Located in an early 19th century building that used to be a brewery tavern (a.k.a. brewpub), Eckl’s opened as a restaurant just after Prohibition, in 1934. It built a reputation as one of the top purveyors of Buffalo’s unique beef on weck sandwich. We were heartbroken back in 2015 when the Eckl family announced they were closing. But we are happy to report that the landmark restaurant opened again in the fall of 2016, run by Jim Cornell and Ted Smith, with the Eckl family’s blessing … and with Dale Eckl at the cutting board.
It was Mr. Eckl who long ago clued us in to the elements of a superior beef on weck. Other than good roast beef and a sharp carving knife, he noted that a proper roll is crucial, a point made clear by the one served here. It is fragile and fine-crumbed but sturdy enough to remain intact even when sopped with juice; and it sports a domed top that is vigorously salty with caraway zing. The beef piled into this roll is carved (when ordered, not before) extra thin. “You have to shave that roast,” Eckl told us. “It has so much good flavor, but it is going to be tough if it’s cut too thick.” The custom at Eckl’s is for the carver to pile up enough slices for a sandwich – an inch thick, at least, then dunk the whole beefy mille-feuille into a pan of natural gravy, placing the soaked beef upon the bottom of the kummelweck roll. Degree of doneness, from dusky outside flaps to scarlet rare from the roast’s interior, is diner’s choice.
If beef on weck were all Eckl’s served, we would recommend it with gusto. But there is more, including French onion soup loaded with translucent petals and blanketed with cheese atop a layer of soaked caraway-rye; fried and broiled seafood; and a weekend-splurge menu of surf-n-turf pairings of steaks with half-pound lobster tails. It is all served with skill and ingenuous charm by a staff of waitresses who really are helpful.
Seating is in a friendly bar up front or a darker dining area where tables are covered with soft white linen. We like the bar and the room just behind it because they provide a view of the cutting board. It is a joy to watch an expert apply his sharp knife to the roast, carving sheaves of beautiful beef.