There are many advantages to calling whatever city you are currently living in, home. And for Buffalonians, one of the great pleasures we have grown accustomed to is having great access to simple bar food, but done exceptionally well. However, it does seem that through the years, many of the old standby favorites/taverns have been replaced, and they are increasingly harder to find throughout our different neighborhoods. Yes, new restaurants are opening seemingly every other day, however there is something to be said for, and so comforting about, that corner pub serving up the same menu for generations.
Now, I have passed Kelly’s Korner for years – my gym was located one block away. I have literally run laps around it many a morning, yet foolishly I never thought to stop in for lunch. Maybe it’s because South Buffalo has been my go to for neighborhood taverns for years. Maybe going “north” just didn’t seem “right.” But on a dear friend’s insistence, on how amazing the food is, I finally did pop in the other day for lunch.
I must say that Kelly’s Korner is exactly the type of place I’ve been missing in my neck of the woods for quite a while now. It is unfortunate that in our own immediate area, these types of elevated pub grub places have become a thing of the past. Thankfully, Kelly’s Korner has been around for generations, and I don’t see it going anywhere anytime soon. The place has a devote following of customers – even at 2pm, we took up the last two seats in the house. No, it was not a holiday, or even a Friday for that matter. Just a normal weekday, on the latter end of lunchtime. It turned out to be an auspicious sign of things to come.
Kelly’s Korner (since 1967) has a pretty traditional tavern menu, exactly as it should be. The choices include: beef on weck, hot beef and gravy (with or without mashed potatoes or fries), meatloaf, turkey, chicken, and ham sandwiches, kielabasa, chicken wings, chicken fingers, chili, housemade daily soups, as well as specials such as burgers, steak sandwiches, etc. It’s a great neighborhood spot – old school in style, traditional Buffalo-pub fare, great prices, and the friendly and welcoming staff that Buffalo is affectionately known for.
But, wait. There is more. So much more. Now I am not a chicken finger person per se, but when I hear enough about something, I acquiesce, and order. These are not standard chicken fingers. They are essentially chicken breasts, cut, but not pounded, into cutlets, and dredged in egg, flour, and spices. These fingers give new meaning to the other half of their name, tender. In all my life, I have never tasted a chicken tender so juicy and tender. And yet to have them perfectly fried and crisp, with a pleasantly thicker-than-usual outer coating – these were, in a word, divine. There was only one problem…
Now, their housemade hot sauce has caused quite a buzz in certain circles. On certain food blogs or lists, people tend to rave about the uniqueness of this “hot” sauce. For me, it showed that when it comes down to it, I guess I really am more of a purist, when wanting a “real” Buffalo-inspired meal. This sauce, which judiciously coated the crisp exterior, was generous and it packed quite the punch. However, I wasn’t crazy about the overall flavor. It was almost too much. The flavors composing the barbecue style hot sauce, from what I could tell, included vinegar, onion, garlic, and either chili powder or adobo seasoning, plus your standard heat rounding out the profile. And customers love it. I just thought it was a little too much, and too tart, almost taking away from the beauty of the perfectly prepared chicken. So much so, that this actually prompted a return visit, to place the same order, but with the sauce on the side. Opting for the house hot (hot barbecue) to compare to the medium (more like a standard Frank’s style sauce), was my new course of action. And that was all it took. Pure perfection. And the way I will order from here on out. The chicken fingers stand on their own, and it’s actually nice to be able to dip the perfect amount of sauce with each bite. Be warned however, that these are giant fingers, and plenty of them… so be prepared to share!
The steak sandwich was pretty incredible as well. A nicely sized portion, complete with mushrooms, onions, and melted provolone. It did benefit though from a side of their garlic wing sauce as a dipping condiment, that just so happened to be on the table as a part of “tender” experiment. If you get the steak sandwich, be sure to ask for a side of the garlic wing dipping sauce. It’s a divine combination.
For the wing lovers, Kelly Korner’s chicken wings are also perfectly executed, large, plump, crisp, and delicious. The beef on weck, another bar staple, did not disappoint either. In fact, when needing to take an out-of-town guest for signature Buffalo fare in the future, this pub will be at the top of my list. The beef on weck was seriously that good. From the horseradish on the table (as ubiquitous as ketchup would be in other places), to the tenderness of the beef, to the freshness of the roll, there was not one negative to this sandwich.
Thinking back, I’m actually glad that I didn’t try Kelly’s Korner all those years. Why? Because now I have a “new” place to add to my list of Buffalo favorites, depending on the mood that I’m in. When I’m looking for a corner bar, with amazing pub food, cheap beers, friendly service, and a super laid back atmosphere, I will come a callin’ to Kelly’s Korner.
Kelly’s Korner | 2526 Delaware Avenue | Buffalo NY | (716) 877-9466 |