If you live in the city of Buffalo, it seems like there are exciting restaurants opening every week. And there’s even more coming this summer. But for those who live and eat in the burbs and don’t like making a 15 minute car ride into the city, there’s less to look forward to. Blasdell is definitely an area that could use some excitement.
There are a few destination restaurants sprinkled through out the southtowns, but it’s definitely a neglected area. Blasdell, in particular, is mostly a collection of mediocre chain restaurants and lots of pizzerias. Hey, I love pizza just as much (if not more than) the next guy, but occasionally you need to switch it up.
We’ve been following the progress of Black Iron Bystro for what seems like years. At some point in 2013 their facebook account just popped up and I quietly followed along, watching the progress and wondering when this restaurant would be ready to go. I had no idea who was involved or why they were choosing to open on South Park in Blasdell/Lackawanna, but the fact that they were calling themselves a ‘gastropub’ had me interested. Over time, we started to gather more information and found out that Chef Bryan Mecozzi (former Sous Chef of Vera Pizzeria) was going to be in the kitchen and that he had been working on the South Park building for years with friends and family.
Their long, hard work has paid off. When Alli and I walked into the restaurant on a Friday night, we were immediately impressed. It’s gorgeous inside. Several of the tables are made from reclaimed wood, there’s a lot of railroad paraphernalia and a general theme of old Buffalo industry. We sat at a long communal table with benches (old church pews I think). The kitchen is basically open and visible from the entire restaurant. There are several bar seats for diners who would like to really watch the kitchen at work or just want to grab a drink.
The menu is small and simple, which I really like. They have a small but crafted wine list and only one beer available (Hamburg Brewing), which I also like. Far too often we visit restaurants that have gigantic menus that can be overwhelming and do not focus on quality fresh ingredients. As of right now, there are just eight items on the Black Iron menu ranging from $7 to $16. On our visit they had four specials which were priced in the same range. On that particular visit we opted to stick to their regular menu. That said, we’ve noticed that they’ve had some exciting specials since our visit.
We ordered four dishes off their menu. We started with the Meat and Cheese plate that wasn’t made in house but was sourced from the next best thing, Nickel City Cheese & Mercantile. There was nice mixture of soft and hard cheese cheeses as well as meats that were sliced to just the right thickness. Their farmhouse frites were seasoned well, but appeared to be a little overcooked. They were very thin and crispy and didn’t have much potato inside. The white truffle aioli that was served on the side was tasty, however.
Their wild mushroom arancini was not as crispy as I normally like, but it was filled with delicious mushrooms in a sweet sauce. Alli and I went through the order of three very quickly. At the last minute we decided to change our entree order from the Grilled Pork Banh Mi to their Rancher Steak. The steak was very good, cooked perfectly to a nice medium rare and is a steal for just $16. The chimichurri sauce was a little overwhelming for Alli and if you’re not a big parsley/cilantro fan, I’d ask for the sauce on the side.
Before we left, Chef Mecozzia decided that we needed to try a bite of the Pork Banh Mi and was kind enough to bring a small sample to the table. We liked the steak but if given the choice again, I would have happily crushed one of those sandwiches. The grilled pork and aioli that we tried was delicious and I’m looking forward to going back and trying it out very soon.
Overall, not only is the restaurant itself very cool, but we were generally quite happy with our meal. I really like their use of restraint; having only one local beer on tap and a menu of eight items is a little ballsy, but it’s a risk that I really appreciate someone taking. I’m really looking forward to seeing what the staff does with this place and what this could mean for a neighborhood that needs good and creative food options.