The Blackthorn Restaurant & Pub
In late September I told you about South Buffaloâ€™s Caz Coffee CafĂ©, in my efforts to spend more time showcasing eateries to the south, east and west of our city center. During our interview I asked Cazâ€™s owner Debbie Clotfelter where she dined in her neighborhood. â€śThe Blackthorn,â€ť was her first and most eager response.
The Blackthorn Restaurant & Pub has been a well-loved neighborhood destination since the 70s. In addition, it is a favorite of national newsman Tim Russert, and even hosts â€śThe Blackthorns", an organization that has been gathering monthly in South Buffalo since 1917. The pub's friendly atmosphere makes it one of the most accommodating restaurants Iâ€™ve ever been to. Having never stopped in before, I wouldnâ€™t have expected to feel like one of the gang, especially with a husband and two kids in tow, but we did. The service was enthusiastic and the sense that everyone knows one another and is happy to be there is overwhelming.
After my visit I decided to call the restaurant to speak with the owner. I was curious about the history of the restaurant and any changes or adjustments they may have made that our readers might want to know about. For anyone who may be curious, this is the method that I use to write most of the restaurant features that you'll find here online and in our monthly magazine.
Current co-owner Pat Lalley told me about the history of the Blackthorn. Opened as Early Times in 1977, the business was sold in 1994 to Kevin Lalley who operated it with a flair, making friends and entertaining family from behind the bar. Sadly he passed away in 2002 at the young age of 32. The torch was then passed to family members Patrick Lalley and Hugger Adymy who now operate the restaurant with a nod to the past and an eye on the future.
The most obvious physical change to the pub is the large televisions that were installed in the bar area which has led to larger crowds on game nights, but the real adjustments have been to the menu and there are more of those on the horizon.
A number of the most popular items that the Blackthorn offers will of course stay, along with the traditional bar food that is expected and appreciated by Buffalonians of all backgrounds.
A handful of the Blackthorn's most popular dishes include the remarkably good Irish Beer Cheddar soup (the best I've had), the Chicken Pesto Salad (which can be seen in the accompanying slideshow), the Mandarin Orange and Goat Cheese Salad, the Corned Beef on Rye, the Tuscarora Chicken, an entree that is comprised of pan fried chicken breast with bacon, bell pepper and cheddar cheese sauce, and the Maryland Crab Cakes, which, unlike virtually every other pub in Buffalo, are flavorful and made of real Blue crab.
While these dishes are too popular to dismiss, the Blackthorn's menu is currently undergoing a makeover. Recently, Chef Sean Wiles, who trained at the Culinary Institute of America and was formerly employed by Mother's on Virginia Place, has taken over the Blackthorn's kitchen. Though the Blackthorn is considered the closest to "fine dining" that South Buffalo has to offer, its new menu is even more likely to reflect this with a more modern approach to food using contemporary flavor pairings and ingredients.
The building will see some changes soon as well. Pat and Hugger purchased the neglected lots next to the bar and have plans for an intimate patio, more parking spaces and a larger barroom to accommodate the Blackthorn's growing patronage.
But for those that love the Blackthorn, there's no need to worry about the vibe of the place changing, the feeling and warmth of a traditional Irish pub reflected in its decor and imparted by the attitudes of its amiable staff and jovial customers is here to stay.
When I spoke with Patrick on the phone, he promised to give me a call when the new menu rolls out, I'll be sure to keep YUM readers posted.
The Blackthorn Restaurant
2134 Seneca Street, Buffalo 14210
Photo #4 courtesy of The Blackthorn's website