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Jun 17, 2011
12:17 PMBe There
Dining al fresco at 31 Club
Outdoor dining is one of the perks of Buffalo's summer season. We're fortunate enough to have our choice of al fresco meal options. A lakeside hot dog, a sidewalk cocktail, or a fine meal under the starlit sky, can all be found once the steamy days of summer roll into WNY.
A recent outdoor luncheon was particularly pleasant, taking place on the well-appointed patio of the stunning 31 Club. Truly one of the most beautiful restaurants in our region, 31 Club may best known for its well-dressed clientele and luxurious bar area, but its patio is no less noteworthy.
Despite it being a mid-week lunch, service was as attentive as one would expect from a fine dining establishment on any given Saturday night. Our table's dining needs were met before we even noticed we had any—glasses replenished, utensils replaced, etc. Lunching on white linen on the patio of the historic North Johnson restaurant was a treat.
The summer menu provides a lot of choices, with dishes that would appeal to someone looking for a light lunch or something more satisfying. Non-alcoholic beverages offer a nice change from soda or coffee; we sampled the pomegranate cucumber cooler. It was very sweet, but the musky undertones of the refreshing cucumber made the drink unique and somewhat addictive. Another option was a mint lemonade or limeade.
Our table began with 31's version of arancini—which was hearty, flavorful, and well prepared—and fries. The frites, cooked in hot duck fat and sprinkled with truffle salt were perfectly prepared and utterly delicious. We would have loved a little housemade aioli as an accompaniment, but the fries were so perfectly cooked they truly didn’t require any dipping sauce at all.
The menu offers a large variety of lunch options, from appetizers and salads to sandwiches and heartier entrees. We opted to keep it simple after having devoured our appetizers, so a meatball “burger”, chicken milanese sandwich, and chopped salad were ordered. The meatball burger was comprised of a large meatball, smashed flat and served on bread. It may not sound appealing, but its exterior was crispy, its interior tender and the flavor was spot-on. The chicken sandwich, which could have been dull, was enhanced by a vinegar-y salad that lay between the the crispy breaded breast and the roll. The chopped salad was filling—loaded with avocado, bacon, and chucks of cheese. I enjoyed that it was dressed with a balsamic dressing rather than the traditional (and heavier) creamy bleu or “ranch” style offered at many other restaurants.
Overall, the food was well prepared and satisfying, and, as mentioned, the service was nearly perfect, but the real star of the show was 31's beautiful patio, which is in full bloom and appears to be open for lunch, dinner, happy hour, and brunch on Sundays (with buy one get one free Bloody Mary’s and mimosas this may be the perfect place for Father’s Day!).
People are often concerned about parking downtown, but it was a breeze with the restaurant's two private lots and optional valet. A sign on our table noted that on Thursday’s the patio offers guests complimentary hors d’oeurves and live music, so stop down after work some time and see for yourself. Surrounded by the city’s splendor, nestled away on one of Buffalo’s quiet little side streets, al fresco dining at 31 is a lovely experience.
31 North Johnson Pk., Buffalo. 332-3131