I was a little upset when I found out that Sample Restaurant was moving out of Allentown. I live right down the street and they offered a more upscale dining option that really can’t be found in the immediate area. It was one of those restaurants that I wish I had visited more often, I enjoyed the atmosphere and it was a great spot for a drink and a couple small bites at the bar. We had a few smaller meals there but never properly reviewed it ourselves. So, when I learned that Chef Adam Goetz and his wife Jennifer were going to be opening a new restaurant called Craving, I was excited to follow their progress as they made the move to Hertel Ave.
In a slight change from their old tapas theme, the restaurant now offers pizzas, freshly made pastas and several full entrees (most of which can be ordered as small plates). In addition, there are “Chef Cravings” every night, specials that change based on what’s fresh and in season. We decided to visit last Saturday because Alli was drawn in by one of the night’s specials (Iberico ham) posted on facebook (more on that later).
- Restaurant Type: Semi Fine Dining, Wine Bar
- Cuisine: Italian, Small Plates
- Location: North Buffalo
- Prices: Appetizers $8-15, Entrees $15-35, Small Plates $10-20
The atmosphere inside is very reminiscent of Sample, the design is modern but still casual. They have a large covered patio but we decided to dine inside to escape the humidity. The beer and cocktail list has improved with the move, not that it wasn’t good before but there’s a large selection now. Their beer selection in bottles is really impressive and their draft selection is smaller then most but carefully selected. When our lovely server mentioned they had the 90 minute Dogfish IPA on draft, I ordered it immediately.
We have mentioned this before and probably should point it out here again…as we have continued to write this blog over the years, we have come to know many of the great chefs in Buffalo. Adam Goetz is one of those chefs. That said, we still try to maintain our objectivity and go into our meals as we always have, as a regular couple who would never expect any special treatment. We believe that the meal we are about to describe is on par with what anyone else walking into Craving can expect.
Our meal started off with a good sampling of their appetizers. We ordered the Fried Chicken Dinner ($8), Poutine with Beef ($11), Bone Marrow ($12) and Iberico Ham ($15). The Fried Chicken Dinner included two pieces of fried chicken on top of greens and cheddar grits drizzled with truffle honey. The sweetness from the honey gave the different components an interesting flavor contrast. It cut through the savory grits, lessened the kick from the bitter greens and created a ‘chicken and waffles’ flavor profile with the fried chicken. The dish wasn’t that large but enough for two to share as an appetizer. It was delicious and we could have easily eaten another serving. The Poutine included a large pile of fresh cut fries, topped with melted cheese, a generous amount of beef and of course, gravy. This was a favorite dish of ours from Sample and we started devouring it before we remembered to take a picture. The serving is very generous and can easily satisfy a few people. I would have been fine with a little less beef (as crazy as that sounds), but we still gladly finished the entire order.
The Bone Marrow appetizer was one of their specials that night and was one of my favorites of the meal overall. It was one of the most simple dishes we ordered, three large bones filled with plenty of marrow. The marrow spread wonderfully on the toasted pieces of bread and had a wonderful fatty flavor. For those who haven’t tried bone marrow, I like to think of it as meat flavored butter. Who doesn’t love meat flavored butter? The Iberico Ham was another dish that we loved which also happened to be incredibly simple. Served with some toast points, roasted almonds, roasted cauliflower and a cherry chutney, Iberico ham is cured ham produced in Spain from mainly black iberican pigs. It’s not super common in the US and is slightly expensive, but worth every penny. It’s nutty, salty and porky and well, just crazy good. Chef Goetz mentioned he should be getting in a supply on a semi-regular basis. Keep and eye on the specials and if you see if listed, get yourself over there ASAP.
Our next course was the Hanger Steak Special ($30), cooked medium rare and served with fingerling potatoes, creamed spinach and topped with dehydrated crispy onions. The steak was cooked beautifully and Alli and I fought over the last piece. I especially loved the preparation of crispy onions which had a great crunch and intense onion flavor.
Our final course involved two small plate portions of house made pastas, their Campanelle ($11) and Ricotta Gnocchi ($10). At this point in the meal, Alli and I could barely eat anything more but these pasta dishes were so good that we pushed ourselves as far as we could go. The Ricotta Gnochhi was one the best gnocchi dishes I’ve had in a long time; the pasta was light and creamy and covered in a rich brown butter cream sauce. The pieces of kale provided a little bit of bitterness to offset the sweet, heavy sauce and walnuts added a great crunch. The Campanelle was also wonderful. The dish had a light garlic sauce mixed with plenty of sausage that added some fat and another layer of flavor. Both dishes held up very well when I ate the leftovers the following day at work.
Overall, the meal we had at Craving was really fantastic and I was happy to see that our high expectations were met. One of the most appealing aspects of Craving is there is something for everyone, they offer one of the most unique lunch menus in the city and what looks like a great Sunday Brunch. If you’d like keep it on the cheap, they have plenty of appetizers, pizzas and almost every entree can be ordered as a small portion. I’m sad that Allentown lost a good restaurant, but I feel better about it after seeing what Craving has added to the scene on Hertel Ave.