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Rowhouse, a warm and inviting french-style cafe that perfectly captures city living

The Phantom Diner series is sponsored by Urban Valet Cleaners.

[ˈrō ˌhous] NOUN; any of a row of houses joined by common sidewalls.

If you’re an expat from any large city you’ve seen one; a row house that is. Growing up in the Bronx row houses were the fabric of my world; row after row; block after block; one neighborhood after another of brownstones standing shoulder to shoulder as mothers watched from upper windows as their children sat on the stoops or played stickball in the streets and hop scotch on the sidewalks. We have them here in Buffalo and one, in particular, stands out.

I stopped in for Sunday brunch and my third visit to Rowhouse Bakery & Restaurant. Sometimes I just pop in for pastries but today I wanted something more substantial. I didn’t have a reservation but gratefully caught a seat at the pizza bar which is always entertaining for me. I enjoy watching the pizza maker du jour create a few Margheritas with a little sauce, chunks of mozzarella, a few tomatoes and into the wood-fired oven it goes. When it comes out it’s finished with a brushing of olive oil around the crust and a chiffonade of fresh basil sprinkled over the top. But I digress…

I looked over the brunch menu and decided on a Fresh Baked Breakfast Muffin ($9) along with fresh squeezed orange juice ($4), hot tea, English Breakfast ($2.50) and, later on, a Chocolate-Pistachio croissant ($4.50). My breakfast muffin was served with potatoes that I requested extra-crispy. They were perfect for me and, without a hint of oil or grease, I suspect they were baked and I love it! The muffin itself was a house-made, in the pan, English muffin. Fresh batter poured into a round mold in a piping hot pan and fried to order. It was a new sensation for me because the edges were a tad rubbery but overall it was good. The orange juice was fresh indeed but very weak (like it had been watered down). So it was tasty, sure; but why bother getting fresh squeezed if you’re going to dilute it? The hot tea was piping hot as I’d requested and it was a good sized pot of loose-leaf tea. Nice. The star of my brunch excursion was the chocolate- pistachio croissant. The dough was flaky and, in true European style, crunchy on the outside and pillowy on the inside where a pocket of pistachio crème lay waiting. The menu was enjoyable except where I noted exceptions and the entertainment (Pizza making) was great.

The restaurant filled rapidly while I was there and I do recommend that you call ahead for a reservation. It can be very busy at Rowhouse. Unfortunately the staff doesn’t quite know how to handle it. As I mentioned; I’ve been here before and one of the things that concerns me is substandard service. Communication seems to be where the major breakdown occurs. Rather than working together as a true team, they work as individuals with a “that’s not my job” philosophy. Hosts, who don’t know how to properly back up their servers, don’t communicate effectively with those servers. Servers, who don’t have their head on a swivel, aren’t catching all those signs we desperately try to send them. Does it take a signal flare?

Case in point: I waited 8 minutes before the very first ‘touch’ to my table – the hello – the water glass. That’s not acceptable in any restaurant. I was served a wonderfully piping hot pot of tea; without a spoon, sweetener, creamers or even the question “how do you take your tea?” I asked a host walking by if he would find me a spoon and some sweetener and he returned a few minutes later saying “your server will be right with you.” Please put yourself in that host’s place. What would you have done?

While I waited I was able to enjoy my most favorite thing about Rowhouse; the décor. If you look up past the upper dining level you’ll see a beautiful late evening sky with the blooms of bright stars and village rooftops with stained glass windows and frescoes painted on rustic brick. It’s a beautiful sight – as is the entirety of Rowhouse. I’ll keep coming back to sample the exciting French influenced menu and to appreciate the very warm atmosphere that Rowhouse has to offer. And stellar to that are the delicious pastries that, I caution you, sell out very quickly. Enjoy.

Menu: Creative, adventurous, locally sourced and tasty.
Service: Sometimes ineffective, untrained, not a team effort.
Ambiance: Warm and inviting with European influences.

Rowhouse Bakery & Cafe
483 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, New York
Facebook: @rowhousebuffalo

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Written by Phantom Diner

Phantom Diner

A Buffalo-based undercover restaurant reviewer. In conjunction with Buffalo Rising, this weekly series will present objective, honest reviews of WNY restaurants. What makes a restaurant great? Great cuisine, great service, and consistent delivery.

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