Late Night Dining
By Ann Blask
All photos in this article by Jim Bush.
Dinner at midnight? Appetizers at 2 a.m.? Late night dining isn’t only for the in-crowds of Barcelona and Madrid. Buffalo too, offers late-night, as well as all-night fare for those with a case of the midnight munchies, or for the young-at-heart, who often begin their evening when others are on their way home.
There’s a reason for the long-standing popularity of Mother’s. It serves up exactly what people want, not only in the food department, but in ambience, and attitude as well.
Tucked in a narrow alley between Virginia and Allen streets, the mood is always up-tempo. Even on weeknights the bar is usually standing-room only and every table in the intimate, softly lit dining room, is occupied from early evening until well past midnight.
It is one of the few restaurants that serves until 3 a.m. be it a snack or a full-course meal. Who’s eating dinner at that hour? “Lots of people,” says chef Matt Conroy.
“Performers, other restaurateurs, people who work late, and people who simply enjoy a late supper. We’re still serving huge 24 ounce steaks at 2 a.m.”
Owner Mark Supples, may have created a niche with the late hours, but that’s only half the story. Good food is what keeps people coming back.
In addition to the standard menu, which has a half dozen appetizers, salads, and a good variety of entrees, there are at least that many daily specials. You’ll find the customary variety of meat, seafood, and pasta selections, but read the fine print. Here, the preparation and accompaniments are the all-important words. Steaks, for example, are served with cheddar and scallion mashed potatoes and a special salsa made with red, orange, and yellow bell peppers, and a pablano pepper tossed in for added zing.
The Center Cut Pork Chop is stuffed with a blue cheese/walnut mixture and served with bacon braised cabbage (see recipe following).
Among the favorite appetizers are Southwestern Shrimp Fritters, Chinese Barbecued Baby Back Ribs, and oystersraw, stuffed, Rockefeller style. “No matter how they’re prepared, everybody seems to love them,” says Conroy.
Daily specials, he says, often depend on his whim. If he is in the mood for Italian, you might find Potato Gnocchi with a tomato-basil cream sauce. One of his seafood creations is a Chilean Sea Bass Fillet with shitake-scallion rice and a pineapple-mango sauce.
A not-to-be-passed-up treat from the daily menu is the Duck and Sausage Cassolet, a classic French stew of lamb, duck confit, pork sausage and white beans (this menu favorite is now being revived after many months of unavailability).
Though there is no one “signature dish,” the Loaded Mesclun Salad, which has been on the menu for years, is one of the standouts. Made with French baby greens, it is topped with roasted beets, portabello mushrooms, fried leeks, and gorgonzola cheese.
It’s particularly popular in the warm weather, when the attached, awning-covered patio is in use.
Beautifully landscaped, with flowers, shrubs, and lots of hanging plants, it’s the perfect place to sip your wine, enjoy a meal that’s sure to be delicious, and savor a summer evening.
33 Virginia Place
(between Virginia and Allen)
open daily from 5 p.m.
Stuffed Pork Chop with
Blue Cheese Walnut Stuffing
5 lb crumbled blue cheese
1 large onion, diced
3 ribs celery, diced
3 cups walnuts, chopped
2 tbsp black pepper
3 tbsp thyme
1 cup breadcrumbs
Saute onion and celery until soft. Add to other ingredients. Make a slit in a thick, center cut port chop and stuff. Brown on both sides in olive oil, transfer to a baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes at 350. Serve with Bacon Braised Cabbage.
Bacon Braised Cabbage
8 slices bacon, diced
1 onion diced
2 tsp olive oil
1 med. red cabbage, thickly sliced
1 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup water
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp cloves, ground
Cook bacon in olive oil until crisp. Add onion, cook until soft. Add cabbage, cook five minutes. Add all liquid, sugar, and seasonings. Place in covered pan and bake at 350 for 3 hours.
If you haven’t been to the Rendezvous in years, you might be surprised. Absolutely nothing has changed! The old wooden booths in the back room are still there, with generations of names and hearts carved in for posterity. The old jukebox in the barroom has been updated, but the old-fashioned phone booth hasn’t. And yes, it is still dark, intimate, and unassuming.
Originally a speakeasy in the 1930s, this west-side haunt remained, for years, somewhat a private club. Ring the buzzer, then hope they let you in. When Tim O’Leary took over five years ago, things became a bit more traditional, though you’ll still find a random collection of beads and other Mardi Gras type trinkets hanging from the mirror and ceiling in the bar.
It’s not surprising, since chef Dunbar Berdine’s menu has a Creole theme.
His specialty is Gumbo, made from scratch, with chicken, shrimp, and Andouille sausage, which he has specially made at Spars, a local butcher.
The Andouille sausage is also a key ingredient with Red Beans and Rice, one of the menu mainstays. Some of his other New Orleans style dishes include Blackened Catfish, Jambalaya, with chicken, ham, and shrimp, and Almond Crusted Shrimp, deep-fried with a coating of beer and crushed almonds, and served with a Creolaise sauce for dipping.
