145 Allen St., Buffalo, NY 14201
Web: Gabriel's Gate
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Bars Buffalo Elmwood Favorites Ribs Wings
"The chicken wings aren't strictly traditional Buffalo-style, but they're great - a word we don't use often where wings are concerned - so we can understand why people would look the other way."
If you've been reading Buffalo Chow for any length of time, you probably know that we're serious chicken wing fans: from local bars and take-outs to famous wing places in foreign countries, we're always looking for the next great wing. So it shouldn't surprise you to learn that we receive lots of tips touting supposedly great wings that turn out to be really forgettable, or that there are only a handful of places that really, truly stand out from the rest. Gabriel's Gate is one of them. On the outside, this charmingly weathered, semi-restored Allen Street bar looks like most of the other plain brick buildings at the far end of Buffalo's Elmwood strip, but inside, the venue has character, with almost comical big game trophy heads on the walls, worn but classical wooden benches for booth seating, and a long bar in the back. We're not assigning a star rating at this point, but we wanted to spotlight two of the Gate's best-known items, as well as a third that we really enjoyed on a recent visit.
Ribs Fit For A Hungry Caveman. Ribs are fattening, unhealthy, and low on the totem pole of meat quality, but we love them, and always on the lookout for great options. Good news: Gabriel's Gate serves great ribs - objectively great ones that would lead us to question the sanity of any person who would raise more than a minor objection to them. Though they're pork ribs, they're as massive as typical beef bones, glazed with a mostly sweet barbecue sauce, and individually cooked to a tenderness that approximates the texture of taut sausage; the opposite and entirely worthy rival of "fall off the bone" versions. Given the price - the truly huge half-rack plate shown above was $13 including fries and slaw - we'd say that rib meat this good and plentiful is almost past the point of criticism, and would only benefit from more tang in the sauce, and crunch in the fries. Everything else, including the fresh, just-moist-enough slaw, was spot-on.
Untraditional But Memorable Wings. Two points need to be made up front about the wings at Gabriel's Gate. First, despite appearances, they're not strictly traditional Buffalo-style chicken wings, so we wouldn't hold them up as a pure example of the classic recipe. Second, they're actually great - a word we don't use often where wings are concerned - so we can understand why people would be willing to look the other way. In addition to their meaty, jumbo- and near-jumbo sizes, they come in a red pepper hot sauce that has been liberally dosed with black pepper, delivering a second punch of spice after the expected first one hits your tongue. While the resulting flavor's different from the classic Buffalo recipe and thus unlike the wings you'd find at almost any other local restaurant, it's a highly worthwhile alternative, like a local version of the spicy Korean and Japanese (Osaka, Nagoya) wings we've recently covered here. Given their size and strong flavor, the $9 asking price for 10 wings is fair enough; we could have eaten twice as many.
A Souvlaki Surprise. As the venue suggests, the menu at Gabriel's Gate is primarily tavern fare - potato skins, nachos, soups and wings alongside $6 to $9 sandwiches and salads, plus a N.Y. Strip Steak, chicken, and seafood entree assortment in the $12 to $22 range. From the salad menu, we selected the surprisingly solid Garden Beef Souvlaki ($9), a huge bowl that was packed with fresh ingredients in their prime: most obvious were the grilled yet still tender, properly marinated pieces of beef on top, but everything from the feta cheese and red onions to the lettuce and tomatoes was just right - even the pita tasted like it had been given a perfect little finishing touch in the oven right before coming out. While a Souvlaki plate isn't exactly a master-quality dish, the Gate did better with the ingredients and prep than most of the Greek restaurants around here, and that's saying something.
But not everything at Gabriel's Gate was impressive: a cup of the French Onion Soup ($3) was lackluster, with rubbery cheese and too little going on in the broth, onions, or croutons. Additionally, though we were generally pleased by the friendliness and attentiveness of our server, a few drink-related requests were forgotten, and a collective discussion of the staff's extracurricular activities was a distraction throughout the meal. Those expecting perfection will do best to arrive with the understanding that this is, after all, a bar, though its uncommonly impressive food and unique character make it a real local standout, and particularly worthy of a visit for wing and rib fans.