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Club 861, a premier musicians club, serves up community, heart, and good eats

The Phantom Diner series is sponsored by Urban Valet Cleaners.

I’ve always enjoyed the sounds of Jazz on summer nights in Greenwich Village. Late at night, after their gigs had ended, musicians would gather at this club or that and new music – different music – would fill the air. Out of those beer and whiskey-filled collaborations, new musical beginnings were born; a legacy the Village still delivers today.

I heard a whisper about Club 861 on Military Road in Kenmore and decided to check it out. My timing wasn’t great because I arrived ‘just’ as they were opening for the evening and had no crowd of people to hide behind. Yet, what I discovered about Club 861 was that the owners wanted to create a place where musicians can just come in and hang their hat. Their vision is to fill the air with music and, at the same time, give back to the community. To that end I think they’re off to a good start.

The venue has good space; a double-sided bar up front and a dining-drinking-dancing space at the rear with a stage for bands to play.

Photo from June 7th show, Speedy Parker & The Crew.

861 has a simple menu – three pages of typical bar food with good variety and a few vegan options. I liked the sound of the “Greek to me Platter” ($10.00) as an appetizer option. On the menu it consisted of Greek olives, toasted pita, Stuffed Grape leaves, pepperoncini and feta cheese. For a ($2.00) upcharge you could add Tzatziki sauce or hummus. Personally, I think that any such platter ‘needs’ some sort of dipping sauce and felt that, without it, it was an incomplete dish. I ordered hummus with mine and what I received was a dish – without the stuffed grape leaves but with extra olives as a substitute. What I didn’t receive was the option to choose for myself. If I’d been told “we’re all out of stuffed grape leaves, would you care for something else instead?” I would have surely selected a different item from the menu. Too bad, I was really looking forward to the grape leaves and not so much to the pepperoncini and olives. The feta cubes were tasty, and the hummus provided good flavor and was a nice match to the toasted pita. Not so good that the back-of-the-house didn’t communicate with the server – and me.

I moved on to a simple cocktail, Tanqueray and Tonic ($5.00), which was served up swiftly with a slice of lime. My next dish was called “Dirty White Girls Pita” ($9.00) – a flat bread style pizza featuring olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, two kinds of cheeses, spinach and a generous drizzle of balsamic vinegar on top. I really enjoyed the well-balanced flavors and the thought that went into the combination of ingredients. Simple but tasty, salty and sweet, and quick to the table.

Club 861 has only one dessert item on the menu and I’m fine with that because – as cheesecakes go this one is good. I’m an expat from NYC so I judge cheesecakes very harshly. Yet, an item named “Chef Pat’s cheesecake” ($6.00) passed my snobbish cheesecake test. Topped with a berry sauce it was a very enjoyable dessert. Nicely done Chef Pat!

So on to the serious stuff… What I discovered about Club 861 is that they are very Veteran friendly. They hold fundraisers for veterans’ groups both locally and nationally. They give to Children’s Hospital and hold fundraisers several times throughout the year for them as well. They sell T-shirts and ‘specialty’ shots at the bar and a portion of those proceeds goes to those organizations.

They have a fun factor too. On Tuesday nights from 6-8pm they hold 1950’s style ‘sock hops’. So, bring your dance partner and rock out to 50’s music. Friday’s and Saturdays from 8-12 pm – all year long – they have Rock-n-Roll and Blues bands playing on the stage.

Open Tuesday through Saturday; Club 861 offers online ordering where you can select from their full menu for take-out, or to have ready-to-eat when you arrive for dinner. Seems like a nice place to sit back and have a little nosh and a little rock-n-roll.

Menu: Simple plates, affordable, swift to the table with good drink specials.
Service: Plenty of staff available, attentive and friendly.
Ambiance: Wood décor, ample size and space, local crowd so far.

Club 861 | 861 Military Road | Kenmore, NY 14217 | 716.322.0309 | Facebook 

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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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