Review: Curly’s Grill & Banquet Center
Location: 647 Ridge Road, Lackawanna
Cuisine: American, Caribbean
Web site: http://curlysgrill.com
I have a faint memory of going to Curly’s once with my parents when I was a teenager. They were all excited to enjoy the delicious food and drinks, whereas I was embarrassed to be seen out with them and probably wanted to go home and edit the “Personal Quotes” section on my AOL profile. But thankfully, Curly’s is still going strong today and I was excited to try their cuisine as an adult.
I stopped in for lunch on a Friday afternoon with a few co-workers. It was really easy to drive over to Lackawanna from our office on the Waterfront – it literally took 10 minutes. And we always like an excuse to get out of the office.
We were greeted by Chris, the friendly manager of the restaurant, who insisted we try his homemade Pumpkin Martini. Now, I am no Don Draper when it comes to boozing at lunch, but I had to agree. And I think Don Draper would pass on the Pumpkin Martini and order a Manhattan…or five. But Don would be missing out because the Pumpkin Martini was AMAZING. Chris explained that he makes a homemade pumpkin simple syrup from a pumpkin that he actually roasts himself. The drink also had vodka, spices, and a splash of heavy cream. And it tasted like liquid pumpkin pie! I appreciated how the drink was served in a stemless martini glass, which made it much easier to drink and didn’t make me feel like I was a character on Sex and the City.
Chris also told us about a few other cocktails he makes from scratch, such as Egg Nog, a Bloody Mary, and a Plum Martini. The Egg Nog in particular sounded fantastic; Chris mentioned that the drink starts with homemade Crème Anglaise, which must be a pain in the ass to make because even the Barefoot Contessa uses a shortcut to make it.
Now, to back up my claim that I’m not an alcoholic, let’s talk about the food. Curly’s lunch menu is pretty affordably priced. The salads, sandwiches, and pastas ran in the $8-14 range, which is less than I had imagined it would be. They also offer fresh-baked Chocolate Chip Cookies at lunch that I somehow had the strength to resist.
I was torn between ordering the Black Bean Veggie Burger and the Jamaican Jerk Chicken Sandwich, but I decided to go for the Jerk Sandwich because I remembered Curly’s was known for their Caribbean cuisine. The sandwich came on a substantial, yet soft homemade roll. The flavor of the Jerk chicken was delicious and the meat was pretty juicy. If I had a small complaint, it would be that the “Jerkonaise” didn’t really add anything to the sandwich. It occurs to me now that I could have put a spoonful of the zesty coleslaw side dish on the sandwich, a la Fat Bob’s Pulled Pork Sandwich. Oh, well. Next time!
The sandwich also came with a side of fries, which I substituted with a side salad for $.50 more. It’s pretty ridiculous that you have to pay MORE to eat healthier, but that’s a topic for another post, and certainly not a problem only seen at Curly’s. In fact, $.50 is pretty fair considering some places charge $2.00 to swap sides.
I was glad to have the chance to try Curly’s cuisine as an adult and I will absolutely be back to try dinner there (and also to have some of that amazing-sounding Egg Nog). Curly’s is also a place that I bet most Downtown office workers don’t think about when planning a special lunch, but they should!
Review: Black Rock Kitchen and Bar
Location: 491 Amherst Street, Buffalo
Cuisine: New American
Web site: http://www.blackrockkitchenandbar.com/
Black Rock Kitchen and Bar is a bright new addition to Buffalo’s restaurant scene – a place that almost makes you feel like you’ve been transported to a fancy city like Boston or New York. But no, Black Rock Kitchen and Bar is right here in Buffalo.
I went for dinner on a recent Saturday night with two friends. When we walked in and asked for a table, the hostess said they were booked up for the entire night, but that we could order from the full menu at the bar. I don’t always enjoy eating while sitting at a bar, and when I do, I often find myself wistfully looking over at the tables and wishing I had a real seat. But the bar at BRK&B had comfortable stools (with backs!) and more than enough space to eat.
And eat we did! The menu was full of tempting options, but not an overwhelming amount. There was also a large list of specials. I appreciated how there were a variety of dishes at different price points. It’s a great place to take a varied group of eaters, since there are simple options for the less adventurous (like the Steak Sandwich) all the way up to dishes that would make foodies go nuts (like the Foie Gras French Toast).
We all had a hard time deciding what to order, but we each ordered an entrée and split an appetizer. Our appetizer was a local mushroom and goat cheese pizzetta, which was large enough for one person to eat as a main dish. Mushrooms and goat cheese are one of my favorite combinations, so I was all about this dish. The pizzetta was sprinkled with truffle oil, which provided a decadent extra touch. Needless to say, the three of us fought over the last piece!
I chose the Hawaiian Sea Bass for my entrée, which was a special for that night. It was one of the most delicious pieces of fish I’ve ever eaten. Perfectly cooked and seasoned, the fish was served on a bed of potato and leek hash, which I gobbled right up. In retrospect, I would have preferred a higher ratio of potatoes to leeks in the hash, but that’s a minor quibble. It was a great dish and the smaller portion size was a welcome change from the many local restaurants that seem to think quantity equals quality.
My friends ordered the Fish Tacos from the regular menu and Lobster Tail from the specials. Of course, I had to try a few bites of each dish. The Fish Tacos were decent, although I probably would have been disappointed if I had ordered them as my own entrée. I love how Mexican food is so bright and colorful, but these tacos were only various shades of beige, which made them look slightly unappetizing.
The Lobster Tail was definitely a little bit of a splurge, but looked completely worth it. It was served on a bed of some sort of risotto, which I don’t think I tried because I was too busy enjoying my own entrée.
We all agreed that we’d be back again, not only because of the delicious food, but also to enjoy the restaurant’s warm atmosphere. The décor is very well done, with the walls painted a warm purple. My favorite aspect of the décor was the bronze tin ceiling. It might be a faux tin ceiling, but whatever, it looked good and helped add to the restaurant’s warm, homey feel.
In all, Black Rock Kitchen and Bar is a welcome addition to Buffalo’s restaurant scene and I recommend it to anyone who is looking for a good meal. I hope it succeeds (being totally booked on a Saturday night is a good sign!) and inspires additional development on Amherst Street.