Last night we had a great time on Hertel. It started off innocently enough with a couple of beers at the The Burning Buffalo Bar & Grill. Upon walking in, we were greeted by Nick Kotsis, who owns the establishment along with his brother George and Seth Stromberg. The three have taken over the old Shadow Lounge, giving it a complete overhaul in the process. While The Burning Buffalo looks nothing like Shadow, there are some telltale signs that it’s the same location. There are two elevated areas – one opposite the bar (for dining), and one way in back (a dart lounge, with steel tipped darts).
As we sat at the bar, talking to Nick, he clued us into a few of the things that he was most proud of. One was the Glycol Draft Beer Cooling System, which means that the 16 draft beers come out super cold and without much foam. As Nick described the system, I couldn’t help but ask who the Grateful Dead fan was – a number of the band’s songs had gone through rotation. It turned out that although Jerry Garcia has died when he was just 11 years old, Nick became a big fan of the jam band later on in life. The songs that Nick chose to play might be a bit jam-like, but not so much to turn off people who don’t appreciate the music. Nick told me he had spent years curating the 400+ song list that features all of his favorites, from James Brown to The Black Keys.
The reason that I tuned into the music right off the bat is that, although there was a complete makeover, the establishment is somewhat monochromatic. I don’t mean that in a bad way. There are white walls and dark floors and subdued lighting. The lighting is so subdued that it’s difficult to read the menus (let along snap a good photo). Where some places spend a lot of time and money purchasing fancy lighting and kitschy decorations, The Burning Buffalo is fairly understated, which is the look that they were going after. From what I can tell, the place will become a true blue neighborhood sort of bar, with relatively little cocktail shaking compared to all of the Prohibition-era bars that recently came onto the scene. That’s why, last night, I opted for the $3 cans of Narragansett (their version of a PBR).
As I drank my beer, I perused the menu. It looked to be an elevated bar menu, with everything from a Frickle (deep fried pickle) to grilled Hudson Valley foie gras. Mostly what I saw coming out of the kitchen was the burger, which looked pretty decent. There’s also a beer battered fish and chips, a chicken sandwich, onion petals, caprese skewers, wings, chili and BBQ short rib biscuits. The burger is a “build your own version”, which is apparently why it was so popular. We later learned that the head chef is Chris Silverstein, former owner of Lagniappes in Allentown – a major plus for the place.
As the evening grew longer, we found ourselves playing steel tipped darts in the back. It had been years since I had played. It was a refreshing change of pace. To tell you the truth, I forgot how much I missed playing the game. I suggested to Nick that he get in touch with the Platinum Darts league, to see if they were looking for an additional city location. I also mentioned that they should reach out the Shickluna Bikes and Darts, just down the street. It would be great to see the bike crowd showing up to play darts at this place. When I was younger, there were a lot of places around town to throw darts. These days, just a few, including Essex Pub and Fugazi.
The Burning Buffalo Bar & Grill is a great place to hang. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s not a dive. A guy sitting next to me at the bar was really digging the scene. He kept saying how happy he was that there was a place to get cheap beer in the neighborhood and not get yelled at if he asks to change the soccer channel to American football. To me, The Burning Buffalo is simply an honest to goodness, down to earth bar in North Buffalo, where one would feel comfortable bringing a date, or watching a hockey game with buddies.
I am told that the back of the restaurant looks a bit stark because the owners are waiting for some wall materials that didn’t arrive in time for opening. Other than that, and maybe a few candles on the bar to read the menus, and Nick, George and Seth have a fine no frills bar/restaurant on their hands.