Pub Fare
By Ann Blask

Some well-crafted pints at Pearl Street Grill.
Photos: Jim Bush.
At one time, the typical fare in an English pub was “a porter and a pie.” Things may have changed in last few hundred years, but, surprisingly, not that much. Porter, an old-fashioned English ale, is still around, and much like the cold meat pies of yesterday, today’s pubs still serve tasty, popular foods to enjoy with your favorite drink.


Once an old warehouse, the spacious Pearl Street Grill & Brewery, on the corner of Pearl and Seneca, is a beer-lovers delight, with lots of homemade brews, and some equally tempting food to go along with them.

High ceilings showing off exposed wooden beams, and red brick walls are a reminder of the restaurant’s history. But the mood is very much today, with oversized windows, upholstered booths, and various size tables, well spaced for comfort.

The focal point above the bar is a chalkboard featuring “Today’s Beer Menu.” Since micro brews, made in-house, are their specialty, the selection changes daily. A typical assortment usually includes a malty brown, a light blonde, an English ale, a dark red, and a heavy stout. If you can’t choose just one, you can order a Sampler Tray, which includes small glasses of six varieties.

Better yet, if Head Brewer, Paul Koehler isn’t busy, he can give you the run-down, from ingredients to flavor, of each of his creations. Koehler, a self-taught brewmaster, can whip up anything from a roasty-tasting Porter to Kolsch, a German ale traditionally brewed in Cologne. The long-standing favorites include Seneca Saaz, a light ale, Trainwreck, a moderately sweet amber ale, and Lake Effect Pale Ale, a bittersweet, India Pale Ale, with a distinct hop bitterness. For a heavier taste, you might opt for the Canal Street Stout, a dry, Irish Stout with a heavy dose of roasted barley.

There are other drinks as well, including home-brewed Root Beer, (absolutely delicious) and a menu board of “Wines by the Glass,” which usually include California varieties of Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Grigio, and Zinfandel.

Now to the food. I took the server’s advice. “If you like quesadillas, I guarantee you these are the best on earth.” I can’t guarantee the “earth” part, but I did agree that they were outstanding. Made with a cheddar-jalapeno tortilla, they are filled with smoked chicken and served with a Cuervo Salsa.

The lunch and dinner menus incorporate many of the popular beers into some of the recipes. The Beer Braised Pot Roast, for example, turns out fork-tender with the dousing of Seneca Saaz. Even the Bratwurst is braised in beer for added flavor.

Other menu staples include salads, sandwiches, pasta, steaks, and seafood, along with the all-time pub favorite, Fish and Chips. The fish, of course, is beer battered.

On the lighter side there are some tasty pizza choices. The Broccoli and Cheddar pizza is laced with ricotta and diced tomatoes. The Grilled Steak pizza is spiced up with carmelized onions, spinach, and crumbled bleu cheese. Or how about a simple White Pizza, topped with olive oil, onions and fresh tomatoes.

Pearl Street interior.
Photos: Jim Bush.
The special Sunday Brunch menu is also a hit. Along with the usual bacon, eggs, and toast, they have some interesting omelets, a breakfast burrito, with all the zesty condiments, and some great honey-wheat pancakes.

Because of their close proximity to HSBC Arena, the restaurant, in conjunction with the Buffalo Sabres, features a Pre-Game Party, for selected games. The party package includes game tickets, two beverages and a buffet. Of course, if you want to stop in for an after-game snack and a beer, that’s okay too.

Pearl Street Grill and Brewery
76 Pearl Street
open daily 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.


One of South Buffalo’s most popular pubs, The Blackthorn offers up everything a good pub should: Cozy atmosphere, good food, plenty of beer on tap, and an ideal mecca for socializing with old friends, or meeting new ones.

Named after the Blackthorn Club, a fraternal organization that began meeting more than 75 years ago at Hagan’s Tavern on Elk Street, the club’s philosophy is “To promote a warm, friendly atmosphere and provide a place for all to socialize.”

Their symbol, the blackthorn, is the traditional Irish walking stick, or shillelagh, a stiff and thorny branch from the blackthorn tree. Restaurant owner, Danny Nostrant, a proud member of the exclusive club, is part of the annual contingent marching in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. They’re an easy group to spot, dressed in black coats and top hats, white scarves and gloves, and each carrying a blackthorn club.

That feeling of camaraderie certainly carries over to the restaurant. A handsome oak bar, with small side tables along one wall, gives an inviting look to the chatter-filled front room. The dinning room, with lots of wood trim, and lovely dark papered walls, has a homey feel that keeps patrons coming back.

