Cafe 59 is a cool spot perfect for any-occasion lunch, dinner or drinks, and without the “this place isn’t for everyone” attitude and atmosphere of many other bar-restaurants which could be described as "cool.” A true Allentown community hub, it strikes me somehow as nearby long-standing staple Towne Restaurant’s trendy younger cousin.
On a recent Wednesday night visit, several young couples—my girlfriend and I included—settled in for a casual dinner, and a group of six or seven older folks enjoyed each other’s company and dessert in its abstract-art-lined dining area. On the bar side of the U-shaped locale, a 30-something woman sipped red wine and read a book post-meal, and a small group of guys and girls chatted over drinks.
Having dined at Cafe 59 a handful of times now, I can confidently call it an underrated must-try for any true Buffalo foodie. Every once in a while, buzz about its renowned chicken finger sub bubbles to the surface of Buffalo’s media circuit. And rightfully so: I’ll gladly call it Buffalo’s best. The concept is the same as your local pizza and sub shop’s wax-paper-wrapped version, but the parts—hearty cuts of fried chicken breast, leafy greens, and tangy house-made blue cheese—are different; elevated.
But Cafe 59 offers so much more.
On top of an expansive regular menu filled with reasonably priced, high-quality sandwiches ($9.95 across the board), salads (sides, $4-$5; entrees, $10.95-$13.95), pastas (price varies), starters ($7.95-$10.95) and more, inventive daily lunch and dinner specials up the ante.
Each time we eat at Cafe 59, my girlfriend already knows what she’s ordering—but doesn’t know exactly what will be in it. The creamy risotto is a regular special, but the mix-ins rotate. Last time, it was chock full of salmon, roasted carrots, peppers and corn ($14.95). She loved it, as always.
When my Creole shrimp po-boy (a Mardi Gras-themed special; $12.95) arrived, I was surprised by two things: grilled (not fried, as listed on the menu) shrimp and a sandwich roll (not sub, again, as listed). I didn’t bother to point out the inconsistencies because I was distracted by how delicious it was.
In my experience, even if they get your order wrong (they usually don’t, this was a first), you can’t go wrong at Cafe 59. Everything is house-made, flavorful, affordable and heartwarmingly satisfying.
A favorite menu feature is the smoked mozzarella bites ($9.95) with a side of red sauce for dipping. These crispy, gooey, decadent, Romano-dusted molten cheese cubes arrive in a heaping helping to be shared and savored.
Another standout offering is the signature whole wheat grilled focaccia bread with garlic- and thyme-infused olive oil, complimentary with dinner. It’s delicious—and filling. Avoid devouring too many of the chewy, doughy bread logs put in front of you or risk finding yourself full before your meal arrives (I’ve been there).
A “Now serving brunch” chalkboard sign has hung in the dining area for at least four years now. I’ve never checked it out, but my interest has been piqued by social-media shoutouts to two intriguing brunch specials: a bacon-and-eggs-topped chicken finger sub (arguably the most Buffalo hangover food to exist), and breakfast mac ‘n’ cheese (cheesy penne mixed with scrambled eggs and ham).
As a modern, effortful-and-inventive but not over-the-top spot with something for every eater—old or young, vegan or carnivorous, adventurous or picky—Cafe 59 should be embraced as one of Buffalo’s best any-occasion eateries.
62 Allen St. (883-1880)
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m Monday through Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday; 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.
Patio: Opens in April.
Parking: Street only.
Gluten-free options: Yes.