This is Pitch Bar, a new-ish watering hole in South Buffalo, across from the burgeoning Solar City campus. Pitch Bar is decidedly British in look, feel, and lineage. That’s because it is the latest addition to the Parker’s family of businesses, owned by UK expats Vicky and Damian Parker. Ergo, Pitch Bar televises soccer and rugby matches; pours beer and cider from England, Ireland, and Scotland (as well as domestics, including locally brewed options); and serves up classic British fare like fish and chips, battered sausage, and meat pies—i.e., pastry-enclosed seasoned beef, chicken, or pork, sometimes mixed with vegetables, and generally cohered by some sort of gravy, sauce, or gelatin.
This is Joel, a new-ish Western New Yorker who moved to the area with his wife, a Kenmore native. Joel is decidedly not British, but he is Australian. That means Joel shares a greater degree of cultural affinity with Pitch Bar than, say, me. For example, Joel is a lifelong devotee of soccer and rugby, and a longtime participant in the drinking culture that accompanies that fandom. It also means he has a strong predilection for meat pies, which, in Australia, are the drunk food of choice—the Down Under’s chicken finger sub, if you will.
For as long as I’ve known Joel, he has sung meat pies’ praises and, on his many trips to Buffalo before he moved here, lamented their conspicuous absence from the local food scene. So when I learned that Pitch Bar serves savory pies, I knew we had to make the trip down South Park Avenue to try one.
After we ordered a round of beers (a Fuller’s London Pride, Old Speckled Hen, and Southern Tier IPA), we turned our attention to food. Pitch Bar offers a pie of the day ($5.95)—chicken and mushroom, in this case. The pie itself was approximately the length of an iPhone 6, and it was served in a small takeout box. Joel and his wife, who is well traveled in Australia and knows a thing or two about meat pies herself, deemed it an exceptionally good example of what a pie ought to be. They appreciated the temperature at which it was served—not too hot to enjoy immediately. And they liked the sizeable chunks of white-meat chicken and mushrooms, which they prefer to finely minced, homogenized pie fillings. Most of all, they praised the crust, which they called flakey but “still a little chewy.” Just how they like it.
I, too, was a big fan of that crust. And I had no preconceived notion of how a meat pie should be.
A massive piece of cod, served with chips ($13.00), was also excellent. The amber-colored coating was thick and crackly crisp, and riddled with the fissures and crevices that make eating fried foods a joy. The uneven surface meant some bits were darker and crunchier than others, adding much appreciated textural variation. The fish itself was mild and, like the pie pastry, ideally flakey.
Chips were paler and mushier than my American mouth likes a fried potato, but they were authentically British. The gravy in the cheesy chips and gravy ($7.50) was rich and flavorful. It can also be ordered as a side for dipping, which is probably the route I would go next time in order to better focus my palate on its virtues without the distraction of ho-hum melted cheese.
At 1:30 on a Saturday, the crowd at Pitch Bar was thin, but traffic picked up the longer we lingered at our table. As the crowd thickened, the place took on a warmer feel. There were many couples and two parties with babies (ours was one of them), which added to the friendly atmosphere. Likewise friendly were help-yourself samples of mulled wine and mini scones sandwiched with clotted cream and jam. If you find yourself so lucky to be offered one of the latter on your visit to Pitch Bar, take advantage of it. The scones had a light, buttery crumb and golden, crunchy top. They were excellent and would be worth ordering if they are ever added to the regular menu. Someone in my party may have even pocketed one to go—with permission from our server, of course. Joel and his wife were impressed enough to also take home a few frozen pies—another chicken and mushroom along with a chicken tikka and a steak variety—for afterhours snacking.
Pitch Bar isn’t Australian, but for an Australian in Buffalo, it offers a damn fine meat pie that reminds him of one of the great comforts of home. For the rest of us, it offers good pub fare in a casual, family- and sports-oriented environment. Joel was pleased enough with his experience to talk about returning for an early morning Australian soccer match in the future—that is, if the owners of Pitch Bar will humor his request to air a non-British game. I imagine they will. Just don’t expect a Buffalo restaurant to offer a Vegemite sandwich anytime soon, Joel.