During the last eleven months, many of the cheap thrills we’ve relied on to keep our sanity have been stripped away: loud music on a thumping sound system, posh settings, good looking people mingling at the bar, a bit of friendly competition and the night pulsating with endless possibility.
Walking into the new Vice on Pearl Street in downtown Buffalo, you’re quickly reminded of nightlife in The Before Times. Optimistically speaking, as COVID numbers drop like a stone and restrictions slowly get lifted, Vice and cosmopolitan places like it are well-poised to give us what we’ve been craving.
During opening weekend, the vibe was probably the best ‘stepping out’ experience that COVID restrictions could allow. The bar started getting busy around 3 p.m. and stayed popping until closing time, at 11 p.m. The dinner crowd started filing in around 5 p.m. and full trays of food buzzed around tables from that point forward. Parents, kids, single ladies, geeks, Boomers, bros, hipsters, chefs, musicians, restaurateurs and even celebrities all made socially-distant appearances.
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The bar-restaurant is a front-and-center tenant in the burgeoning food and entertainment complex at 500 Pearl. With two bocce courts, murals from local artists, modern décor, a curated whiskey list, brick oven pizzas and gourmet burgers, Vice fills in a lot of boxes on your Modern Hospitality Concept bingo card.
Speaking recently with us, co-owner KC Mullett said the goal of Vice is to be as approachable as possible. The menu includes popular contemporary items like burrata, charcuterie, burgers, fish tacos, and wood-fired pizzas. Wines and whiskeys are the major focus of the beverage menu. Although the goal is for Vice to be a nightlife destination, there’s also a kids’ section for the lunch and dinner crowds.
“(Approachable is) the term we like to focus on, as far as the menu, as far as how we operate – just all-around approachable,” he said. “We’re going to have a great section for $20 bottles of wine and a reserve list on whiskeys. But overall, everything will be approachable.”
Mullett also owns the popular Williamsville restaurant Neat, and while the two are quite similar concepts, Mullett said he’s looking to be a bit edgier, a bit trendier in the downtown location.
“At Neat, we’re in the suburbs so we can’t get as creative as we’d like to,” he explained. “So, we’re going to take a few more risks as far as cocktails and bring in some whiskeys that people haven’t heard of, staying in that trendy niche.”
As a concept, Vice squeezes neatly into the larger 500 Pearl entertainment complex, and the restaurant’s identity was definitely molded to suit the much grander vision.
“With the bowling alley, Patrick’s Rooftop Bar and all the event centers they have here at 500 Pearl, we kind of just worked on the fly to match the vibe,” Mullett said.
The response, both in-person and on social media, has been resoundingly positive so far and Mullett said he plans to respond by expanding operations, as conditions will allow.
“We’re really looking forward to starting up lunches soon, once everyone comes back to working downtown,” he said. “Also, we’re starting brunch service on Sundays.”
500 Pearl Street, Buffalo 14202
Hours (subject to change): Monday – Thursday 4 p.m. – 11 p.m., Friday 3 p.m. – 11 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.