Take One: The Eights
The Eights opened with little fanfare in November of 2010. It was an extended soft opening (as they say in the restaurant industry), allowing the new owners of the site time to adjust to business in the refurbished storefront at 888 Main Street, located along the eastern edge of Allentown. Area designer David Moore’s logo—interlocking 8’s on windows and door—is meant to convey what manager/cook Amelia Schineller describes as a “sense of interconnectivity between all things.”
The Eights crowd is diverse: after-workday professionals, artists, and families sit at tables and surround the bar. Nothing on the menu is over $15 and everything sampled is superb.
Since purchasing the building, affable orthodontist Peter Rouff completely remodeled and refreshed the space, also commissioning a gorgeous, ten-foot-tall mahogany bar, replete with special columns purchased from Buffalo ReUse. The bar serves beer (nine draft choices and bottles), wine, and potent Asian soju; there are no plans at the moment to add hard liquor. The menu, created by self-taught Schineller, is equal parts vegetarian, meaty pub classics, and other familiar fare with surprising embellishments.
Schineller’s background is in marketing; for years she ran a successful boutique in Los Angeles before returning to her hometown. After a family tragedy, she says, “ … cooking healed me. I would not be who I am today without discovering this side of myself. It’s not about the perfect slice of tomato, or the technique; it’s about the emotion and the energy that I’m putting into the food. I want our customers to walk away [feeling] warmth and love.”
All vegans and vegetarians should note this solid addition to the region’s short list of options for nonmeat eaters. Using two extra large pizza stones and a conveyor oven, the kitchen puts out what is, arguably, one of the city’s most hearty and addictive pizzas: shucked leaves of Brussels sprouts mingled with smoked caramelized onions, gruyere cheese, and mozzarella. The mushroom and caramelized onion pizza with rosemary-infused honey drizzled over melted bleu cheese and roasted walnuts may be ordered with or without prosciutto for an additional $2.
There are three daily soup choices, well-crafted salads, and some crunchy goodness in the avocado fries ($6.50). These, battered with a flour and paprika mixture, are served with dipping sauces: red curry, honey mustard, or a spicy roasted jalapeno/cilantro/lime sour cream. There are even more veg-fry choices: jalapeño fries, spicy green bean fries, and corn fritters. The hummus and pumpkin dip are both vegan and served with toasty baguette slices or grilled pita triangles.
Sandwiches are of both meaty and veg persuasions: sliders come as pulled pork or vegan, and the meatloaf is beef with some nice cheddar and vegetables in the mix. The Eights’ “calling card,” a huge hit, is the delightful peanut brittle with whispers of chilies and bacon—a perfect beginning or end to any meal on the menu.
The Eights has a playful streak, best illustrated by the wheel in the front window closest to the bar. It’s at once a curiosity and familiar to those who grew up in Buffalo with radio spots that called for “Freddy’s Special!” at a legendary long-gone establishment farther up Main. Contestants pay $1 per spin and land on a number that designates a task or reward: #4 directs you to tell everyone at the bar a joke, #8 states that the Eights “buys you a drink” (of course), and #6 instructs you to walk down the street to Roxy’s and do a shot with the bartender on duty.
Whether you take a chance and spin the wheel or not is up to you. But for its cozy bar vibe, comfortable dining area, and a crowd that is more classy than brassy, the Eights is a must-try.
The Eights, 888 Main Street, Buffalo 14202, 938-2815