Buffalo’s food fame tends toward the greasy and carnivorous: chicken wings, fish fry, beef on weck. We’re also a city that likes to drink, slugging down a Genny Cream Ale alongside our fish at the fire hall or ordering up a bucket of Blues to go with those wings. This season, Mes Que soccer bar and restaurant has taken it a step further with “Charlie Schwabl’s Queen City Daiquiri.” That’s right: Beef on weck in a coupe glass.
While locals squabble over whether Charlie the Butcher or Schwabl’s makes a better sammich, Mes Que takes it to a new level with a liquid twist on the salt and caraway Kummelweck roll, tender beef and optional horseradish accoutrement. Mes Que uses cachaça as the spirit base, a distilled sugarcane spirit that’s practically Brazil’s national booze and tastes similar to rum. It’s a clean, smoky spirit that blends well, and the Queen City Daiquiri adds cracked caraway, brown sugar, a blend of lemon and grapefruit juice, salt and celery bitters to create the iconic sammie flavor.
The whole shebang is topped with a skewer of ribeye, fat back and all, and garnished with a rim of Hawaiian black sea salt and horseradish foam on the side.
So how does it taste? The Queen City Daiquiri is almost eerily accurate, with a strong caraway flavor and a deep, umami character that does resemble roast beef with a brown sugar glaze. I could almost smell the crackling skin. The citrus was mild, pushing the earthy black salt and celery forward, and once I knocked the garnish in, it had a definite meaty flavor I never thought I’d see in a glass.
While the presentation is a little overwrought, with two side cups for that horseradish foam – more of a cream in execution – and some extra salt, this is a drink that sparks conversation. The side cups do mimic the highly individual preparation of the sandwich; some of us like an au jus dip, others consider horseradish essential, or sacrilege. I tried dipping the garnish in the horseradish and swirling the whole thing around in the coupe, which creates an authentic flavor but is definitely not pretty.
If you take that route, expect lumps of cream to congeal in the liquid, which may explain the construction. But much like making a sandwich, the Queen City Daiquiri lets customers have it their way, with or without horseradish, adjustable salt levels and even a tofu option for vegetarians.
The ribeye was tender and flavorful, although to quibble over the cooking of a garnish seems too contrived even for the most hardcore cocktail fans. Overall, the Queen City Daiquiri will not become anyone’s standard, but it is a fun one to try when out on the town. It may not work well when the soccer bar is playing a particularly popular game; the plating requires a spot at the rail, of which Mes Que has plenty, except when Arsenal is on the pitch.
All in all, Mes Que’s spring menu is worth a visit. Out of seven drinks we tried on a recent weekend, only one was not to our tastes, and those are some good odds for any sport. Expect intricate flavors, daring combinations and lots of texture. A twist on the classic Aviator comes with a violet cotton candy, and a take on the Blood and Sand has an orange foam, which is also more of a whip than the airy cloudiness we usually see from that moniker. Mes Que is distinguishing itself as a new kind of sports bar; one that cares about its fare as much as what’s on the screen.
Charlie Schwabl’s Queen City Daiquiri, $8; Mes Que; 1420 Hertel Ave, Buffalo; 836-8800; mesque.com.
Lizz Schumer is the author of “Buffalo Steel” and writes about food and whimsy for a variety of local publications. She can be found @eschumer, lizzschumer.com or facebook.com/authorlizzschumer