Steak-Off: Buffalo Chophouse, A Step Above In All Regards

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Buffalo Chophouse
282 Franklin St., Buffalo, NY 14202
Web: Buffalo Chophouse
Phone: 716.842.6900
Rating:    [learn more]
Pros:

Top service, ambience, and food relative to other local steakhouses, with the best appetizers, steak, lamb, and dessert in our tests. A very nice place for a date.


Cons:

Most expensive restaurant of its type locally, with pricing that would merit true four-star quality in other cities. Plating is bland; interior decor includes an odd wall of dog art.


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"While the Chophouse meal was the most expensive of the bunch, there's no question that it was also the best - we had few complaints and many memorably excellent moments."


Broil a steakhouse down to its core and you wind up with L'Entrecote, famed French restaurants that ask patrons for nothing more than their preferred level of doneness and choice of drinks; there, the cut of beef and its sides are selected for you, prepared to perfection, and served efficiently. But the traditional American steakhouse is different: you typically choose your meat, your sides, and your drinks, and expect them to be served with precision and class. Buffalo Chophouse personifies this American ideal, and though it is the most expensive per plate of the steakhouses we've reviewed here, it is also the most deserving. While its owners could easily have chosen a different location, at different prices, and a different, broader menu, they picked downtown Buffalo on Franklin Street, high, a la carte pricing, and an almost classical selection of entries. As a consequence, though the Chophouse is unashamedly not a restaurant for cheapskates, it delivers the sort of impressive end-to-end experience - complete with free valet parking, a strong wine menu, and beautiful a la carte desserts, should you need them - that will likely impress its wealthy target audience.

Decor, Ambience and Riff-Raff Factor: Of all the Western New York steakhouses we've reviewed, Buffalo Chophouse's dining environment is the closest to traditional in appearance and service. With a bar and some tables on the first floor, much of the seating is on an open second floor, with staircases and balconies providing physical and visual access to a large, moderately lit, and attractive space. Dark woods, dark fabrics, and oil paintings all make a strong, romantic impression on diners seated in one direction, while an odd full-wall collection of dog portraits - yes - will either have the other half of your table laughing or frowning. Additionally, the Chophouse attracts a mix of customers; we saw patrons wearing everything from team jerseys to fine suits and dresses, collectively suggesting a mix of wealth from varied fields of business and entertainment. As we dined, we couldn't help but overhear people at close neighboring tables gabbing about everything from sports scores to their childrens' financial and educational situations. The proximity to other patrons and the nature of their audible discussions took away from the Chophouse's appeal as a place for a romantic evening, but it wasn't bad overall; we'd pick Black & Blue as a better venue for a quiet date.

Service and Parking: One of two star elements of the Chophouse experience was the table service. Though the waitstaff is relatively young and doesn't get its hands dirty with crumb-scraping or at-table preparation of items, we found it unfailingly polite, timely, and discreet. Brief inquiries were made as to our familiarity with the venue and menu, glasses were kept full, finished plates were properly cleared, and items were presented in the correct order, within the correct timeframe. We had no complaints. Parking was better than expected for a downtown location, with a reasonable number of spaces reserved in front of the restaurant for patrons' vehicles; again, we had no issues.

Entrees: As at all of the steakhouses, we ordered two entrees - one filet mignon (14 ounces, $40; 10 ounces, $36), prepared "medium rare plus," or a touch under medium, and a half rack of lamb chops ($36), prepared medium rare. We were told that all steaks here were aged between three and four weeks, and seasoned prior to serving. A light butter was placed on the filet, and mint jelly was offered by the server as a lamb option without any request. The filet was the best overall of the bunch, slightly crisp on the outside, perfectly cooked to order on the inside, and judiciously seasoned with salt and peppercorns - a touch that we preferred, but some may request be left off. While its interior texture was slightly shy of Hyde Park's, the overall taste of the meat and preparation of the steak was closer to ideal, with comparatively little fat. It is not melt-in-the-mouth quality, but by local standards, something close. The lamb chops were similarly superb, properly cooked, plump, and nicely presented, though the fewest in quantity for the dollar of any of the places we visited. They were, appropriately, a little fatty, and similarly came on a plate that looked to have been oven-blasted. Plating is not the Chophouse's strong suit, but with meat like this, it's hard to complain.