The big mover, which is listed as an appetizer, but is a popular choice for lunch, dinner, or late evening, is Crab Cakes, made with lots of crab and very little bread crumbs
Rendezvous chef Dunbar Berdine
But even the Crab Cakes get upstaged in the summertime, when the Raw Bar on the backyard patio is open, serving up ice-cold clams and oysters on the half-shell. This charming little courtyard has a Key West charm, with two pin oak trees forming a canopy, lots of climbing vines, and small booths and tables tucked along the brick terraced walkway.
520 Niagara Street
Mon-Fri noon 4 a.m.
Sat-Sun 5 p.m. 4 a.m.
Chicken, Sausage & Shrimp Gumbo
4 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup flour
1 medium onion, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
2 red & green bell peppers, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp gumbo file
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
6 quarts chicken stock
1 lb cooked chicken, diced
1 lb Andouille sausage, diced
1 lb shrimp, pealed and deveined
Heat oil in 12 quart stockpot. Add flour and whisk continuously until brown. Add vegetables and cook until onions are translucent. Add spices and Worcestershire sauce, stir & simmer two minutes. Add chicken, sausage, shrimp & stock. Bring to a boil, then simmer until it thickens. Serve over white rice.
Maryland Style Crab Cakes
1 lb lump crabmeat
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup diced red peppers
3 TB lemon juice
1 TB Tabasco
2 TBS chopped parsley
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients, trying not to break up the crab meat. If the mix is dry, add mayonnaise, if wet, add crumbs. Mold into cakes and either bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or pan sauté in clarified butter.
A landmark restaurant at the ever-busy corner of Elmwood and Allen, the Towne Restaurant’s clientele is as interesting as its menu. Young and old, well-dressed and jean-clad, everyone seems perfectly at home at his lively, all-night eatery. Aside from an hour and half down time, from 5:30 a.m.- 7 a.m., they serve round-the clock.
Even though the menu offers separate selections for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the lists are nothing more than categories. All foods are served at all times. As one waitress explained, “At one table, I might serve breakfast, a full-course dinner, a salad, and a dessert.”
Dino Scouras of the Towne
The best advice if you’re headed for the Towne is to have a plan. If you want one of the enormous Souvlaki meals they are famous for, you may not have room for the incredible rice pudding, which most people will tell you, with closed eyes and a satisfying moan, “is the best in the world.” So, you may want to begin your meal with dessert, and order just a lunch-size portion of food.
Though the restaurant serves everything from burgers to seafood, steaks, and pasta (Pasta Broccoli is the favorite), there is a definite Greek slant to the menu. Not surprising, since the Scouras family, who owns it, emigrated from Greece in the early 50s.
Brothers Peter and George, began their restaurant careers cooking hot dogs at Ted’s. After a few years, and with the help of family and friends, they opened Towne Red Hots, which evolved into what is now the current restaurant. “They had cousins, godparents, and friends all helping out,” says George’s son Dino, who along with brother Paul, now manage the business. The switch from hot dogs to Greek specialties was a happenstance.
Noticing that everyone in the place was Greek, one customer casually remarked that he’d like some souvlaki for lunch, instead of his usual hot dog.
“Tomorrow we will make souvlaki for you,” said George. And they did. Not only did the customer enjoy it, it became an instant hit with other diners in the restaurant that day. It has since become their hallmark dish.
Made with beef, chicken, or lamb, you can have a souvlaki breakfast, with eggs, home fries and toast, or as a lunch or dinner entrée, served with salad, pita bread and Greek Potatoes. A similar favorite, is Gyro (pronounced yee-ro), made with ground beef and lamb, and flavored with Greek spices. Other Greek specialties include Mousaka, a casserole layered with eggplant and beef, and Psari Plaki, fish baked in a tomato and onion marinara sauce. For a starter, or a light lunch, try the Ovgolemeno Soup, or as most people refer to it, “The lemon/chicken soup.” Make with chicken, rice, fresh lemon, and egg yolks, it is a delightful change from ordinary chicken noodle soup.
All the Greek dishes are from original family recipes. “The Baklava was my paternal grandmother’s recipe. The rice pudding from my maternal grandmother,” says Dino. “I remember when I was a child, watching my grandmother make it at home, then my mother bringing huge pans of it to the restaurant in our station wagon.”
I tried to get the recipe, but Dino pleaded for mercy, saying the family would disown him if he gave it to me. He did, however, agree to sharing the marinade recipe for their famous souvlaki.
Allen at Elmwood
open daily, 7 a.m. 5:30 a.m.
1 gallon vegetable oil
1/2 cup granulated garlic
1/2 cup salt
1 cup Greek Oregano
(not ordinary oregano)
1/4 cup black pepper
2 cups lemon juice
Mix together. Pour over cubed meat and refrigerate for 2-3 days. The longer you soak the meat, the more tender it will be. If the meat is covered in the marinade, it will keep in the refrigerator for a week. Put meat on skewers, alternating with slices of onion and green pepper, and grill.
(bottled is fine)
1/2 cup vinegar
Ann Blask is a freelance writer and partner of Visions Travel in Orchard Park.
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