Don’t you just love it when a restaurateur takes over a venue and transforms the interior into something that is almost unrecognizable from the previous incarnation? That’s what has unfolded at Merge – formerly Prespa (see original post). When we walked in, we couldn’t believe what we saw… the dark blue walls were repainted in vibrant yellows and burnt reds. Dark wood beams graced the ceiling, playing off the bright colors and the vibrant pendant lighting. Simple tables and chairs flanked a small stage area, creating dining pockets and an interesting focal point towards the middle of the restaurant. It took us a couple minutes to re-familiarize ourselves with the space – were we really standing in the old Prespa?
Eating at Merge is as interesting as the interior is. The menu is completely different from what many WNY chowhounds may be used to. It was really quite exciting to see a number of items that were totally foreign to me. I mean, how can one pass up a baked potato, cabbage, hummus and hot sauce wrap? And how good does a black bean cake, chichi beans, tzaziki, chutney wrap sound? They both sounded pretty good to me. Our table ordered both, and though the black bean cake won out, we were all completely happy. For the carnivores in the crowd, Merge offers chicken and fish dishes, so don’t let the vegetarian/vegan slant scare you off.
While we waited for our lunch to arrive we perused the Merge Gallery Guide – a well-done pamphlet that touted the works of each artist that was showing on the walls. It was so nice to be able to learn about the artist right there at the table (I would suggest that in the future, every table is provided with a pamphlet upon sitting down – I found mine at the back bar area). Of course, at the end of the day, it’s the food that makes or breaks a place – I started my meal with a hot (yes, hot) bowl of the vichyssoise – a soup that is, more often than not, served cold. Even though the soup was great (hot vichyssoise?), I probably would have opted for one of the many salad offerings had I known then what was in store for us towards the end of the meal. Keep in mind, look for the health icon list at the bottom of the menu*.
Before we knew it, we had wolfed down our wraps and were happily munching on fried pickles and David Bowie birthday cake – I kid you not. Merge is different… and that’s what I love so much about it. The atmosphere, the food options, the dishware and the utensils, the stage, the art classes, the owners, the art, the building, the thoughtful originality – Merge is so refreshing to see. To think that there will be Merge art classes, movies and stage performers… this place couldn’t have opened at a better ‘artistic’ time. I’m sure that the eatery will be a big hangout for the residents who now occupy Artspace just a few blocks away. And its proximity to bohemian Allentown is a major plus.
If you think about it, culinary craft is one of the hottest fields in the art world – just look at what’s happening on TV… culinary programming is where it’s at. As more food shows are being followed by a mainstream audience, the number of people who want to try new and different cuisine grows. Merge is capitalizing on the people who are looking for good, healthy, creative food, and that in itself is a recipe for success. Merge also scores big points for being creative in other departments – I liked listening to the tunes that were played (someone actually has good taste in music as well as food for a change). We listened to old Bowie and The Cure – my girlfriend was impressed when Jack Johnson moved into rotation. I found that the miniature Metro Racks were a nice touch – then I noticed that they were all filled with crayons, markers, paper, etc. They racks are situated throughout the eating areas and they are there for the customer, both young and old, to let loose some creative juices. Who knows, maybe Merge will discover some artists-in-waiting.
*V = vegan; VEG = vegetarian; GF = gluten-free; R = raw
All vegetarian items are cooked on separate equipment.
Merge processes gluten, dairy, peanuts, and tree nuts in their facility – please use caution if you have a severe allergy.
merge | 439 delaware avenue | buffalo, ny 14202 | P 716.381.8502 | F 716.882.4293 | email@example.com