Over the years, I've had some very memorable experiences at the Pearl Street Grill & Brewery. We had our rehearsal dinner there the night before our wedding. My band played in the basement there on a few occasions which were a blast! I had a blast playing a few gigs there with my law school's jazz band. I've had great meals and great beer. So when we went to a function this earlier this week, I was excited for the beer, the food and the atmosphere. Unfortunately, it was not a good experience.
I need to start by stating that most of the problems we had at Pearl Street that night were with the food and the service. To a lesser extent, there were some beer problems as well.
When we arrived, we were ushered up to the 3rd floor where our function was being held. To start, there were way too many people crammed onto the 3rd floor for this party. That's on the individual holding the party and not Pearl Street, but it didn't help things at all. It was very difficult to get a drink at the only bar. There were 3 bartenders at one bar serving at least 300 people. The lines at the bar were usually 5-6 people deep and it took a long time. On top of that, one of the bartenders appeared to be pissed off at the world, or his boss, or something else and he took it out on the customers. Listen, I get that as a bartender at a huge party, you've got to deal with a lot of jackasses. I get it...but, we're not all jackasses. When I ask what's on tap early in the night when no one's around, give me an idea of what the 10-15 beers on tap are. Don't get grumpy and refuse to give me the full list. If you don't want to go through all of them, try asking me what style of beer I like to make your job easier. Then, on top of that, don't give me the wrong beer!! The same bartender was overheard cursing at a customer who gave him a long order. Inexcusable.
Historically, I've enjoyed the Lake Effect at Pearl Street which is an American pale ale. It's always been good. That's what I asked for that night first from the surly bartender. I got my beer and my wife's drink and we left the bar area as it was starting to get very crowded. By the time I had a chance to take a drink and realize he'd given me the wrong beer, it was too late to get back in line unless I wanted to wait 10-15 minutes. On top of that, the beer was flat! I took a few more sips, dreading a return to the long lines at the bar. Ultimately, I could't handle it any more and I went back to the bar for another beer.
On my second trip to the bar, I selected a long-standing seasonal favorite at Pearl Street - Lord Stanley Scotch Ale. The Lord Stanley has always been a solid choice during hockey season, but it wasn't that night. While the flavor of the ale was on, this beer was also flat. I've always liked the beer at Pearl Street and it's a brewery through and through. But, how can a place that touts itself as a brewery serve its own beer at one of its bars flat?!
This is what the first two flat options looked like:
When I finally got up the nerve to return to the bar, I finally got what I wanted - a great tasting Lake Effect pale ale. It was perfectly carbonated and had the delicious hops I remembered. So it appears the problem isn't with the beer making, but storage and delivering it to the taps. There needs to be more quality control with your signature product.
The food, unfortunately, wasn't much better. I'll start with the one thing that I thought was truly a hit - spinach & artichoke dip. It was warm, cheesy and full of artichoke flavor. It was served with pita bread that appeared to have been warmed on a flat top. It was great.
When we got to the stations for dinner, the selections included mashed potatoes, two types of pasta, meatballs and roasted chicken. I didn't opt for the meatballs as I usually don't like them at just about any commercial establishment. The chicken was cooked well and was seasoned. It wasn't a show stopper, but it was good. I also tried what appeared to the penne with vodka sauce. It was cold and under seasoned. No attention to detail with that one.
Here's a look at my plate:
There were also two carving stations set up. We decided to try those after the items we initially picked up were not all that great. At the each station, a cook was carving roast beef for sandwiches. At each station, they weren't serving the roast beef carved to order. Instead, a large amount had been pre-sliced and was sitting in a huge pile next to the beef. The cook gave you the meat for your sandwich from the huge pile instead of carving a few slices when you ordered. Not surprisingly, the meat I got was cold, flavorless and tough. Very disappointing.
All in all, this was a very disappointing experience at Pearl Street. Some of the things, like the excessive crowd and the entree selections were out of Pearl Street's control. Other things, like the cold, bland food, the flat beer, and the poor service, were well within the purview of the restaurant and should have been corrected.
I will most likely return to Pearl Street at some point, but I won't be rushing back. I will definitely go back and try the beer again as it's always been good in the past. The food has been hit or miss over the years and this didn't help things. Not at the top of my list of places to eat at Buffalo.
What have your experiences at Pearl Street been like in the past? I'd love to hear from others to gauge how common my experience was.
© The Nittany Epicurean, 2013. All Rights Reserved.