Like most people, when I head out for a few “pops” I cringe at the thought of paying a cover charge. However, Hoppy Hour at the Marcy Casino on Hoyt Lake is an event in Buffalo worth paying every penny. A percentage of all proceeds and the ENTIRE cover charge goes directly to a featured organization, which changes every week*. Thus, the money is dispersed throughout the city leaving a far more reaching impact. As if the draw of helping a worthy cause isn’t enough, the Marcy Casino keeps customers pleasantly surprised with the changing food selection and featured craft brewery each week.
Thanks to the successful collaborative efforts of Bill Miller (Bill Miller Law), Jason Davidson and Mike Shatzel (Magnolia Events and Catering), the Marcy Casino has been leased every week for this event. Bill’s dedication to the Marcy Casino has deep roots. He grew up in the Parkside area, and he and his wife were married there. As a strong supporter, Bill told me, “As far as I’m concerned it’s the best venue in the city.” His goal is now to show other people what he already knows – “More people need to enjoy this amazing underutilized venue and what better way to do that than in giving back to a great local causes that need awareness and funding?”
The past two Thursdays I gladly attended Hoppy Hour. Standing on the balcony overlooking the lake was breathtaking. It was there that I enjoyed my beer(s) and company, while eagerly awaiting a sampling of the menu. I was curious how evenly matched the food would be to the perfected ambience.
The menu presented by Marcy’s Casino Chef, Tony Vitello, varies weekly. The menu structure features: a daily Chef’s Plate ($12), assorted cheeses, charcuterie & antipasti, a rotating slider combo ($9), Artisan Pizza ($10), finger foods and some impressive main dishes. Let’s dig in!
Chef’s plate ($12). Marinated eggplant, genoa salami, capicola, mozzarella, sharp cheddar, roasted peppers, grapes and toast points. The marinated eggplant and salted meats were fantastic.
The truffle fries ($6) are rustic and hearty, with the right amount of bite. They are sprinkled with a light parmesan and parsley. I would have liked a little more truffle flavor to the fries. The real game changer was the grilled onion smoked ketchup. A bold flavored ketchup, which I was not expecting, worked very well with the truffle. To be honest, I liked it so much I asked for another order.
The Artisan Pizzas ($10 each). Both the stuffed hot pepper with sausage and the white [olive oil, garlic, beef steak tomatoes, red onion and fresh mozzarella] were awesome. The pizza crust was impeccable – a great bite with a touch of char on the bottom. The toppings and flavors blended so splendidly… the freshness really comes through. Both pizzas were eaten so quickly by my crew that I wasn’t able to take a picture in time. I suppose that speaks to how much we enjoyed them!
The vegetable spring rolls were bigger than I expected. Good crunch, and the Thai chili dipping sauce was sweet with a little kick at the end.
The slider rotation I sampled the first week was the pulled chicken with pineapple cucumber slaw and the Ahi Tuna with wakame and sriracha aioli. The second week I had the pulled chicken again and the smoked pork. The chicken and pork sliders were fantastic! Splendidly simmered in a sweet yet tangy BBQ sauce, then topped with the fresh slaw. My taste buds couldn’t get enough. The tuna sliders however, I was slightly disappointed. They were overcooked. Despite the accompanying flavor, it is difficult to battle back from dry tuna.
I am really big on Asian flavors, and The Korean style ribs ($10) with Kimchee slaw were fantastic. Fall off the bone tender meat generously covered in the sweet caramelized Korean BBQ sauce. The Kimchee was a great touch that didn’t disappoint.
The black sesame crusted scallops ($10) were presented artistically on a rectangular platter. Expertly cooked scallops were bedded around an assortment of citrus fruit pieces with strategically placed circles of sriracha sauce and then balanced over “forbidden” rice.
The final plate was the Low Country Shrimp Boil ($14). The boil included shrimp, andouille sausage, potatoes, charred corn and a modified mirepoix. I was pleasantly surprised to see the heavy portion of shrimp that comes in the dish. Far too many restaurants skimp in this department, in my opinion. Trying to get a bite of all the flavors at once becomes quite a task with all the dish has to offer. The sausage and shrimp combo combine to exhume the smokiness of the boil and then the crunch of the charred corns adds the sweetness. The addition of the starch from the potatoes makes this a dish to crave. The comforts of a stew delivered in its lighter summer fresh likeness.
Both Davidson and Shatzel are dedicated to the efforts of building a full service restaurant inside the Marcy Casino for everyone to enjoy, not just those who hold special events. They understand the importance of this venue. To see it be anything less than a grand restaurant, open to the public, would be a disappointment. In all honesty, the Marcy Casino reminds me of Tavern on the Green in Central Park, New York City. Ironically, Tavern on the Green is also known as the second highest grossing restaurant in the United States.
The Marcy Casino is too glorious of a venue to not house a restaurant and showcase its majesty and splendor. They certainly have my vote! How about yours?
Take time out of your schedule to support a worthy cause.
Enjoy Hoppy Hour every Thursday at the Marcy Casino in Delaware Park overlooking Hoyt Lake from 6-9pm. If you like what you see, sign this petition to convert the old boathouse into a your round operational restaurant.
*August charity lineup includes Spikes for Tykes, March of Dimes & BISON Scholarship Fund – breweries TBD.