Yesterday I found myself in Downtown Buffalo, looking for a place to eat. I wasn’t really planning on eating at the Garden Grille and Bar until I passed by the Hilton Garden Inn’s porte-cochere, which beckoned me in to take a look around.
It was actually the warm welcome that I got upon walking into the hotel, combined with the unexpected cheerfully flavored decor of the main lobby that drew me in further to look around.
The lobby looked to be more of a lounge than it did a check-in area, with lots of windows looking onto Court Street and Lafayette Square. It’s pretty neat to see what the Tishman building has become after so many years of being such a dead corner.
From standing in the front lobby, I could see that the hotel’s second floor restaurant (Garden Grille and Bar) was visible, as there was a loft-style cutout between the two floors. That’s about the time that I called my friend to join me for a late afternoon bite to eat.
Seeing that I had some time to kill, I took it upon myself to poke around the restaurant floor, examining the oversized furniture, the myriad seating arrangements, the private banquet room, the various views onto Main Street, and finally the bar. To my surprise, I found that the bar had some local draughts on tap, so I opted for a Big Ditch variety, since the brewery had been featured on BRO the previous day, and it was located in close proximity to the hotel. I felt that the Big Ditch offering was a pretty good sign, that someone was privy to Buffalo’s brewery scene.
It didn’t take long before I came across the restaurant’s food and beverage director, Greg Andrews, who is apparently “living” at the hotel until everything is running smoothly. It turns out that Greg moved to Buffalo a year ago to join his wife, who had moved to Buffalo to be closer to her father (a professor at UB). Greg told me that he landed a great cheffing job upon arriving to Buffalo, but was head hunted shortly thereafter, charged with getting the Garden Grille and Bar up and running. “It’s great food,” he told me. “Part of the menu is Hilton’s, and part of it is mine. But management has given me the directive to take the restaurant to more of an upscale club-like direction in the months to come.”
Currently the menu has a wide range of options, ranging from osso buco to a California turkey club. When my friend arrived he immediately joined me for a Big Ditch brew and then the two of us decided to try out the fish fry. The dish came out exactly how I like it, with a nice crisp, light golden batter and super moist and flaky fish. As we ate and drank, and talked to Greg, it occurred to me that the restaurant could become popular, not just for guests staying in the hotel, but for downtown workers.
My friend told me that it was a bit surreal to be late afternoon lunching in a Hilton restaurant on a windy Saturday in Downtown Buffalo, but he agreed that the restaurant could potentially become a hotspot for office workers, and some Downtown dwellers looking for a solid place to eat (and open long hours and on weekends). “That’s our intention,” Greg said. “We don’t just want to be a place for hotel guests. We want to be just as welcoming to the Downtown community.”
In the end, I was pleasantly surprised with the entire Hilton Garden Inn experience. They did a great job on Lafayette Square, adding some quality life to an area that is need of some additional uplifting developments. If you’re in the area, stop in for a drink, or a Classic Mobley burger (Conrad Hilton’s steakhouse burger), and see for yourself the upbeat development that flanks Main Street and Lafayette Square. I think that you’ll like what you see.
See the backstory on this development (click here).
Hilton Garden Inn | 10 Lafayette Square | 716-848-1000| Website