My curiosity was finally satisfied last week when I stopped by for dinner. There were soccer matches on the three widescreen televisions over the bar, but not popular ones, from the looks of the sparse crowd. Which was good because there aren't many tables. But there was a server, which is where the experience started to diverge from a standard bar-eats experience.
Mes Que (1420 Hertel Ave., Buffalo) isn't a restaurant, really. It doesn't have a full kitchen. But it's got much more sophisticated food than you'd expect from a bar (which has a new seasonal craft-cocktail menu, by the way, pictured at bottom).
It starts with a basket of fresh crusty bread, served with a saucer of olive oil. The oil is seasoned with sprinkles of chili flakes, fresh parsley and salt flakes.
The menu includes salads, panini, pastas, rice dishes and pizzas, 14 choices. The strawberry salad ($8, pictured in header) had arugula, feta and walnuts, too.
The barbecue chicken pizza had lots of tender grilled chicken breast and cheese. Maybe flatbread would be a better descriptor since it's a pre-baked pita-like blank topped with things and broiled (did I mention it's not a full kitchen?). My wife told me to stop being such a crank. I told her the sweet barbecue sauce, applied liberally, would've fit right in at a NASCAR bar. She thought it was damn tasty.
She got the penne topped with prawns pasta ($11), and it was right on point. Toothsome noodles, accurately cooked shrimp, white wine sauce that had us reaching for the bread to soak it up. Could've taken it easier on the black pepper, but that's more a compliment to the dish's underlying delicacy than a diss.
The chorizo and beans with roast pork ($9) turned out to be a stew over rice. It was homey, warming and soulful, and I liked it even though I wished for more of the advertised roast pork. It doesn't look that sexy but if I walked through February snowbanks and found this waiting at my table I would be a happy man.
And what kind of bar has a chocolate caramel tart ($6)? A Mes Que does.
Don't fret, the classic cocktails -- like the Mules and Luis Suarez -- are still available. Here's the fall menu, as promised:
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