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Food Adventures at Colter Bay

The Phantom Diner series is sponsored by Urban Valet Cleaners.

John Colter was an expert hunter and marksman with the famed Lewis and Clark Expedition from 1803 – 1806. In 1807, now a freelance hunter and trapper, Colter found himself in what is now Yellowstone National Park. He is credited with that discovery although most people at the time thought the man had suffered from the hot sun when he described the land as a ‘stinking place that spouted steam and boiling water’.

In May of 1810 Colter canoed over 3,000 miles from the headwaters of the Missouri River to St. Louis to meet with English writer William Bradbury. Colter, essentially illiterate, left no written record of his adventures or explorations but told his adventures to Bradbury. In his book “Travels in the Interior of America”, Bradbury accounts the story of one of Colter’s most famous and most harrowing escapes after he and his trapping partner were captured by the Blackfoot and sentenced to death. His partner, Potts, was bristled with arrows and lay dead in their canoe. Here is an excerpt from Bradbury’s book:

“They now seized Colter, stripped him entirely naked, and began to consult on the manner in which he should be put to death. They were first inclined to set him up as a mark to shoot at. But the chief interfered, and seizing him by the shoulder, asked him if he could run fast.”

There are landmarks to John Colter from the Pacific Northwest to the Shenandoah Valley but none so close to home as Colter Bay in Allentown. With a fantastic location on the corner of Allen and Delaware the sunny patio of Colter Bay stands out and invites you to come inside and explore.

I was stopped at the light and heard music playing inside but didn’t know the song. I perked up at the idea of some original tunes happening inside. In a few minutes I discovered the great sounds I heard were coming from Buffalo guitarist Aidan McManus a solid musician in his own right and son of Buffalo Music Hall of Famer – Geno McManus. Don’t worry Aidan – you’re not standing in anyone’s shadow – nice job!

The interior trappings of Colter Bay speak of rustic woodcraft mixed with a pinch of industrial flair. High vaulted ceilings supported by giant wooden joists give you the sense that you’re inside a large hunting or trapping cabin. And all you need to do is open a menu – and explore.

If you want to get into the explorer theme the menu has field and stream dining options. Their Elk Alley burger, Old West Steak salad or Grilled Salmon Chopped salad will fill you up. Want more meat? Try the 561 Short Rib Melt or The Frontiersman – made of BBQ grilled chicken, melted cheddar and applewood-smoked bacon. (Everything is great with bacon.) Have no fear my Vegan friends because the menu has some cool things for you as well.

The Impossible Burger – (totally vegan) and available on the Specials menu. They also offer Firehole Falls Nachos (featuring Daiya Cheddar for your dairy alternative).

While I was exploring the menu, I saw a beautiful crock of French Onion soup walk by and decided on it immediately. The French Onion ($7) was served in a full-size crock and smelled fantastic. First off – the top was golden brown and looked perfect. Next, the melty cheese strings were so long I could have woven a camping blanket from it. It was a fun challenge to get the cheese to go where I wanted it to. Inside though, was a pleasant textural surprise. The croutons were extra-crispy and crunchy. I discovered later that they are house made. A perfect spin on a classic soup.

For my entrée I went straight to the namesake – the John Colter Steak Sandwich ($16) and opted for Sweet Potato fries as an upgrade over regular fries ($1.00). Ordered medium the crusty sandwich arrived just that way. The surprising and enjoyable flavor was the combination of herbed ricotta and the very mild (no heat) shishito peppers. The flavor hit just right. Not to complain about portion sizes but, for me, the sandwich could have been improved if the steak were a bit thinner. The fries were served with a side of honey for dipping. All in all – when I left the trail for home – I was completely satisfied.

Whether you’re a carnivore or a veggie-saurus there’s something on the Colter Bay menu for you. And if you’re walking by with man(kind’s) best friend – there’s a doggie water station outside on the patio for your four-legged BFF too. Remember when you step out your door – everyday is a chance to explore.

(Omg, a poet and I didn’t know it)

Ambiance: Great space, comfortable with nice views for people watching or dining on the patio.
Menu: A meat and potatoes place with strong consideration to the Vegan and Vegetarian Community.
Service: Excellent service – knowledgeable and friendly servers and bar staff, back of the house is tight.

Colter Bay | 561 Delaware Avenue | Buffalo, NY 14202 | (716) 436-5197

Series Sponsor: Urban Valet is a locally owned and operated, full service garment care company that offers a broad range of safe and environmentally-friendly cleaning options. They have three store locations and provide complimentary home and office delivery service throughout the WNY region. Home delivery can be scheduled every week or “on demand.” Urban Valet’s mission is to make life a little easier. Let them take care of your laundry & favorite duds, so you have more time to do the things you really enjoy! For more information, please visit

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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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