At this point, I think everyone knows that Alli and I are huge fans of Elm Street Bakery. It’s in our top five favorite places to eat in Western New York and we half jokingly/seriously tell people that it’s a reason we would love to eventually live to East Aurora. The location is beautiful and it arguably has the best baked goods AND pizza (yes, we went there) in Western New York.
We didn’t think it was possible for the restaurant to get any better, but when we found out that Chef Brad Rowell (formerly the Sous Chef at Park Country Club) was hired to start a new dinner service program, we were beyond excited. We’ve known Brad for a couple years now. He’s an incredibly talented chef (and one of the nicest guys ever) and it was a matter of time before he’d leave the country club world to do something in the public eye.
Dinner service just started a couple days prior, and even though there hasn’t been any big formal announcements, the restaurant was pretty full at 6:30pm. We opted to sit at their long wooden bar and watch the staff prepare meals right in front of us. It’s the best seat in the house. Since nearly every dish on their dinner menu is cooked in their large wood fire oven, you’ll get to watch most of the action right in front of you. To handle the new dinner service, the restaurant increased their host and wait staff. Considering they just began offering a completely new style of service only a couple of days prior, our service went very smoothly.
Since the menu is so new, we actually didn’t have a chance to plan our dinner ahead of time like we normally do. Aside from a sneak peak on instagram, we had no idea what they were offering. The current menu is mostly small plates that are ideal for sharing and a couple entrees and yes, you can still order their awesome pizza. Since this is still a bakery, most of the dishes incorporate bread. Naturally, we decided to order a little bit of everything and thankfully brought along our SLR to capture the magic.
We started off with their E.A. Sourdough Bread and cured sea salt butter ($4), an order of Culatello ($9) with cabbage, lemon oil, saba (grape syrup) and Bacon Wrapped Dates ($6) that were filled with blue cheese and apples. The bread was awesome, which was no surprise. Warm and slightly crispy from the wood-fire oven with a side of perfectly soft butter really put it over the top. I’d gladly sit at the bar and just eat a loaf of their bread if that was all they offered. The plate of culatello included a delicious combination of salty cured pork, crunchy cabbage and sweet syrup. The bacon wrapped Medjool dates were incredibly decadent. Crispy warm bacon combined with blue cheese and poached apple filling was intense, in a good way. The dish is so sweet that it could basically be served as a dessert. An order comes with six, which is more then enough for two people.
The next round brought an order of Bone Marrow ($9), some Mac and Cheese ($8) and an order of the Wild Mushroom Tartine ($11). The mac and cheese was still bubbling when it was served to us. The herb bread crumb topping was crunchy from it’s time in the oven but underneath it was creamy and smooth. The wild mushrooms on the tartine (aka an open sandwich) were thick and very savory, the texture was perfect. The bone marrow was a bit thicker then what we’ve seen elsewhere. The flavor was still great and it was incredibly easy to spread on toast, but it didn’t exactly have that ‘meat butter’ texture.
For our main entrees, we tried their house-made Boudin Blanc ($9) and Wood-Roasted Half Chicken ($21). The Boudin was insanely delicious, a rich flavored sausage which, according to Chef Brad, was a combination of pork, veal and a lot of cream. If it’s ever on the menu again, I’m ordering it without question. I recommend you do the same. The chicken was cooked perfectly, the skin was crispy but the meat inside was juicy and tender. Served with a large portion leek bread pudding and carrots, it could easily feed two.
We originally planned on skipping dessert but Chef Luci Levere quickly changed our minds. We ordered the Wood Fired Galette which was topped with blackberries and apples. We were also lucky enough to try the baked flour-less chocolate mousse (the last one of the night) that was topped with earl grey whipped cream. Both outstanding, which isn’t a surprise coming from Lucy. After eight dishes, we were pretty confident that we had hit our limit but these desserts were too good to pass up.
Elm Street has only been doing dinner service for a couple days, so there’s a good chance that the menu will evolve over time and could look completely different in three months (or even less). We know that they are currently sourcing the majority of their vegetables AND meal locally and Chef Rowell is going to continue to experiment with making sausage and cured/fermenting meats down the road. We also were privileged to hear about some special future plans that will make Western New York foodies VERY excited, but more on that at a later time. We went into this meal already excited and expecting something awesome, somehow the staff managed to exceed those expectations.
In last year’s “Worst of 2013 Podcast”, Christa and I talked about the Southtowns missing Daniel’s and their incredible track record of quality dining. Elm Street isn’t fine dining, but it looks like Southtowners might finally have another incredible dinner option that they can throw in the faces of the city dwellers and Northtowners.