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Starters: Warm welcome for everyone at Fera's Lunch Hour

With the days of Buffalo’s massive inner-city labor force long behind her, there aren’t many restaurants specifically servicing the lunch crowd downtown.

Fera’s Lunch Hour, a staple in Buffalo for nearly a century has been doing just that. Holding to the remainder of a hunger a fraction of what it once was, Fera’s has persisted with a loyal customer base and uncompromising values.

Despite a minor aesthetic refresh beginning in late May during which the restaurant was temporarily closed, the charm and history of the longstanding restaurant have not been lost.

Adorned with photographs of Buffalo from the 1920s when the Fera's sign was a little more grandiose (think Shea's), at the center of it all stands the lunch counter behind which the staff scurries to fill handwritten tickets for orders from a line that stretched to the door when I arrived. It seemed a tradition unaltered through the years.

Hot and familiar macaroni and cheese is a special for $3. (Phil Wagner/Special to The News)

The menu is anchored by their famous sub selection, but includes a variety of salads, soups, and a few daily specials scrolled in chalk beside register.

Having just escaped the blistering Pearl Street wind tunnel, the mac & cheese special ($3 small) spelled salvation from the cold. I was hoping it would arrive hot, and the molten cheese cup delivered that and then some.

Each spoonful drenched in the lava-like cheese sauce was not unlike many I’ve had, but it was delicious and familiar, hitting the spot on a brisk afternoon.

A look at the ordering counter and small tables inside Fera's Lunch Hour on Pearl Street. (Phil Wagner/Special to The News)

All hovering between $5-$6, the standard 8-inch subs are an incredible value. With 25 varieties available on a choice of four breads or three wraps, you’re staring at a staggering 175 options, not including your preference of toppings. That’s a hell of a lot of lunches. In my short trip, I could handle only two.

Scanning over the list of classics that includes pastrami ($5), meatball ($5), and chicken finger ($5.75), I stopped hunting when I hit the fried bologna with fried onions ($5.50). A fading classic in the Buffalo sandwich scene, it’s a must-order for me whenever it pops up. Fera’s prepares theirs in the style of a Cuban sandwich, pressed with mustard, cheese and my addition of pickled hot peppers (+$0.25). A nice spin on one of my all-time favorites.

Fera's fried bologna sandwich is served with mustard and cheese on a Costanzo's roll; Wagner chose to add pickled hot peppers for 25 cents extra. (Phil Wagner/Special to The News)

For the second sub I took a recommendation for the turkey and bacon ($5.50). A staple sandwich with crispy bacon and tender turkey, it’s a perfect portion for lunch that delivers as advertised on a warm and tender Costanzo’s roll.

Inside a nondescript store front in the heart of downtown, Fera’s flourishes with a long-standing business model: lunch staples done right at a price suited for the workingman. The menu selection may not surprise you, but the quality of the food and the value just might.

It's a welcome reminder that sometimes the classics are exactly what you’re craving.

INFO: Fera’s Lunch Hour, 93 Pearl St. Phone: 852-1055. Hours: 10:30a.m.-2 p.m. Monday - Friday.

It might be easy to miss Fera's from the street. (Phil Wagner/Special to The News)

*Read another Starters by Phil Wagner:

Starters: Louisiana Cookery brings French Quarter flair to Cheektowaga

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