A friend of mine from Pittsburgh recently made the trip up to Buffalo for a long weekend. Every morning, I’d wake up to find her gone. She was sneaking around the corner to Ashker’s while I slept in.
If you’ve never been: Ashker’s is a cafe and bistro at 1002 Elmwood Avenue. I’d recommended it to my friend as a spot to check out while I was at work. Aside from bottomless coffee, I figured she’d enjoy the wide selection of cold-pressed juices and smoothies. And she did. But the reason she kept going back was because of the pleasant atmosphere, along with the friendly and engaging staff and patrons. While I was asleep, she was out making friends. She is still lamenting the fact that she couldn’t make it to the drum circle on Sunday.
With her visit still fresh in my mind, I decided to stop in at Ashker’s after a long day at work to grab a bite and unwind. Previously, I’d only ordered off of their (awesome and expansive) breakfast menu, so I was curious to see what they were cooking up for the dinner crowd.
I started off with one of the weekly specials, the “E Train Express,” which blended together orange, yogurt, raspberry, cherry, peach and pineapple into an extra-creamy, deep red smoothie. It was even better than it sounds: not overly sweet, but very rich and flavorful. Like I said before, Ashker’s offers a ton of smoothie and juice options. I opted for something fruitier, but there are veggie-based options as well, along with smoothies fortified with nutritional supplements for the health-conscious. I’d recommend the “Spiced Carrot” juice as well, which blends together carrot, apple and ginger.
I resisted the urge to drink my whole smoothie so that I could pair it with my dinner. I ordered the “Greek Grilled Chicken Salad,” a bed of mixed greens topped with grilled chicken breast, tomato, cucumber, onion, Kalamata olives, banana peppers, feta cheese, pita and Greek dressing. Everything was fresh and crisp and the portions were generous. I ended up tearing the salad apart so I could sample each element on its own. The chicken was grilled just right: crispy on the outside, moist on the inside. The tomato slices were ripe and plump: I salted and ate them alone. The olives were flavorful, but not overpowering. The banana peppers may have been the best part, adding a much-needed zing to the greens.
Once I cleared my plate, I took it up to the counter and started snapping pictures. The owner was kind enough to offer me a skewer of fresh fruit while I took photos of barista Nene Hales working behind the counter, taking orders and blending juices. It was hard not to eavesdrop while she waited on customers, and it was nice to hear that she was on first-name basis with many of the people coming through, whether they were grabbing juice or picking up from the dairy share. I could certainly see why my out-of-town friend had felt so immediately welcome at Ashker’s. I’m a big fan of the menu, but it’s the atmosphere that keeps people coming back, and Ashker’s has done a great job cultivating the comfortable, neighborhood cafe vibe.
- There’s tons of work on the walls from local artist Max Collins. If you don’t know him by name, you’ve probably seen his street art around town.
- There’s always stuff going on in the building. I already mentioned the drum circle, but I’ve seen everything from jazz bands to exercise classes going on the in adjoining room as I walked by.
- Also already mentioned this too, but can’t stress it enough: bottomless coffee, and good coffee at that.