Beer Garden of Earthly Delights
by Jill Greenberg
Blue Monk offers taste of European and American cuisine
During a trip to Belgium, that country’s traditional beer bars inspired friends Mike Shatzel and Steve Kennedy. Ever since that fateful trip, they have been hard at work on opening a Belgian beer bar in Buffalo. After scouting out locations they decided to renovate the ill-fated Merlin’s on Elmwood, which closed last year. All was going well, except the struggle to obtain a liquor license. Since Merlin’s liquor license had been previously revoked, the address was flagged, even though Shatzel was opening a new bar.
Eventually everything fell into place, however, and Blue Monk opened during the first week of October. Ever since, the bar has been bustling with patrons looking for a taste of European beer. And now Blue Monk also offers a taste of European food.
Rich Hollister, the chef at Blue Monk, formulated the menu based on some traditional Belgian restaurant dishes and bar fare alongside classic American foods. Hollister explains that Blue Monk “doesn’t want to alienate patrons by creating a niche menu,” but rather their goal is to provide a taste of European-style food to Buffalonians. Some of the tradition Belgian dishes have been the most popular, such as duck frites (potatoes fried in duck fat served with a choice of two dipping sauces) and mussels (prepared in a variety of ways, including beer steamed). Hollister says that he ordered 80 pounds of mussels in the first four days that the kitchen was open. “That may not seem like a lot, but consider that most restaurants order about 10 pounds of mussels a week,” he says.
Keeping the pub atmosphere in mind, the menu offers plates that can be shared, such as the charcuterie plate—daily selection of meats with house pickles, mustards, and whole grain bread; the breads and spreads plate—three daily spreads with an assortment of artisanal breads; and the artisanal cheese plate—a selection of domestic and foreign cheeses, breads, nuts, and preserves.
The traditional American dishes on the menu are the Blue Monk Burger—eight ounces of certified prime beef with Ommegang Abbey caramelized onions and smoky blue cheese; grilled cheese—aged gouda, gruyere, and smoky blue cheese; and Monk’s Mac & Cheese—cheese selection changes daily. And for a new twist on a local favorite try the shaved prime rib beef on weck. Hollister created this sandwich with beef on weck in mind, but replaced beef with prime rib and weck roll with weck hoagie sandwich bread. You can also have authentic Canadian poutine, which is duck fat frites with cheese curds and duck confit gravy.
You can also try something new and different. Hollister found inspiration for the aptly named “Blue Balls” (German meatballs topped with blue cheese with veal demi glace) at the Fancy Food Show, a trade show for the food and beverage industry. There Shatzel, Kennedy, and Hollister tasted about a hundred different types of cheeses in 24 hours. This helped Hollister brainstorm ideas for the menu and overall food aesthetics.
Blue Monk tries to use local ingredients whenever possible. They purchase their cheeses from New York State, especially the Hudson Valley region. In the spring they will be able to purchase even more local ingredients. Hollister is already doing research to get involved with local farms and to work hand-in-hand with them. Although Hollister does not plan on changing the menu with the seasons, he does consider it an “evolving menu.”
“Because Blue Monk has two different clienteles, those coming for food and those coming for beer, we are going to continuously work on our menu and daily specials,” he says.
There are also options for vegetarians. Besides the unique salads with dressings made in-house (lemon and olive oil, cider vinaigrette, and gorgonzola dressing), Hollister offers daily specials that are sometimes vegetarian-friendly. For example, Hollister has offered a portabella sandwich with roasted red pepper and spinach, and a cheesy bake made with spaghetti squash, baby spinach, fresh tomato, cheddar, and Gouda cheese.
Alex Georgiadis, a patron who recently tried Blue Monk’s food for the first time, says, “There is nowhere else like it in Buffalo. The menu items are executed well and I will have to come back every couple months to try all of the beers!”
Like many patrons, Georgiadis found out about Blue Monk via their Facebook page. Through Facebook, Blue Monk was able to update their fans about their progress of gaining a liquor license, when their kitchen opened, and now which beers are on tap. Blue Monk is located at 727 Elmwood Avenue and is on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bluemonkbuffalo.blog comments powered by Disqus
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