Buffalo’s vegetarian pride and joy, Merge, offers a special menu for Local Restaurant Week
When someone asks where the best vegetarian fare in Buffalo is, Merge is the first place that comes to mind. Why did it take Vegetarian Buffalo so long to get here? Well, because it’s the most obvious choice for vegetarian food. Let us say, it’s the most obvious choice for some very delicious reasons.
Merge owners and sisters Sarah and Eliza Schneider are possibly the most active restauranteurs in the city. Their efforts have plowed the way for gourmet healthy eating and promoting a clean lifestyle in Buffalo, and Merge has been a monumental help in that movement. I’ve seen them at several events, including Taste of Buffalo for the past several years.
Merge is located in Downtown Buffalo along Delaware Avenue. My husband and I actually tried to just walk-in Tuesday night without a reservation and getting seated didn’t happen; it was absolutely booked with no room for walk-ins. So we made reservations for Friday night with success and looked forward to a relaxing evening Downtown.
We parked in the lot at the corner of Delaware and Edward and arrived several (read: 25) minutes early and lucked out that it wasn’t crowded enough that we couldn’t be seated. Granted, it was very early in the evening, so that probably attributed to it. Our friendly hostess sat us with regular menus so we had a chance to look over the seasonal fare before our server brought the LRW specials. Clever ploy; their Butterbeer looked irresistible so my husband ordered that while we took a moment to look over the Local Restaurant Week specials. I mean, I knew I was going for the Mushroom Bourginon made with local wild mushrooms, carrots, and fresh herbs slow cooked in red wine, served with truffled mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach, but my hubby wasn’t certain yet. Plus we had to choose which version to go with: Did we do the first option: dinner for one for $20.14, which was a drink, soup or salad, and entree, or did we go with the second choice which was a bottle of wine and two entrees for $40.14?
While I thought the Butternut Squash Bisque with Sage looked enticing, I wasn’t going to die without it, so he and I decided to go with the bottle of wine and two entrees for $40.14. We placed our order with a 2012 bottle of Andre Brunel Cotes du Rhone from France, and he ordered the Blackened Swordfish entree.
Our server brought our bottle of Cotes du Rhone and served it at our table. I have to give props to their selection: the bottle was earthy and spicy, just a fantastic red. My husband and I sat and relaxed while we sipped our drinks, finding the atmosphere easy to appreciate and unwind from a long week. It’s perfect for holding intimate conversations, which can be difficult in some restaurants around this area because of noise levels or the way they seat tables, and I personally love sitting and having conversations with my sweetie, so it was great.
Our food was served and the presentation was beautiful. My vegan mushroom bourginon was rich and hearty looking at a glance, and his wild caught blackened swordfish was served atop local potato hash and chipotle lime cream sauce with sautéed kale on the side.
There was nothing wrong with this dish; it was perfect and I would gladly eat it again
Just thinking back on this meal, I’m getting a warming feeling inside my soul. The mushroom bourginon had this amazing mouth feel that other restaurants don’t seem to pay enough attention to. The variety of mushrooms provided so many different textures: some were firm and chewy, some were tender, and all were wonderful. The sauce was a heavenly red wine concoction–I should explain that the other night I tried to make a red wine based “gravy” (based on no recipe) and I butchered it, so this was how I knew it was supposed to taste and it was an affirmation that a red wine sauce can be done as elegantly and delicate as I had imagined. The truffle mashed potatoes underneath were amazing and the bourginon acted as thin gravy. The sautéed spinach atop this dish was perfect: the ideal portion of perfectly cooked baby spinach leaves. There was nothing wrong with this dish; it was perfect and I would gladly eat it again.
This was my husband’s third time eating swordfish: First time we overcooked it because we grilled lakeside and no one knew how to cook swordfish and reception was terrible so we couldn’t Google it. The second time was at a restaurant that should have known how to cook it, but the steak was grainy. Merge made up for all of it. When he cut the steak it was perfectly cooked and flaked according to how swordfish should flake. The sauce had an excellent spice kick that complimented the blackened fish nicely. The kale was extraordinary: it had a kind of citrus dressing on the cooked leaves that took out any kind of bitterness you might experience from lightly cooked kale. It was a little chewy, but again, this was a texture pairing that was needed on this plate. The potato hash was apparently very good too, but at this point we were heavily back into conversation and the food was just appreciated at this point.
We finished our meals and upon realizing we still had half a bottle of wine to work through, we looked at the dessert menu. Several things looked good, but in effort to include some carbs in our dinner, we went with the Carrot Cake and GF Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies.
We talked, we drank, we nibbled at these incredible desserts, we listened to the local live music being performed in the other room, and overall we had a fantastic evening; just the two of us and our meal at Merge. If you haven’t been here, it’s an excellent restaurant with out-of-this-world food. Definitely, definitely, make your way to 439 Delaware ave. Buffalo, NY 14202 and try it.
Read our Merge review on Yelp!