Last Sunday, a taste of spring weather drove most of you to the city’s patio-fortunate brunch spots. I saw you there with your sunglasses suspended over Elmwood at Thin Man and spilling out of whatever the fuck was happening at MTK (the place was jamming!) But me, I had other priorities. And that priority was shakshuka.
For the uninitiated, shakshuka is a one-skillet dish of eggs, lightly cooked in a sauce of spiced tomatoes and peppers, rooted in North African cuisine. Despite the politico-religious controversy surrounding claims to its origin, it is likely a dish of mixed Arabic and Sephardic Jewish descent, which helps explain the longstanding popularity of it and similar egg dishes in Israel and across the Middle East. Only recently, though, did it register in the Western consciousness. Now, it pops up on American and British brunch menus with regularity, and whatever food blogs you read probably posted about it at one point or another. It has been, for a few years, a veritable food trend.
Except in Buffalo. For some reason Buffalo never jumped on the shakshuka bandwagon. Which is unfortunate because shakshuka, done properly, is “don’t talk to me I’m eating” good. It commands your full attention.
So imagine my delight when Buffalo Proper relaunched brunch service for the summer with shakshuka as its vegetarian headliner. It was enough to convince me to forgo outdoor seating on a 60-something degree day for a taste.
As I expected, the shakshuka put out by Buffalo Proper chef Nate Washburn was worth being indoors for.
As I expected, the shakshuka put out by Buffalo Proper chef Nate Washburn was worth being indoors for. It’s of the low-and-slow simmered variety (my favorite). The effect is a reduced tomato and pepper ragu with concentrated natural sweetness fortified by a smoky, spicy house-made harissa. Cracked eggs nestled in the sauce set in the oven—a process that brings with it additional complexity by way of caramelization. The whole thing is enrichened (and the acidic edges of the tomatoes smoothed) by a generous application of White Cow Dairy labneh and mild, salty feta. Served with BreadHive sourdough epi bread for mopping, it is—for me—a brunch game changer.
If shakshuka isn’t your speed, there’s a croque madame-style burger topped ham, mustard, Swiss cheese, béchamel, and a fried egg; an Instagram-worthy cured salmon plate featuring an everything bagel (baked in house), charred tomato, boursin cheese spread, and thick slices of avocado; and an epic-looking broiled grapefruit served with black quinoa, granola, and local yogurt—among a few other entrees.
To complement your shakshaku (or your other brunch selection, if you must), Proper is offering $10 bottomless mimosas. The juice is from a bottle, and your mimosas will be made to varying degrees of potency depending on your bartender. But for that price, who can complain?
Buffalo Proper | 333 Franklin Street | Buffalo, NY 14202 | (716) 783-8699 | www.buffaloproper.com