Buffalo Proper chef Ed Forster and bar manager Jon Karel had already established themselves as players in the Buffalo food and beverage world before opening their bar and restaurant a year ago. On Aug. 30, the pair took on brunch.
Both the cardigan crowd and mustachioed hipsters will love what these two have cooked up – truly a "proper" brunch for the masses, whether they started at Mass or not.
Our table ordered everything on the menu that can't be had at Buffalo Proper for dinner [read more on the restaurant's website]. That excludes the poached farm egg and potatoes ($10) and the baby gem salad ($6). We also chose to forego the hanger steak and eggs ($23). We were looking for more adventurous fare.
Anyone who's tried Forster's food knows he likes to confound expectations. As with the rock shrimp corn dog ($12), paired with chamomile aioli, caramelized and pickled cauliflower and fresh herbs, one of our favorite dishes.
This corn dog is what Coney Island food wants to be when it grows up: fresh seafood with a perfectly crunchy exterior with chamomile and herbs cutting the buttery batter. It was a masterpiece.
The T-Meadow pork tostada ($14) also came away with high marks for its shatteringly-crisp black garlic tostada base and slow-cooked shredded pork topped with pickled jalapeños and onion, sour cream and topped with a perfect sunny side-up egg. This was Mexican comfort food at its finest, with the garlic playing well against the pickled veggies and that tostada just greasy enough to soothe any remnants of Saturday night revelries.
Along that same theme was the Proper empanada ($10), stuffed with Painted Meadow egg, fresh cheese, corn and tomato with a charred tomato salsa. The empanada was appropriately flaky and crisp, with a chewy filling that was all fresh corn and whipped-into-a-frenzy egg. The salsa was the fruity and smoky, complementing the hand pie well.
Each of these came with patatas bravas, a Spanish style squared potato with a spicy aioli drizzle. While the taters could have been crispier, the kitchen gets credit for trying something new with the all-famous breakfast potatoes, rather than sticking to tired old hash browns.
We also tried both tartines: Crispy toast with layers of toppings to make a meal. The cured salmon version ($11, pictured as featured image) was everything you may remember from a New York deli but with a twist: Briny salmon and creamy smoked creme fraiche, with pickled red onions and jalapeños for crunch, with a smattering of sliced caperberries to pump up the pickle. This one was done on a slice of dark, chewy Breadhive pumpernickel.
The burrata tartine ($12) was rich and milky, with arugula, roasted tomato, those same pickled onions, arugula pesto and pine nuts. Burrata has a milky, velvety texture but not much flavor on its own, so I wanted more zest to balance out the dairy. The peppery arugula, slightly sour onion and charred tomato were all excellent accompaniments, but my palate needed more punch.
And what's brunch without beverages? (Cocktails are $8). The Proud Mary, Proper's take on a Bloody Mary, used the house's own mix to create a vegetal, very fruit-forward drink that didn't taste as much like spiked sodium and soup as most. It was paired with fresh cucumber for a little crisp, and had a slight hot sauce kick.
The Campari Spritz was a simple marriage of Campari and sparkling wine, with two green olives for a garnish that lent not a hint of flavor. Probably for the best; the classic Campari pairing was a great accompaniment to all of the big-flavored food, which offered plenty of brine on its own. The French 75, which features gin, sparkling wine and lemon, is a light, fizzy sipper by itself. Try adding a splash of Campari or Amaro, to keep things interesting.
Brunch often comes with long-entrenched expectations: There must be eggs, orange juice, coffee and carbs. Proper took it one step further with a Mexican-inspired twist that tasted right under the late August sun. As the weather turns, Proper's new offerings will carry well into crisper temperatures, when we'll all need a little warming from the inside out.
Buffalo Proper brunch; 333 Franklin St., Buffalo; 783-8699
Lizz Schumer is the author of "Buffalo Steel," content manager for Resurgence Brewing Company and writes about food, beverages and other topics for a variety of publications. She can be found online @eschumer, facebook.com/authorlizzschumer and lizzschumer.com.