The Blackthorne
Photos: Jim Bush.
Though the menu changes seasonally, some favorites are mainstays year-round.

The Irish Beer Cheese Soup, a creation of chef Don Kumro, is a keeper. So too, is the Hunter Stew, made with grilled chicken or steak, and sauteed mushrooms, tomatoes, and onions in a garlic wine sauce. Along with Irish favorites, Kumro and co-chef, Kieth Reger, have plenty of other menu choices, including Southwest Chicken Salad, an Oriental Vegetable Stir Fry, a Cuban sandwich, made with roasted pork, turkey, and Canadian Bacon, and, of course, the usual finger-food favorites, such as Nachos, Chicken Wings, and Irish Stuffed Peppers, a decidedly un-Irish creation of hot banana peppers, stuffed with a homemade garlic-herb, five cheese mixture, then topped with a marinara sauce.

In addition to appetizers, sandwiches, and salads, the dinner menu includes a dozen or more entrees from seafood to steak. Though a standard lunch menu is available, they also offer a Lunch Buffet, Monday-Friday. Included in the buffet are salads, soups and two hot entrée choices.

To sip with lunch or dinner, or for one of those pop-in-for-a-drink occasions, the bar menu is equally varied. Besides the standard brands of domestic and imported bottled beers, draught selections include Guinness Stout, Harp Lager, Bass Ale, and Honey Brown. The specialty Micro-brews include George Killian Irish Red, Sam Adams Stock Ale, and Sam Adams Cream Stout.

The headliner on the whiskey shelf is Middleton Irish Whiskey from County Cork. A rare and somewhat pricey treat, since only a small quantity is made each year, every bottle is numbered by the distiller.

Not surprising, St. Patrick’s Day is party-time at the Blackthorn. They will have an Irish singer on Saturday night and Sunday, after the parade. The special dinner for this holiday, as you may have guessed, will be corned beef and cabbage.

The Blackthorn
2134 Seneca St.
open daily 11:30 a.m. - midnight


At Hennesseys, an Irish pub which opened last summer, authenticity is the byword. The menu, as well as the setting, might make you think you’re in Dublin or Cork.

They have Fish-n-chips, of course, as well as Traditional Irish Stew, Corned Beef and Cabbage, and Shepherd’s Pie, made with ground sirloin and veggies and topped with mashed potatoes and grated Irish Cheddar Cheese.

Another tasty option you don’t find on many menus is Boxty. Derived from the Irish word, “bacstai,” these are potato pancakes wrapped around various fillings, such as seafood with a sour cream, lemon butter sauce and beef sauteed in Guinness and onions with a creamy horseradish sauce. Their specialty is Irish Smoked Salmon, which they prepare in variety of ways. You might choose the salmon as a starter, served with capers and spring onions on toast, or the Salmon Bisque, a thick, hearty soup with salmon chunks. You’ll also find a grilled salmon sandwich, and a salmon fillet dinner, served with a cream parsley sauce.

Photos: Jim Bush.
Another favorite is the Traditional Irish Breakfast-Big Fry, which is a lunch/dinner/anytime staple. It comes with brown bread, eggs, bangers, rashers, black and white pudding, and fried tomatoes.

Much of the food, including the brown bread, rashers and salmon, are shipped from Ireland.

What truly sets Hennessey’s apart, however, is the décor. The entire restaurant was designed and built in Waterford, Ireland, then shipped to Western New York. Nine workers were sent along to fashion the “Country Grocer Style Pub.” The fixtures and bric-a-brac, the courthouse benches from Tipperary, and even the cozy “snugs,” for more comfortable seating, are part of the pub experience.

The drink menu is also pure Irish pub. Imported draught selections include Murphy’s Amber, Guinness, Harp and Bass. There are plenty of Irish whiskeys and single malt Scotch brands along with some interesting Irish coffees. Rather than Traditional Irish Coffee, you might want to try the Nutty Irishman, made with Bailey’s, Frangelico, and whipped cream.

Maintaining the lively spirit of a true Irish Pub, there is music on Friday and Saturday nights, (Irish music, of course,) and for special occasions, like St. Patrick’s Weekend, there will be Irish dancers and bagpipers as well.

Hennessey’s Irish Pub & Restaurant
7530 Transit Road
open daily 11 a.m. - 12 midnight
Fri-Sat 11 a.m. - 1 a.m.

Ann Blask is a consultant and freelance writer from Orchard Park


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