10 Best Restaurants for Buffalo's Legendary Beef on Weck Sandwich
By Amber Nolan
Certain restaurants are known for their expertise at turning out signature foods that bring the crowds back time and again. They pinned down the ingredients, mastered the process, and gained a strong following as a result - some even earning international acclaim. Buffalo has had much success creating a substantial market for beef on weck, a simple - but flavorful - sandwich. Thinly-sliced rare roast beef is placed on a salty kummelweck roll, dipped in au jus, and often served with horseradish, a pickle, and french fries. While its roots date back to Germany, the sandwich has been transformed into a unique dish in Western New York. Locals can't get enough of it, and you'll often find them, along with eager tourists, at the popular Bar-Bill Tavern or at Charlie the Butcher, a major player in the "beef on weck" field. Many of Buffalo's family-run restaurants like Schwabl's and Eckl's date back into the 1900s (or earlier), so the recipes have been handed down from one generation to another.
We've sifted through Buffalo's restaurants and pubs in search of the 10 best places for mouthwatering beef on weck and present the following list. Bring your appetite and see what all the fuss is about!
This local gem serves up sandwiches, salads, beef on weck (that's piled high) and some of Buffalo's best burgers with a massive portion of thick french fries, pasta, or red potato salad. The monster burger is legendary, a flavorful patty topped with mayo, tomatoes and lettuce. The ambiance is "corner diner-meets local bar," and prices are extremely reasonable for the quantity of food ($6.95 for a massive burger). Everything is homemade in house, which can be attributed to quality, and they staff is friendly and accommodating. Weekends can be busy, but it is a great choice for a low-key lunch. ((716) 871-1965)
Buffalo Brew Pub
Renowned for its fabulous beer and savory grub, this popular bar is the place to grab a bite of some of the city's famous fare. Try the sampler platter, which features chicken wings (seasoned to your liking), and a mini beef on weck. Or, order the full-sized sandwich, stuffed with slow-roasted beef that's been soaked in ale. Their burgers are also top notch, including the buffalo burger - a leaner alternative to the classic. In addition to several house brews and local selections, there's a wide selection of beer on tap that might include Guinness, Stella Artois, Newcastle and Sam Adams. During the winter months, guests can warm up next to the cozy stone fireplace. (716-632-0552)
Swiston's Beef & Keg
Stepping into this tavern is like stepping into the middle ages: it's dark, yet cozy with cast-iron lattice around the entrance, and massive candle sticks on the walls. Vulgar - but friendly - bartenders know all the local's orders by heart. There is no menu: the choices are beef on a salty kaiser or kummelweck roll, and chili. However, fans of the area's beef on kummelweck contend there's no room for improvement upon Swiston's version of the legendary sandwich. Plus, at $2-3 per beer, the prices are right. If the weather allows, take your mug outdoors and enjoy a view of the marina from the patio. (716-692-9723)
Steve's Pig and Ox Roast
The decor may be a bit dated, but the quality of the beef on weck at Steve's Pig and Ox Roast is not. Meats are charcoal roasted on the spit and tender, juicy cuts of roast beef are served on a salty kummelwick roll. Or, - for a twist on a classic - try the lamb on weck. This family run, neighborhood restaurant also serves up massive portions of crispy curly fries, pizza rolls, chili cheese fries, and barbecue pork sandwiches. Order at the counter from the friendly staff, but be aware that they only accept cash. Several beers are available to wash it all down with. ((716) 824-8601)
First opened in 1946, this local chain boasts seven Western New York locations, serving up the city's signature bites: wings, beef on weck and frozen custard. Their legendary roast beef comes in several varieties -- original, beef and cheddar, or BBQ beef -- served on a kummelweck, sesame, Kaiser or multigrain roll. For dessert, sample the frozen custard flavor of the day, which might be anything from strawberry or banana to cinnamon, or pumpkin to pistachio, and their homemade hard ice cream also has a wide range of varieties. For special events, they also serve up ice cream cakes and pies, like the giant fudge turtle cake. (716-873-5330)
Eckl's Beef & Weck Restaurant
Aficionados of Buffalo's signature sandwich applaud Eckl's version for its flavorful sauce and tender roast beef, fresh from the carving station with relish plates and German potato salad. Authentic Buffalo wings, amazing lobster bisque and an ample selection of fish and steak highlight the menu as well. A spacious, relaxed interior accommodates diners, who never regret making the trek from Buffalo to this memorable joint. Around the holidays things are decked to the nines, and the casual environment at this family-run restaurant makes guests feel welcome. Be aware that they are not open for lunch, and take walk-in seating only (or grab a seat at the bar). (716-662-2262)
Housed in a charming timber-framed building and packed with regulars, this friendly watering hole is an appealing spot to down an icy mug of beer and hearty sandwich. The kitchen's specialty, beef on weck, features slow-roasted beef, carved while you wait and available in three different sizes. Be aware that they only serve the beef on weck until 9pm - so get there early if you want to try it! Buffalo's namesake chicken wings come in a variety of seasonings - Sicilian, teriyaki, barbecue and even suicidal that rank at the top for the best wings in Buffalo. No reservations are accepted and the bar is cash only. (716-652-7959)
A Buffalo tradition since 1837 that even appeared at the Pan American Exposition, this quaint German eatery serves up hearty sandwiches, highlighted by the regional specialty beef on weck. In fact, Schwabl's has received international acclaim for their take on the legendary sandwich and patrons can watch as they carve the fresh roast beef right at the bar. Start off with a complimentary basket of rye bread and have a choice of savory side dishes such as cole slaw, German potato salad and mashed potatoes. Expect to dine in close quarters and enjoy a casual atmosphere. Open for lunch and dinner. (716-674-9821, 716-675-2333)
Charlie the Butcher
Succulent, freshly carved slices of roast beef piled on a seedy kummelweck roll and dipped in horseradish and au jus justify the popularity of this sandwich shop. The roast beef is tender, sliced medium-rare, and melts in your mouth! Located in Williamsville, Charlie's Kitchen is housed in a free-standing, one-level building accented with a cheery red and white sign, shutters and picnic tables in front of the restaurant. It's nothing fancy and feels like a 1950s diner and while indoor seating is minimal, take out is also available. For downtowners, there's also a takeout shop in the Ellicott Square Building on Main Street. (716-633-8330)
About Amber Nolan
Originally from upstate New York, this restless traveler has a knack for befriending interesting characters. You can usually find her just about anywhere that has a hammock. Amber's favorite places are Iceland for its remoteness; Panama for its parties; and Peru for its history. Her work can be found on MSNBC.com, Frommers, and Sherman’s Travel, where she served as the Cruise Editor and Senior Producer. She is currently working on a comic novel about her shoestring travels as she hitchhikes on airplanes across the country in an effort to visit all 50 states. See Jethiking.com.
Read more about Amber Nolan here.