In September, the restaurant Parkside Meadow opened its doors for service at the northeast corner of Russell Street and Parkside Avenue in North Buffalo. The restaurant occupies a painstakingly renovated property that previously housed the Park Meadow, a onetime bar and neighborhood institution that in its later stages of operation was infamous for the raucous behavior of its largely college-age patrons.
That particular iteration of 2 Russell Street shuttered years ago, and aside from a likeness in name, Parkside Meadow bears no resemblance to its notorious predecessor. But that doesn’t mean Parkside Meadow pays no heed to the deep roots of its physical space.
On the contrary, visitors to the restaurant are treated to a visual feast of artifacts and curiosities that pay homage to Buffalo’s illustrious past. Everything from matchbooks and newspaper clippings to reproductions of locally produced vintage pop bottles adorn the handsome, historically outfitted bar and dining area.
The classic Buffalo feel extends to the menu—both physically, in the choice of typeface, and conceptually, in terms of dishes offered. Standards like fish fries (served Thursdays and Fridays), stuffed peppers, wings, and entrees like airline chicken are among the standard fare. Hearty sandwiches of the Reuben, fried bologna, tuna melt, beef on weck, hamburger, and chicken club varieties are made with a comforting simplicity, care, and hominess reminiscent of a mom-and-pop mid-century diner. The Reuben, for instance, was composed of all the usual suspects: corned beef, Thousand Island dressing, Americanized Swiss cheese, and sauerkraut. But unlike the listless versions common at less scrupulous establishments, the meat was rosy and piled high, the dressing judiciously applied, and the kraut pleasantly biting as opposed to tinny or acrid. And perhaps most importantly—we are talking sandwiches, after all—the thickly sliced rye bread was freshly baked, and it was griddled to the ideal precipice of soft and crusty. Individually, these constitute subtle differences. In the aggregate, they make a world of difference.
Not everything I sampled was wholly successfully. While the mashed potato croquettes themselves amounted to tasty, simple drinking food—that is, crisp, creamy on the inside, and amber brown (few things bum me out more than pallid fried foods), the sausage gravy dip that accompanied the starter was gluey, presumably from an excess of flour in the roux. Fortunately, that’s an easy fix.
Nor is everything on the menu classic, old-school Buffalo. A shaved lamb sandwich with Havarti and spearmint aioli on toasty sourdough is one outlier. The artichoke and eggplant empanada and glazed ahi tuna over coconut rice appetizers are outliers two and three.
That said, the overall experience at Parkside Meadow amounts to charming time travel, though not to any one particular year or decade—just to old Buffalo, broadly speaking. For those of us with fond memories of the people and places of a bygone era, the effect is one of pleasant nostalgia.