The Pearl Street Grill & Brewery is like a cruise ship, looming in downtown Buffalo’s Canal district. She’s an old ship (originally built in the mid-1800s), but she’s been renovated with four decks, eight bars and countless attractions including its pub grub, pool tables, big-screen TVs, live music, dance floors and in-house craft brews.
That’s what I was promised when I boarded the “Carnival Pearl” on a recent Saturday evening. This would be my third voyage with her; her floors and banquet halls held high school reunions and friends’ weddings. On any given weekend, it can hold more than 2,000 passengers, taking them on enjoyable excursions to wedding receptions, bar mitzvahs and parties.
Tonight’s excursion was a private open bar party in the Canal View room on the third floor. I held my boarding pass (aka my driver’s license and ticket) as I climbed the stairs past the main lobby.
On the main floor, families and friends filled wooden booths and tables, sharing drinks, conversation and dinners from the grill. Gourmet burgers served with a side of pub fries are popular ($8.50 -$14.25). Scott, a waiter, also recommends the Beer Braised Kielbasa ($13.50), a polish sausage served with sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, veggies and the bar’s special Lake Effect mustard.
A long 18-person table split several beer towers between them. In the distance, you could hear a chorus of “Happy Birthday.”
Through the happy chatter, a live acoustic duo was playing in the lobby, greeting people who walked in. Guests absently glanced at the English Premier League Soccer game on television.
On the second floor’s game room, couples were at pool tables with cue sticks between their fingers. Out of sight, a private wedding reception was being held in the second floor’s Pan American banquet room. Another wedding reception was in the Speak Easy Parlour on the fourth floor.
On the third floor, I was greeted by strobe lights over a white-tiled dance floor, an open bar and a DJ playing Top 40 hits.
Three bartenders seamlessly juggled drink orders: Trainwrecks, Gin and Tonics, Lake Effects, Jack and Cokes, Street Brawlers, Vodka sodas and Blue-Eyed Blueberry Blondes.
They were the main attraction until the food came out – two buffet tables in an adjoining room. The spread included salads (which can individually run from $3.99 to $11); chicken wings ($11 per pound); pub fries, pizza ($9 to $19.99), beef on weck ($8.99), and carrots and celery. The fries were warm and delicious potato wedges.
I tried a couple of Trainwrecks ($5), a rich, delicious and slightly sweet German Amber ale.
Before the clock struck midnight, the third floor turned into a club. I felt as “immortal” as the Fall Out Boys as I “shook it off” to Taylor Swift; killed it with Ariana Grande; “roared” with Katy Perry; “shouted” with the Isley Brothers; and “wobbled” to V.I.C.
I think I see another cruise at the Pearl Street Grill & Brewery in my future.
Where: 76 Pearl St. (856-2337)
Hours: Kitchen is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; noon until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The bar stays open an hour after the kitchen closes.
On Tap: Trainwreck, Lake Effect, Street Brawler, Lighthouse, Wild Ox Wheat, Don Cherry Wheat, Blue-Eyed Blueberry Blonde, Billy Bonka Chocolate Stout; and their seasonals, E.S.B. English Pale Ale, Blackberry Wheat, and 007 IPA.
Dress: Casual to formal depending on the occasion.
Parking: Paid lots and on-street parking.
Extras: For wedding receptions, corporate events, private parties and catering, call 856-0057 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday; or between 9 a.m. and noon Saturday.