By the time we realized we were in a blizzard, it was too late. We were already downtown, navigating the snow-coated roads as we headed for the Filling Station on Seneca Street.
The Filling Station is part of the Larkin District’s renaissance. Once, the building housed a fueling station for vehicles. Today, it fuels something of a different sort: midday meals to Buffalo’s downtown working crowd.
As we walked through the doors, relief radiated through us. Our server seated our party of four next to one of the glass garage doors that goes up or down depending on the season.
In winter, I judge a restaurant, in part, on warmth. If it’s drafty inside, I’m thinking about that — not what I came for, the food. The cold concerned me. Happily, despite the raging wind and swirling snow, we stayed cozy throughout our meal.
The restaurant is decorated industrial chic. White tablecloths, cloth napkins and soft, acoustic music give the bright, airy interior an upscale vibe. The prices, however, hover around $10 per meal.
Food is served on vintage, light pink dishware emblazoned with the Larkin logo, a touch that pays tribute to Larkinville’s industrial past.
The menu is on the smaller side. It includes the usual lunch fare: soups, sandwiches and salads, along with a few specials. Here, however, it’s quality over quantity. What the menu lacks in breadth it makes up for in taste and creativity.
I opted for the caramelized onion, bacon and gouda quiche special ($9). The richness of the quiche paired beautifully with a side salad of deep greens dressed in a light vinaigrette with Parmesan shavings. The quiche was a delight. The texture was fluffy, the flavor cheesy and the overall umami heightened by just the right balance of bacon crumbles.
We all enjoyed the Moroccan cauliflower and chickpea soup ($4), featuring bright notes of cilantro, an earthiness from the chickpeas and a flash of heat. It was delicious and decidedly different, which we liked.
The apple and cranberry salad ($11) was a bright mixture of greens, apple, cranberry, grapefruit, shaved fennel, pistachio and Parmesan dressed in an apple champagne vinaigrette. It came with sliced chicken breast.
Also sampled was the cobb salad ($12), a hearty assortment of spinach, sweet corn, scallion, bacon, avocado, tomato, green beans, crumbly blue cheese with roasted garlic blue cheese dressing. A boiled egg and sliced chicken breast gave the salad more heft.
Additionally, we ordered the egg salad sandwich ($10), served on thick slices of rye. It came with a crispy little side salad of cucumbers, chickpeas, onions, tomatoes and feta.
For drinks, Coke products along with Johnnie Ryan soda, hot and iced teas and wine and beer are available. We enjoyed peppermint tea served with an ample jar of honey and cute tea pot. We liked that servers leave a bottle of water on every table, allowing diners to refill at their leisure.
A chocolate chip cookie capped the meal perfectly. It arrived warm, chocolate still gooey on the inside. Despite the weather, the restaurant was almost full when we left. In the warm weather months, reservations would be required.
With memorable food warming us and thoughts of returning filling us— next time on a warmer day— we bundled up, braced ourselves and headed back into the snow.
Address: 745 Seneca St. (362-2665)
Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, closed Saturday and Sunday
Wheelchair-accessible: Yes .
Parking: It can be tricky, but there is a lot not too far away.
Gluten-free options: Yes, very accommodating.