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Brunch Bunch: Empire Grill

By: Natalie Grigg

Empire Grill sits at the heart of Hertel Avenue, nestled among an eclectic assortment of restaurants. What makes it stand out? Well, for purposes of this article, it is their brunch menu offered every Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

As excited as a kid in a candy store, I quickly began perusing the menu. Brunch is by far my favorite meal, and Empire’s menu contained a nice mix of simple and complex items. I not only had to decide what I wanted to eat, but also what I wanted to convince the rest of my party to order so I could sample their order. The menu ranges from fried eggs with various sides, and Belgium waffles, to a selection of pancakes, French toast and other brunch staples.

I decided on the Eggs Benedict with crab, tomato and asparagus, and my daughter (she’s 3 so she doesn’t get much of a say these days) would have the chocolate chip pancakes. My husband decided on the three-cheese omelet with fontina, sharp cheddar, and jack cheeses.
When our food arrived, the first thing that caught my eye was not only the attention to detail, but also the size of the portions. My daughter’s pancakes were the size of a normal dinner plate, and this was just the “short stack.”

My plate was huge and overflowing; I couldn’t wait to dig in. In front of me sat my order of Eggs Benedict–a toasted English muffin layered with a crab cake and a beautifully poached egg, all of it smothered in a rich Hollandaise sauce and topped with sautéed tomatoes and asparagus. It looked almost too good to eat. I stress the “almost.” You see, my favorite part of eating Eggs Benedict is the moment when I first cut into them, slicing right down the middle of the entire pillar so that I can watch as the creamy egg yolk spills out and saturates everything that it comes into contact with.

From there, the rest is history. Of course, my first bite had to be a perfect combination of all the ingredients, so I piled my fork with a little of everything and went for it. I can only describe it as incredible. Salty, savory, creamy, crunchy, a perfect mixture of textures and flavors all in one bite. At no point did I stop to eat the fried potatoes on my plate, which my husband informed me were a “must try”, because I was too busy inhaling the rest of my main course. Before I had even arrived, I knew I wouldn’t leave Empire without clearing my plate, but I hadn’t even tried their omelet or pancakes yet.

empire1.jpgOh, the omelet. When I first looked to my husband’s meal it was as he was lifting a bite of omelet off of his plate, with that tell-tale a trail of cheese still connecting his fork to his food. How could I not try that? I didn’t hesitate to cut right into the middle portion of his omelet where of course the cheese would be resting in abundance–and that it was. The eggs were light and fluffy, and the three cheeses were a nice contrast of salty, creamy, and tangy. Tangy? Yes, tangy, and it was that tanginess that kept me reaching over the table to sample additional pieces.

Of course, I can’t finish the article without adding my commentary on the pancakes. Cooked to a golden brown, they were fluffy and the chocolate chips added a rich gooey-ness that had my mind reminiscing about my childhood. It was no wonder that my daughter ate most of what was on her plate!

If you haven’t yet eaten brunch here, I recommend you do. The atmosphere was upbeat, the restaurant open and vibrant. The prices were reasonable and the service was prompt and friendly. Personally, I can’t wait to go back and try the French toast stuffed with mascarpone and mixed berry compote.

Empire Grill
1435 Hertel Avenue (corner of Sterling Avenue)
Buffalo, NY 14216
(716) 446-0700


Natalie Grigg is a mom, lawyer and avid eater.

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  • LI2Northpark

    The brunch is delicious, no doubt. As far as the night time fare it’s only OK and the bar could use a better wine selection.

  • NBuffguy

    I have to agree with this. Though I would love Empire Grill to be awesome, in my opinion, it is solidly just so so. I have never had a terrible experience there, but I’ve also never had a memorable one either.

  • Carter Pewterschmidt

    Never been there for brunch, but tried dinner there twice. Food was decent, but the service was atrocious. We sat there for an eternity before we even got to place our drink order.

  • crc

    I’m pulling for this place, I really am. My wife and I live in the neighborhood and we want this place to do just as well as the next guy.
    But we’ve been there four times and each time it’s marginal. The service is so-so and the food seems to be hit or miss. Oh, and their beer menu is downright awful.

  • The Kettle

    I agree with that last sentence. A Coles or Sterling Place style beer menu would make evening visits much more enjoyable.

  • NorPark

    Their brunch is good, the breakfast burrito is my fav. I basically agree with everyone above, I live right around the corner and I would love to eat there for dinner more often, but the entrees really are just so-so. I feel like I always need to play it safe with a pasta, or burger or something, the empire steak sandwich however is delicious.

  • oldwaiter

    Get rid of the plastic ramikin for the fruit–what’s wrong with just putting it on the plate? It makes me think that they prepared this fruit cup 3 days ago and just popped it on the plate. Is there something wrong with fruit touching other items? These plates and food are beautiful, why cheapen the look with the plastic cup?

  • LouisTully

    Anyone know the financial standing? I believe they got a large funding from the city. Paid back?
    I never had any problems there, though I wouldn’t doubt the above comments are valid.

  • Buffalogreek

    I beg to differ about it there. I have had nothing but great service and great food there whether it was for brunch or for dinner. In fact it’s a go-to place for my wife and I even if it’s just for a casual drink. It’s a great establishment and it’s great for the Hertel/North Buffalo community. They make a great long island ice tea there too!

  • DMZ

    I have to agree with most comments here. The wine and beer list were pretty weak and the service was not the best. I think it’s an even bigger let down then most places because of how nice the place looks, maybe my expectations were too high.

  • suburban_hillbilly

    Average at best. No draught beer. Not impressed.

  • PoorPeopleSuck

    Sterling is great, especially when it’s open. I love it best when you call and they actually answer, you say “oh you’re open.” and they always say “of course we are” and they get all pissed. Great cheeseburgers and beer.
    I hope people there don’t throw popcorn in your face, poodle?