It has been a WHILE since I’ve had the time to post here, but here I am, back and ready to go. This is an unusual restaurant to review, just because it is way out of my target demographic, but I feel it is significant for a variety of reasons – Buffalo isn’t all that far from Ohio for one. Also, my gf told me to do it. So, you know, I really wanna do it.
Overall: 4.5/5 (really, I couldn’t just make the rating system out of 10 and be done with the decimals? Really Sherif?) The Bar-Bill Tavern, or the Barbell as I thought it was called and will continue to refer to it, was a delightful mix of dive bar and innovative foodie delight (as far as a dive bar can also be innovative). Their Buffalo wings were delicious, their Beef on Weck (we’ll get to that, calm yourself down) was the best I’ve ever had, and the Waitstaff is engaging. If you just wanna go somewhere, have a beer and enjoy some good quality bar food and wings in the Buffalo, NY area, I really recommend the Barbell.
My gf, Dr. Karla, is from Buffalo. As such, I’ve had the privilege to go visit there a handful of times. On one of these trips this past winter, I asked Karla to take me to the two premier flagships for Buffalo Wings – Anchor Bar (home of the Buffalo Wing) and Duff’s (Perfecter of the Buffalo Wing). She obliged and I dined at both establishments on the same day, Duff’s for lunch and Anchor Bar for dinner. I’ll spare you the messy details, suffice to say that Duff’s Sucks. The wings were salty and not flavorful, making them very hard to eat. The place was very small, and our waitress was one of the worst I’ve ever encountered, and I’m someone who has worked with the very worst. Truly an awful experience all around. Anchor Bar, by contrast, was delicious, fun, with an attentive waitress. I quickly became an Anchor Bar loyalist. So when Karla’s friends Dan’n’Rachel (I swear they are a single entity in her mind, she never references them individually) said they would take us to another place for Buffalo wings, I was skeptical – but there’s an Anchor Bar right here! But Dan, who has that sort of ‘Trust me’ face, assured me that Barbell’s was worth it. So off we went to East Aurora New York, one of those quaint small towns that make me love America. Quiet, serene (are those two the same thing?), orderly and very well groomed, errr, landscaped.
The first thing that struck me about Barbell’s was how easy parking was, and how hard getting a seat was. Here’s a general restaurant tip for you – if this place has been around for more than a year, and you still have a hard time getting a seat, expect good things. Maybe not great things, but just raise your ceiling a bit. It oughtta be good. We were privileged enough to get a seat on the patio in about 15 minutes, and we got to ordering. They’re one of those delightful establishments that likes their food and wants you to like it too, so they gave us samples of three of their wing sauces, making it very easy for us to decide what to order. Though even if they hadn’t, I had Dan’n’Rachel there to guide me through the process.
I settled for a combination of apps and wings. For an appetizer I ordered the Beef on Weck. This is a legendary Buffalo sandwich. Essentially, it is fresh roasted beef on a specialty roll which is more salt than anything else, served with a healthy dose of horseradish sauce – not so much to make your eyes water, but certainly enough to get you to notice it. My past experiences with the Beef on Weck had proven disappointing, as the roll was too salty, and the beef too dry. But not at the Barbell! Here, the sandwich was a delight. They underdid the salt and oversold the other topping, the caraway, which made for a good flavor combination with the roast beef (which they soaked in au jus before they threw it on the sandwich) and the horseradish. It was just a couple of bites, but I enjoyed every one of them. Karla got the appetizer Zeet, which is a glorified pizza roll. Ground beef, sausage and sauce, inside of wrapped pizza dough, drenched in melted mozzarella. It was melty, the sauce was zesty and played well against the salty meats.
Then came the wings – what separated the Barbell wings from their competitors is that the Barbell wing is both crispy (a nice added bonus to Buffalo Wings) and heavily sauced (my personal favorite). They were ridiculous. You almost had to crunch into the wing to get to the meat, and they were hot and fresh from the broiler (tangent – this is why I rarely go to quaker steak and lube wing nights anymore. The wings sit at that open buffet losing their temp and their flavors. And I don’t really want to go to a restaurant and hover around the buffet like a vulture for the fresh batch. I want them fresh in groups of 6 like they used to do it. C’mon fellas, help a brother out!). We got three flavors, Mild, Hot and Honey Butter BBQ. The mild was fine, though it needed spice, but the Hot was right there, hurting me a bit, but not so much that I couldn’t enjoy it. Though when I go back, I’ll probably gravitate towards medium hot. The honey butter BBQ was a sweet and oddly creamy BBQ that I thoroughly enjoyed. Not too sweet with that authentic vinegary zip on the tail end of every bite. The wings came with celery and blue cheese/ranch; it was quite the messy affair, but enjoyed every bite of it.
The drinks were so so, but they had special bar shots which we partook in. Each shot was a dollar, and they had a variety of tasty combos to choose from. Their beer selection was disappointingly sparse, but I’m not a beer drinker, so I didn’t care. Our waiter was a ton of fun, and we joked back and forth through out the meal. He was one of those guys who, catch him on a bad day and he’s just an over-bearing jerk, but on this day, his touch was right on, and he really enhanced our experience.
All in all, I’d say this was my best Buffalo Wing experience to date, though I do have to go back to the Anchor Bar just to make sure :). If you’re in the Buffalo area, and you feel like Wings on a night when there is not rush and you can make it out to East Aurora, go to Bar-Bill Tavern and have yourself a messy and tasty evening.