967 Kenmore Ave., Kenmore, NY 14217
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Beef on Weck Burgers Kenmore Wings
"Photographs cannot possibly do justice to the frightening sight of this beast, which is unquestionably the largest Beef on Weck we have ever seen in our 30+ years."
Although we've eaten a lot - underscore a lot - of burgers over the past week, there was something about the pitch that really intrigued us. "We've stopped two times at this place with a sign out front that says they have the best burgers in Buffalo," family members mentioned, "and we tried them. They're really good." This wasn't the first time we'd heard about Vizzi's, and this discussion re-raised a question left unanswered when we stopped by Ruzzine's Rock Bottom Eatery earlier this year: hype aside, who really serves the best burgers around here? After sampling Vizzi's burgers, we'd still give Rock Bottom the edge, but there are a couple of reasons you might want to trek out to Kenmore, anyway. Surprisingly, the burgers aren't necessarily the place's biggest draw.
Though we'd had a mental picture of Vizzi's as something akin to a freestanding burger shack, it's actually a plaza-side tavern in a densely packed area of Kenmore Avenue, very close to locally well-liked restaurants such as Sinatra's and Torches. As with these other places, parking is limited; Vizzi's sort of shares a parking lot with a dentist's office, in the sense that there's a conspicuous sign warning patrons not to park in the dentist's spaces until after 5pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, or Wednesdays. Walking into the decidedly bar-like venue, which resembles Duff's, Elmo's, and dozens of other local taverns, it's almost immediately apparent that Quick Draw lottery games are keeping some patrons' eyes glued to the TVs as they await their meals; number-picking forms were on the table in a place normally reserved for napkins. From its exterior to its interior, Vizzi's would blend into the local scenery if it wasn't for that sign out front.
And, of course, the food. Both the sign and a simple, one-page menu advertise a "Monster Burger," which is billed as weighing a half-pound and coming in six variations: the standard Monster Burger at $6, with Cheeseburger ($6.50), Bacon Cheeseburger ($7.50), Cajun Burger ($7), Greek Burger with Feta Cheese ($8), and Mushroom Burger ($8) alternatives. Each comes with lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, a side pickle, and a portion of french fries; by comparison, "Vizzi's Famous Beef on Weck" ($7) comes with potato chips, horseradish, and a pickle. Other than a complimentary plate of fresh bread, we stuck only to these items, and didn't dive into the menu's other sandwiches, which comprise the bulk of its non-burger alternatives, or its good-looking wings, or its few other dinner entrees - broiled or fried fish, fried chicken, pork chops, and steak. One of us did order and like a cup of flavorful, dark brown Beef Barley Soup ($2.50), a soup de jour on the night we visited, but we didn't really explore the rest of the menu enough, the reason we're not star rating the place as a whole.
That said, we can definitely speak to the burgers and Weck, and our general impressions were pretty positive. It needs to be said up front that the Monster Burgers were not the monstrous part of the meal; by the standards of Grover's or Ruzzine's, the still substantial meat patties at Vizzi's actually looked fairly moderate in size. This was compounded by the fact that the restaurant had so substantially loaded up the plates with good skin-on french fries that the burgers almost disappeared, their side pickles buried for later discovery. Our photos generally show items exactly as they arrive, but here, we actually had to dig the burgers out in order to photograph them, and even then, it was hard to get all the fries in the frame. For $6 or $8 a plate, Vizzi's isn't serving just a burger, but rather a meal that would stuff the typical person full of meat and potatoes.
Assembled from their two halves, the Cajun Burger and Mushroom Burger we ordered were decidedly bun, lettuce, and tomato-heavy, dwarfing meat patties that didn't look or feel going down like they were a half-pound on its own. When we're eating burgers, especially in light of the ones we just went through in Southern California, we tend to value the flavor and size of the meat patty most highly, followed by everything else, and in these regards, we'd place Vizzi's burgers a step behind Rock Bottom's. The meat in both of Vizzi's burgers tasted pretty good - properly cooked to medium as per our requests, and not especially fatty - but while the Mushroom Burger's generous collection of sliced, sauteed mushrooms added a lot to the burger's flavor, the Cajun Burger had nowhere near the peppery punch of the Rock Bottom version, and struck us as plain. Similarly, the rolls were forgettable other than their size, and the sandwiches both seemed disproportionately weighted towards the "everything else" over the patties. By contrast with Grover's, a place that's notorious for its huge and sometimes pretty gross hamburger patties, Vizzi's smaller burgers were better cooked and flavored, but didn't strike us as particularly memorable.
Vizzi's Beef on Weck sandwich was a completely different story - if anything at this place deserves the "Monster" moniker, this is it. Photographs cannot possibly do justice to the frightening sight of this beast, which is unquestionably the largest Beef on Weck we have ever seen in our 30+ years, let alone for the $7 asking price. This isn't just a big bun with a little bit of meat; we'd guesstimate two-thirds or more of a pound of beef sat inbetween the kummelweck buns, a portion so huge that no human mouth could ever hope to bite through the thing. Your choices are simple: bite into it someplace, or yank out a bunch of the meat with a fork and then reassemble it, trying again to treat it as a sandwich. We went with the latter option, pulling more and more of the just-grey but obviously freshly sliced beef off of the pile until we had something that resembled a merely large, "most people wouldn't try to bite through it" version of what had arrived. This process took longer than we expected, as there was so much beef to work through.
When the Beef on Weck was readjusted to actually become an edible sandwich, it was pretty good - the thick, just-above-medium-rare beef quality was in the upper quarter or third of versions we've tried, and though the kummelweck bun wasn't amazing, it was fine. The salt on top wasn't really coarse, and the bun on bottom was almost entirely soaked through with the beef's juices by the time we got to it, but that didn't stop us from enjoying what was there. On this plate, the potato chips were decidedly a sideshow to the sandwich, and there was enough meat left over that we could have made a second or third Beef on Weck with extra buns. Our server initially expected to give us a doggie bag to bring home leftovers - which we'd seriously considered when seeing the plates - but two of us somehow managed to eat two of the Monster Burgers and all but a slice or so of the beef, leaving only portions of french fries and potato chips behind.
Would we go back again? Sure. The Beef on Weck is a spectacle, something very close to a dare-you-to-eat-it-all portion, and even if the Monster Burgers are comparatively tame, they're still good enough to merit another visit to Kenmore. But are they Buffalo's best burgers? We'd say no; Rock Bottom's still on top.