarence or Orchard Park for our restaurant.”


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The Barrel Factory Kitchen / Photo x Brett Llenos Smith for Step Out Buffalo
The Barrel Factory Kitchen / Photo x Brett Llenos Smith for Step Out Buffalo
The Barrel Factory Kitchen / Photo x Brett Llenos Smith for Step Out Buffalo

Looking to make the building more of a destination, Steve says he decided to feature a menu that’s more upscale than typical brewery and distillery pub grub.

“I’m not trying to denigrate pub grub,” he says. “It’s nice to eat something reasonably-priced and casual. But we wanted to offer something a level above that. You can still get wings or a burger, but there’s more food for a date night, or a nice night out.”

Under the eye of head chef Cornell “Wiz” Williams, who spent 20 years working at The Buffalo Club, the menu will be seasonal, fresh and focused on local ingredients. Recently, we were invited to try a number of dishes and there were some massive highlights. The Scallops Rockefeller was a study in texture contrasts: crunchy, pillowy and creamy. The addition of pea greens tied the dish together and elevated it far above pub grub. The bone-in Frenched pork loin chop was a showstopper; cut thick AF with perfectly rendered fat and a smoky finish. The Boozleberry jam sauce was perked up by whiskey from the distillery.

With a restaurant, bar and distillery all under one ownership group, The Barrel Factory is now a more cohesive experience, and that’s the whole point.

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The Barrel Factory Kitchen / Photo x Brett Llenos Smith for Step Out Buffalo
The Barrel Factory Kitchen / Photo x Brett Llenos Smith for Step Out Buffalo
The Barrel Factory Kitchen / Photo x Brett Llenos Smith for Step Out Buffalo

“Before, we had paying tenants and they could do what they wanted,” Steve says. “But in the public’s imagination, they thought it was all the same company. Now, we have more control over the offerings and the quality, compared to when we had third-party vendors.” 

On our visit, we found all the different parts fit together better. The Barrel Factory also appeals to multiple generations. There’s still a large venue upstairs that is serviced by the Barrel Factory Kitchen, which we were told is booked solid during wedding season, corporate meetings and parties of all sizes.

Steve said he rests easier knowing wedding guests are also getting a more cohesive experience.

“Let’s say you went to your cousin’s wedding at the Barrel Factory,” Steve says. “If the food wasn’t awesome, you might think you’re eating food from The Barrel Factory, when it’s actually from a separate company that was brought in. So we decided, if we want to give people a extraordinary experience across the board, we have to control the food, the service and the space, in addition to the distillery side of it.”

Hours at time of publishing (Subject to change): Wednesday and Thursday 4 p.m. – 10 p.m., Friday 4 p.m. – 10 p.m., Saturday 12 p.m. – 10 p.m., Sunday 12 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Full Service

The Barrel Factory

65 Vandalia St. Buffalo, New York 14204 • $$$$$

Buffalo

  • American
  • New American

The Barrel Factory: the landmark, newly-restored, 116-year-old historic factory in Buffalo's legendary ​Old First Ward, featuring: Barrel Factory ...

  • Farm to Table
  • Good for Beer Lovers
  • Bar Area
  • Family Friendly
  • Happy Hour
  • Private Parties

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Written by <a href="https://stepoutbuffalo.com/author/brett-smith/" target="_self">Brett Llenos Smith</a>

Written by Brett Llenos Smith

Brett Llenos Smith is a freelance writer based in Buffalo’s Allentown neighborhood who has been covering local food and culture for Step Out Buffalo over the past six years. As someone with a multi-ethnic background, he has a passion for exploring and understand the many diverse corners of Western New York.

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