From the street, Brick Oven Bistro & Deli looks like, well, an old supermarket.
But take a step inside the former Reilly's market and it's clear you're in a new South Buffalo hot spot.
The restaurant takes its strength from what it is -- a casual restaurant with gourmet pizzas that leads to a classy yet comfortable bar.
It also draws crowds because of what it's not -- a replica of the no-frills Irish pubs that dot Abbott Road and its surrounding neighborhoods.
Brick Oven fills a niche in the tight-knit community because it appeals to a classier crowd with more upscale tastes without being snobby.
The bar was full but not overflowing on a recent Saturday night, and bartender Kevin -- who helped run the nearby Blackthorn and Potter's Field pubs -- was a gracious host.
Chatty and fun, he gave samples of a few craft beers for two dithering patrons. Not that it's easy to choose a beer here. The winding bar takes two walls of the rear seating area, and features 18 craft beers, from American and India pale ales to Belgian selections and regional favorites like Great Lakes and Southern Tier. Prices range from $4 to $7.
It also has 30 bottled beers, many of them craft selections, displayed in a floor-to-ceiling refrigerator that, during the supermarket days, stored gallons of orange juice and milk. Talk about adaptive reuse at its best.
The bar also stocks a fair selection of wine and features wine specials on select weekends, and the glasses are large.
Bars are plentiful in South Buffalo -- you go to Brick Oven for the atmosphere not found at the others. The decor is simple yet slightly upscale, with orange and maroon walls giving a warm feel to the place.
There's no area for live music -- the supermarket counter prevents that -- but it doesn't suffer without it. Muted rock 'n'roll favorites play in the background, and three large televisions are welcomed yet unimposing.
A series of high tables allows for bar conversations, and plenty of seats are typically available at the bar. Larger tables are set up through the front hallway and in the front window, though their metal chairs appear a tad too simple.
Nestled in the far rear of the building, the bar has a cozy feel to it, especially when patrons start streaming in on the weekends. It's as if the middle-aged and mid-20s patrons have found their favorite spot -- and they want to keep it to themselves.
The bar's owners have plans to open a deli at the location soon, and the dinner menu is simple but tasty. The bar food goes far beyond wings, and the gourmet pizzas -- Beef on 'Weck and Reuben for $11 -- are delicious.
Brick Oven Bistro delivers a much-needed shot of class to the charmingly simple watering holes around it. It's a warm, well-lit neighborhood spot with a great feel and growing popularity.
Brick Oven Bistro & Deli
904 Abbott Road 844-8496
Scene: Classy bar atmosphere with casual dining. Deli coming soon.
Drinks: Eighteen craft beers, from American and India pale ales to Belgian and gluten-free selections; plus 30 bottled beers and a large wine list.
Dress code: Casual, from jeans and polo shirts to khakis and sweaters.