Whiskey drinkers, rejoice: Lucky Day Whiskey Bar is currently open in the former Century Grill on Pearl Street with a sleek new look and a whiskey library to make spirits aficionados salivate.
Ballyhoo's Tim and Morgan Stevens opened the establishment as both a downtown happy hour and theater dinner destination, but the real draw is behind the rail.
Longtime Buffalonian bargoers may remember Century Grill for its bacon baskets, balcony table seating and often raucous happy hour. Stevens and his team kept the sturdy bones of the former Masonic temple intact, but redecorated in an 18th-century English style.
Its wallpaper's redolent of a British drawing room, pen and ink drawings of bespoke cats accent the walls and best of all, the spirits selection will make whiskey fans weep.
Lucky Day’s classic cocktail menu is intentionally small and the entire menu — from wine and beer to pages upon pages of whiskeys — encourages exploration.
The wine list breaks offerings into “comfort zone” and “don’t be afraid” categories, with the latter showcasing more unusual varietals. All wines are available by the bottle or glass, a welcome change from restaurants that keep their most exciting bottles limited to that format.
Its beer list features a healthy stock of locals as well as an interesting non-local selections. At first glance, Stevens’ new spot shows the same attention to its beer list as Ballyhoo, which is good news for hopheads.
On the food end, all of the dishes pair beautifully with a beverage, especially the small plates. At $5 a pop, the old-world classics include liverwurst, limburger cheese and red onion on rye, a pickle plate, beet-pickled deviled eggs and pickled herring.
Step outside your comfort zone and order a few — grandpa would be proud.
Appetizers, entrees and salads tend more toward the standards. If you’re looking for more substantial, give a classic British hand pie a try. At $12 each, the toasty “pasties” provide a warm, portable treat.
Now, about that whiskey. The back bar showcases bottles with forward-facing labels on polished wooden shelves. Lucky Day is as well-staffed as it is beautiful; its bartenders are equally attentive and knowledgeable about their products.
When I asked for help getting an affordable peat-forward scotch into my belly, our bartender offered several suggestions. He neither assumed my level of expertise or talked down to me, something I — as a female bargoer — appreciate. When a friend ordered an off-menu mojito, she received a beautifully constructed beverage, also sans side-eye.
Here are five choices bar manager Gavin Neaf said he is especially excited about.
Paul John: "We have three expressions of this whiskey which is produced and aged in India, using techniques that closely mimic Scottish single malts. The extreme heat there ages them much faster than scotch and the selections range from unpeated to heavily peated," Neaf said.
Straight Edge Bourbon: "A blend of Kentucky bourbons, finished in Napa Valley cabernet casks for a bold, full-bodied whiskey. It's been well-received by all who try it."
Deanston 14 year Organic Single Malt: "A lovely unpeated highland scotch that exemplifies the highland style. Light, crisp and fruity, you don't see it on many shelves."
Bernheim Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey: "A fun alternative to bourbon, made with a recipe containing 51 percent wheat, it's nutty, bready and sweet, noticeably lighter and softer than bourbon."
Jefferson's Ocean: "This Bourbon literally ages on a ship at sea, visiting five continents and over 30 ports on its voyage. Weathering the elements and various climates results in an aging process like no other, truly a unique bourbon."
Located right downtown, the clientele is split between after-hours business people, craft cocktail bar regulars and curious passersby. Despite a full house, we had no problem getting our drinks or hearing our companions. Our fellow patrons also seemed as courteous as the staff on the nights we visited.
Many visits will elapse before we make even a dent in Lucky Day’s extensive (and growing) whiskey library, but we look forward to the challenge. It’s a classy, comfortable establishment with bartenders who put us even more at ease. For that (and a crack at those deviled eggs), we’ll be back and back again.
Lucky Day Whiskey Bar
320 Pearl St. (322-0547)
Hours: 4 p.m. to midnight Tuesday and Wednesday and 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.
The scene: Lucky Day Whiskey Bar features a whiskey library that’s locally unparalleled in a classy British-style setting. The former Century Grill retains its character, with an upgraded selection and stellar service.
The drinks: Wines start at $8 a glass; cocktails are $10 each. The lengthy whiskey list (12-plus pages online) starts at $4 and over for a 1-ounce pour and $8 and over for a 2-ounce pour.