Buffalo’s best-known culinary attraction is chicken wings, which were invented here in the city but now are available everywhere. Its other mealtime passion, beef on weck, can be found almost nowhere else. Among the reasons beef on weck hasn’t traveled is that the buns are hard to bake and virtually impossible to keep for any length of time; and to cook and carve the beef requires a level of expertise that can’t be learned overnight.
The appeal of this sandwich is best understood at a tavern called Schwabl’s. Here, the hard rolls are heavily crusted with coarse grains of salt and infused with caraway seeds (a.k.a. kummelweck; hence the sandwich’s name), fluffy inside, yet rugged enough to hold up well when sliced in half and dipped in natural beef gravy. Schwabl’s beef is superb: thin, rare slices severed from a center-cut round roast just before the sandwich is assembled. It is piled high inside each sandwich, a tender and luxurious pillow of protein. The only thing this sandwich could possibly want is a dab of horseradish, which is supplied on each table and along the bar. It’s great alone; traditionalists get it on a plate with wonderful warm German potato salad, house made pickled beets, and cole slaw.
Beef on weck is the #1 reason to come to this cozy, family-friendly place, and frankly, the beef is so good that we’ve always had a hard time going beyond it to explore other items on what is, in fact, an extensive menu that includes salads, Saturday-only Hungarian goulash, and a unique version of Quebecoise poutine, sprinkled with caraway seeds. We are told that the seafood is terrific (haddock in particular); and we do enjoy hand-carved hot ham that comes in a pool of tomato-clove gravy. It is a tempting alternative to beef, although it has none of the famous local sandwich’s authority,
Schwabl’s is a casual, well-aged tavern, attended by business people at noon and families at suppertime. There’s a full bar, and non-alcoholic birch beer with the faint twang of spearmint is always available on draught.