Food Porn: Schwabl’s

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On a cold, rainy, WNY day one of the best ways to warm both the body and soul is some good ole fashioned comfort food.  This weekends weather put me in one of these comfort food craving moods so I did a little brainstorm of places I could go for a bit of salvation.  Schwabl’s was the place that immediately popped into my head.  Now I have to admit, the reason I thought of Schwabl’s was not because I am a regular, but rather I remembered watching Anthony Bourdain enjoy a great meal there on his hit show, No Reservations (airs Monday nights on The Travel Channel).  The rustic and warm restaurant has been continuously serving homemade food, including their “world famous beef on weck” to satisfied patrons since 1837.  With a track record like that, I figured my choice couldn’t backfire on me, and my date and I set off down the 90 to West Seneca.

When you walk into Schwabl’s, there are two things that immediately hit the senses.  The first is the antique and rustic decor of the place.  The chairs and tables are scratched up wood that looks as if it has been there since they served their first customer in 1837.  The decorations are dated, yet comforting in a grandmother’s house (more on grandmother’s to come) sort of way.  The kitchen is old fashioned and the staff is dressed in old time diner work clothing.

The antiquated setting of Schwabl's

The antiquated setting of Schwabl's

The second sense that is hit is your sense of smell.  As soon as you walk in it was like hitting a wall of slow roasted roast beef.  For me it was kind of like walking into my grandmothers house on Christmas only to be engulfed by the smell of slow cooked meats, which immediately puts me into my ‘happy place.’  I guess I was hoping that this would occur walking in, knowing that they specialize in beef on weck, and I was not disappointed.  While being seated you walk past the bar area which includes the beef slicing area.  You can tell that great care is taken by the staff to make the beef on weck consumption a special experience.

Cutting the beef for the world famous beef on weck.

Cutting the beef for the world famous beef on weck.

After being seated by the extremely friendly staff, it did not take much time for us to decide what to order for dinner.  However before diving into the restaurants specialty we opted for an appetizer of a few cups of soup.  I went with the potato soup, while my date decided on the chicken vegetable.

Chicken vegetable front left & potatoe back right.

Chicken vegetable front left & potato back right.

I dove into my potato soup after the server explained to me that they do not use cream in order to achieve the creaminess of the soup.  After tasting it, it was obvious that it wasn’t needed.  The soup was thick, creamy, and of course had large chunks of potatoes.  It was very lightly seasoned (I had to add a bit of salt and pepper becuase I am a salt freak) in order to allow the taste of the potato to shine through.  My date also enjoyed her chicken vegetable soup.  It too was flavorful with large chunks of vegetables, yet only lightly seasoned.  It was great way to start off a comforting meal.

For the main course, we each decided on the same thing: the beef on weck dinner.  The dinner came with a beef on weck cooked to your to your liking, your choice of either coleslaw or pickled beets, and a choice of potato (mashed w/gravy, german style, or french fries) for $10.50.  We both elected to go with the pickled beets and mashed w/gravy.  We also saw many people opting for just the beef on weck ($8.50) and purchasing a cup of soup or different side to go along with it.  Even though the wait was not long at all, it seemed like an eternity to us with the smell of the beef torturing us from just behind our table.

The beef on weck dinner served with mashed w/gravy & beets.

The beef on weck dinner served with mashed w/gravy & beets.

I suppose I will start by describing the side dishes in hopes that words will come to me to describe the beef on weck.  The homemade pickled beets were deliciously sweet and served cold and were a perfect compliment to to warm, salty main star of the dinner.  The potatoes were also a great side dish.  They were a bit chunky and only lightly seasoned, however the gravy made them out of this world.  The gravy is made several times throughout the day using the drippings of the slow roasted beef.  I beleive the words “I without a doubt would drink this” came out of my mouth.

And now for the beef on weck.  I guess I should start this with a little bit of a disclaimer.  I have certainly had my fair share of beef on weck, yet I did not grow up in WNY.  I moved here for college and have continued to stay up to this day.  Therefore I did not grow up on beef on weck, nor did I know what it was until about 6 years ago.  That being said, this was without a doubt the best beef on weck I have ever had.  It was served perfectly medium rare, which is very important (if you have read my past blogs you know my feelings about overcooked meat).  The beef was juicy and extremely flavorful.  The sandwich passed one of the tell-tale tests of a great beef on weck: my hands were covered in juice after just one bite.  The roll was a little crusty on the outside, and soft on the insde, which if perfect to both soak up the beef juices, yet remain intact so that the sandwhich is edible.  The rolls are made in house on a daily basis and still had the warmth from the oven.  The rolls, which are a vital piece to the beef on weck, were slightly different than any other weck roll I have had.  There were very few caraway seeds, but just enough to give you that familiar taste.  I suspect they do this so that the flavor of the beef truly comes out.  To top it off, I put on some of the hand shaved, fresh horseradish which was like the icing on the cake.  I really hope that words do the sandwich the justice it rightly deserved, but the only way to find out for sure would be to have one yourself.

To be honest I felt a little cliche heading out to a restaurant that I saw on tv, however it couldn’t have turned out better.  The drive out to West Seneca is well worth it even if the only thing you order is the beef on weck.  Add in the extremely friendly staff, the cozy grandmothers house feel and amazing comfort food, Schwabl’s is the perfect place to eat on a cold, WNY fall or winter day.  There is without a doubt a reason that the place has been serving up the same great recipes to people for 172 years.  So Anthony Bourdain, thank you for finding this jewel for me.

Cheers!

Schwabl's on Urbanspoon

2 thoughts on “Food Porn: Schwabl’s

  1. Joe

    Schwabl’s is one of the very best places for beef on weck, but I found them to be overpriced. You can get a sandwich of equal quality at Bar Bill Tavern in East Aurora, or for even less, try Mister Dees on Beach and Maryvale in Cheektowaga, which serves an outstanding medium-rare beef on weck with french fries for about $6.50.

    I think at Scwabl’s, you pay extra for the feeling of stepping into the 1930s or being at grandma’s house, but I can’t argue that the quality of their beef on weck is excellent.

  2. stephen a.

    I have been going to schwabl’s for a long time. I believe my parents first brought me there as a youngster and I am now 67 years old and still going there. I am impressed by the beef on weck and its consistent quality. I generally get the same thing when I go there including the beef and the coleslaw and french fries. The coleslaw is vinegar based and is excellent. I have been bringing my family there as well. I live in the Olean-Allegany NY area and without a doubt this beef is the best I have ever had, hands down.

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