It's rare when I come across a new restaurant in a building that I was previously unfamiliar with. So often a restaurant owner opts to move into a space that has had previous successes for a number of reasons - notoriety, equipment, primary uses, locations, etc. For these reasons, we tend to see restaurant spaces recirculated over and over. When a new one pops up out of the blue, it can be very exciting... I love to see fresh concepts added to the roadmap of Buffalo's restaurant scene.
Last Thursday The Phoenix opened in Black Rock. I had been checking out the developments on the rather obscure location for a while, and was pleasantly surprised to hear that the place was ready to open. Until that night, I had never seen the interior of the building, which meant that I had no preconceived notions as to what might be inside. Apparently there had been a neighborhood bar inside at one point called Ed and Joe's. But the place had been closed for years, with nothing going on other than a fire that almost led the the demolition of the structure - you can still see some of the charred remains... now it's called character. Needless to say, the condition of the building was pretty beat.
Fortunately the owner of the building decided to be proactive and reached out to the restaurant community, and before long restaurateur Mary Logue (with the help of other friends in the restaurant community) was on her way to creating a new restaurant concept. The name 'The Phoenix' pays tribute to the Black Rock neighborhood, the building (that once caught fire) and the ultimate rise of the restaurant in a location that many would have never guessed would be home to such a venture. I'd like to think that there's a City of Buffalo reference in there too.
The interior of The Phoenix is fresh and inviting, with wood floors and wall beams, tin ceilings, brass bar rails, brick and stone design accents, comfortable bar and restaurant seating, and plenty of space to accommodate both drinking and dining crowds - all of the things that make for a quality tavern atmosphere. In fact, the amount of workable space is impressive - for the size of the restaurant, the various seating vignettes allow for a number of dining possibilities. And come spring, The Phoenix will unveil a dramatic back patio.
As for the food, the Logue Family has done a fine job in bringing some delicious comfort food to the neighborhood. My friend described the dinner fare as "approachable". I found that to be true, as we sat down to enjoy plates that ranged from banana pepper dip to polenta fries... and a mac and cheese mini skillet and an order of flat bread. All of the starters and sides were spot on, with lots of flavor and generous portions. My favorite was the banana pepper dip. The two winning dinners were the crispy grilled salmon ($17) and the short rib grilled cheese ($16). My salmon was cooked to perfection, and the warm Asian slaw on top was refreshing and delicious. For the first night in business, food at The Phoenix was impressive.
The bar staff at The Phoenix is superb as well. Super friendly, knowledgable, and dressed the part. If you're not planning on eating dinner, The Phoenix is a nice change of pace to meet up with friends. Don't expect a large TV set for Sabres games however. There is a tiny TV behind the bar, but if you weren't looking for it, you probably wouldn't even know that it was there. This is the closest that most any bar comes to not have a TV set - another welcome change.
There is plenty of free parking on the side of the building (at the neighboring gate company) and in back. The facade of the restaurant sports a nicely lit metal sign, which was fabricated just down the road at EB Ironart (Atlas Steel). The Phoenix is situated at the intersection of Amherst Street and Military Road - a corner that has loads of potential and is just a few doors down from Barry's Bar and Grill (more great food and excellent place to watch a Sabres game).
The opening of The Phoenix ties in nicely with all of the other establishments that have been creating a buzz on the street as of late, including the super-sized The Sportsmens Tavern, and the opening of Black Rock Kitchen and Bar, and Rohall's Corner. Not to mention other mainstays like Casey's and The Viking Lobster Company (on Tonawanda). Then we can't forget about Nick's Place, The Kitchen Table and Delish... that's some good company to be in. The next time that you're looking for some good food and drinks, in a warm and welcoming atmosphere, be sure to stop into The Phoenix... An American Tavern in Buffalo, NY.
The Phoenix - An American Tavern
269 Amherst Street
Buffalo NY 14207
Open Tues-Sun 5pm