Breads, Appetizers, and Side Dishes: In addition to small garnish plates of butter, feta cheese, and pitted Kalamata olives, Buffalo Chophouse delivers two types of warm complementary bread to the table, one white, one grain; both were very nice. We ordered a Stuffed Banana Peppers appetizer ($9.50), a Crab Cakes appetizer ($14.50), and a side dish of Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce that was said to serve two ($8.50). The three Banana Peppers were a thing of beauty, sitting alongside a stack of black beans in a sweet tomato sauce with their top halves breaded and bottoms uncoated, each filled with a light liquid cheese. While we'd pick the Left Bank's version on flavor, Chophouse's was a close second, and visually more appealing. Similarly, though the Crab Cakes didn't sound like they'd drive us wild by comparison with Hyde Park's Lobster and Crab Cakes, they were superior in both texture and flavor, packed with fresh crab and perfectly coated with crispy breading, then placed atop a tangy sauce and salad. Only the Asparagus was underwhelming, impressing neither in stalk size nor flavor; it was forgettable.

Dessert: We couldn't resist the server's recommendation of the Bananas Foster ($9.50), traditionally served as a flambe with a slight - sometimes not-so-slight - aftertaste of igniting alcohol, but transformed here into a more conventional-looking plate. Like the entrees, however, looks here are deceiving: the warm, soft cut bananas have been prepared in the kitchen with better than flambe results, mixed with a thick, delicious caramel sauce and pecans, then served alongside vanilla bean ice cream scoops and small pieces of pineapple, strawberry, and blueberries. Even with stuffed bellies, we cleaned the glass dish bare; it was the best of the desserts we've had at these steakhouses, bar none.

Other Notable Menu Items: Buffalo Chophouse's menu is fairly broad by steakhouse standards, offering both beef classics and a reasonable variety of "expected" American or Italian fare: Fried Calamari ($14), Tomato Cilantro Sauce Stuffed Cheese ($9.50), Alaskan King Crab Legs ($42 for 24 ounces), and a number of other seafood appetizers and entrees. Ten dessert choices range from Apple Pie and Vanilla Creme Brulee ($8.50 each) to a Nine-Layer Chocolate Cake for Two ($16.00).

Value and Conclusions: While the Chophouse meal was the most expensive of the bunch, topping out at $132 for two before tip, there's no question that it was also the best - from the service to the ambience, the appetizers through the dessert, we had relatively few complaints and many memorably excellent moments to enjoy. Comparatively flawless experiences we've had in other cities preclude us from rating Buffalo Chophouse as a true four-star restaurant, but we feel very comfortable saying that this is Western New York's best traditional steakhouse.

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Comments (2)

Jeremy L :

I have dined that Chophouse three times. I like to be reminded of a famous ad headline from the 1960s that reminded us. "You can't eat athmosphere."

I find the Chophouse to be a good restaurant. Not however in leage with other nationally recognized steakhouses. Or for that matter some local ones that are here. I always feel that the steak is just not worth the price on the menu. What I feel that the Chophouse does is to provide a suitable setting for the "If it costs more it must be better" crowd. I would actually prefer to go to Laughlins right down the block and get served the same steak without the athmosphere.

Mike :

Yep, it's really pricey here.
Still, our steak was excellent. Perfectly broiled with wonderful crusty seasoning.
Martinis and after-dinner scotch excellent. Service friendly, top notch.
Clams casino terrible. Clams made by Wrigleys. Couldn't believe I had to spit them out after chewing and chewing. Okay, the bacon on top was good.
Of course the wine prices are high, but the goblet-style stemware are totally not right for big Cabs etc. I don't need Reidel, but I should be able to stick my nose in the glass and experience the bouquet.

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