I always loved the bar/restaurant setup at Laughlin’s (333 Franklin). Whether it was the late afternoon sunlight streaming in through the windows or the breathtaking cupola ceiling, the place was dripping with potential. Thankfully, two of Buffalo’s finest, Jon Karel and Ed Forster, have come together to create a recipe for success that all of Buffalo will benefit from for years to come.
If you’re familiar with the former Laughlin’s setup, then you pretty much know the aesthetic makeup of Buffalo Proper. The new owners have added some touches that stand out, but thankfully kept the integrity of the place intact. You will notice the addition of fresh-looking subway tile, carpeting, lighting, and a killer overbuilt back bar. You will also notice the presence of nearly every bottle of spirits under the sun and moon. The bottles lining the back bar beckon to patrons to pick up a cocktail menu, even those that are diehard wine and beer snobs. That’s what happened to me last night. Instead of going down the normal route, I opted to imbibe in one of mixologist Jon Karel’s creations.
After trying an initial palate teaser, I eventually found myself intrigued with the look of my friend’s concoction that was served up in a proper copper mule mug. After an initial taste of the refreshingly tasty drink (a variation of a Moscow mule) I was hooked. It’s rare that I never revert back to beer or wine, but last night there was no turning back. I repositioned myself from the main bar, to the wrap-around patio, to the more secluded second floor bar, all the while clutching my new favorite drink.
From the second floor bar, I could see Karel shaking away, playing barkeep extraordinaire, as Chef Forster shined in the kitchen. The bar and kitchen setup is perfect for these two. It’s almost as if they play off each other, which is something that you rarely see at a restaurant – the chef is usually sequestered to the back as the bartender shows off in the front. Buffalo Proper allows both of these guys to do their thing in front of a crowd that has come to know them for their craft.
Out of everything that I experienced last evening, one of their calling cards that still rings clear in my mind is the music. Yes, the place is beautiful, and the drinks are killer. The lighting is perfect, and the service impeccable. But it was the sound of jazz that made the biggest impact on me. These guys played real old school jazz that resounded through the building. If there’s one thing that I can’t stand, it’s bad music – and there’s a lot of it out there. I can’t remember the last time that I walked into a restaurant and found myself paying attention the music (in a good way). The music at Buffalo Proper is the crucial element that brings everything together.
In coming days we’re heading back to Buffalo Proper to try the food (stay tuned). I’m looking forward to that experience, just as much as I look forward to another chance to settle back into another “mule”… in a setting that has got to be one of Buffalo’s best.
It should be duly noted that this place serves food until 2am – another key factor that will pay off in the long run. There comes a time, when you need a solid go-to past midnight, and Buffalo Proper will be there to answer the call. All-in-all, Buffalo Proper is a great addition to the city’s restaurant scene.