Food Porn: Empire Grill

Alli and I decided to visit Empire Grill during Restaurant Week.  We’ve been meaning to try Empire Grill out for a while but for some reason or another always ended up eating somewhere else.   We didn’t capitalize on as many deals as we had hoped for Restaurant Week but considering our visit to Jojo’s was inspired by their offering and Five Guys happened to fall during the week, I guess we did OK.

After looking over the menu at Empire Grill I realized that I could try out some of their regular menu without going over that 21.11 price point, so I decided to order off the menu while Alli had her heart set on a steak wrapped in bacon and stuffed with crab.  Here’s how our meals turned out..

Quick Info

  • Restaurant Type: Casual Fine Dining, Lounge & Bar
  • Cuisine: Burgers, American
  • Location: North Buffalo
  • Prices: Burgers $9-13, Entrees $13-20

The inside of Empire Grill has the feel of a hip martini lounge, with nice comfortable booths all around, dim lighting and a nice long bar.  I’ve heard the upstairs seating area is pretty nice but unfortunately that was closed off for the evening.  We had made reservations and were seated right away when we walked in on a busy Friday night.  We sat in a comfy booth directly across from the bar, it was a little crowded and loud but it was good for people watching.

One of my new coworkers is a Hertel Ave resident and has eaten at Empire Grill before, so I asked her if she had any suggestions for appetizers and she recommended the chicken, jalapeno and cream cheese fried wontons ($8, pictured above).  These were really good, that is, if you like deep fried things and cream cheese.  The sweet chili dipping sauce was a good combination of sugary sweet with a kick of heat.  That said, there was a lack of any chicken inside the wontons, it was nearly all cream cheese with just a hint of jalapeno.

Like I said above, I decided I wanted to try one of Empire’s burgers for my meal and the Jiggy Burger ($10, pictured above, topped with peanut butter) jumped out at me.  This burger had a layer of peanut butter under some melted cheddar cheese and apple wood smoked bacon.  The first couple of bites were a little weird, I’m not used to the combination of peanut butter and beef but it actually worked.  I probably wouldn’t get the cheddar cheese next time but the actual burger was cooked to a proper medium and had a good juicy flavor.  The french fries unfortunately had that “Burger King” type breading/texture that I can’t stand.

Alli ordered one of their Restaurant Week specials that involved a filet that was wrapped in brown sugar bacon and filled with crab meat.  Unfortunately, it was the low point of our meal.  Alli ordered the steak medium rare and while it actually came through pretty bloody (see in gallery) it had very little flavor and the bacon that wrapped the outside was slimy, fatty and not appealing whatsoever.  The stuffed crab turned out to be a very tiny portion of white creamy stuff that didn’t look or taste appetizing at all.  The entire thing was really disappointing and not worth the $21 price tag.  It was paired with some standard mashed potatoes and large unseasoned and somewhat cold pieces of broccoli that looked like they were just there to take up space on the plate.  I should note that I heated the left over steak the following day and enjoyed it but that was without any bacon or crab.

Sadly this wasn’t the only problem with our meal.  After being seated very quickly and getting our drinks and appetizer in a very timely fashion, the rest of the service that evening was pretty bad.  We ended up waiting almost 45 minutes between finishing our appetizer and entree and noticed that the restaurant was under staffed, which is almost criminal on a Friday night during Restaurant Week.  As we sat there and waited for our entrees to come out we saw an growing crowd around the bar as more and more people waited for tables, however the number of empty tables was also growing at the same time.  Our server did at one point come over and apologize for the long wait and gave us some bread and dipping pesto to hold us over, but it’s still a shame they were so unprepared for the evening.  I would chalk this up to being just a bad night to eat at the restaurant but after getting some responses on twitter, it appears several other people have had poor service with sub-par meals as well.

I’ve heard Empire Grill has a great brunch and I know there are some people who have had positive experiences there, but I don’t see ourselves going back anytime soon.  While the items we had off their “real” menu were OK, the steak was so bad and the service so poor that I’m not rushing back to spend another $60 again.

Photo Gallery:

Empire Grill on Urbanspoon

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