Hunger makes the best sauce, and every dish tastes better with a backstory. So before illuminating the many charms of Café Bar Moriarty, here’s the story so far.
Buffalo-born Thomas Moriarty fell in love with Spanish cuisine as an exchange student from Canisius High School, applying to culinary school for a return visa. Two years later, after graduating, he worked for a beef farm in Massachusetts, which fueled his interest in learning various cuts of beef. This led him to France, where they train butchers to patiently dismantle animals at the seams, instead of running primitive cuts through American-style bandsaws to produce cheaper meat. To pay for his butcher school tuition, Moriarty worked in a small bed and breakfast while completing his apprenticeship.
His wife and business partner Caitlin first saw him at Coles in 2012. In 2018 they opened Moriarty Meats in the former Zarcone’s on Grant Street. It was the only place like it in Buffalo: local beef, lamb and pork offered in retail fresh cuts, a few animals each week, a few fresh seafood options and a freezer stocked with stew of lamb, beef stock and sausages.
In 2019, they purchased the former Vino’s restaurant at 1650 Elmwood Ave., and moved upstairs with their two children. The butcher’s counter opened there in 2020. Then they bought the neighboring building, with its tiny parking lot, to turn it into a restaurant where they now serve a few dishes drawn from the daily forces of the bustling butcher’s shop next door. . The kitchen is Andrew Bauerschmidt after years of working in a butcher shop. The menu changes weekly, depending on what meat and seafood they can prepare and sell for a tasty profit.
This is how Café Bar Moriarty became the Buffalo restaurant known to remind people of that little place they loved in Europe.
Channeling blue-collar cafes from Spain and France, the menu is tiny with around a dozen choices. The usual lineup includes four plates of the week ($11-$18), four small plates or pinxtos, the Basque term, ($6-$10), and four one- or two-bite tapas ($2.50).
Analyze it, go up to the bar and order, maybe the ham and potato croquettes ($6). Three golden orbs with hearts of mashed potatoes and ham are sprinkled with saffron aioli, and simmered white beans with salted cod and herbs ($10), pale green legumes with a profusion of herbs and good olive oil, from savory to big white cod flakes just slightly brackish.
Then take a seat at the bar, at the table or upstairs, with a Kronenbourg lager beer ($5.50), a glass of house wine ($5.00) or an elderflower soda ($2.99) .
Four or five plates of the week include Buffalo nods like beef on weck, thinly sliced roast beef on kummelweck with horseradish mayonnaise ($14) and a double cheeseburger with cheddar and pickles to homemade dill ($12).
Both suggest that you should let your butcher cook for you, whenever possible. Pink flesh tender enough to bite cleanly is rarer than rare in Buffalo, but Moriarty nails it. Crispy edges on smashburger style patties, check. Starting with premium beef from New York animals, Moriarty does meat the right way.
Other dishes of the week draw inspiration from afar. The homemade boudin blanc on radicchio, endives and croutons dressed in buttermilk and herbs ($14) is a beefy lunch salad with a French accent. Pork bocadillo ($13) is a sandwich of roast pork on a baguette, seared seasonings a la plancha and relish made with Basque piparra peppers. As with the beef and burger, the bocadillo baguette was well suited to the technical demands of a hearty sandwich, without being so crispy that it drew blood.
Another yeast triumph is Moriarty’s Iraqi samoon under the lamb shashlik ($13), a grilled kabab of seasoned ground lamb served on fresh pointed-toe pita bread from nearby Buffalo Bakery. Fresh mint, dill and parsley, pickled beets, garlic yogurt, black and white sesame seeds and a shower of sour red sumac flakes beckon the eyes as well as the tongue . A Fulbright scholar who recently returned from six months in Istanbul said it was the best kabab she had had in the United States.
It’s gone, but it will come back. This is the challenge of market-driven restoration, developing trust in the owner’s suggestions. Show up on the right day and feast on picanha ($22), sirloin with a big crispy cap, candied leeks and anchovy aioli. Roast veal, sweetbreads, pork cutlet and other butcher’s choices are appearing.
Two caveats: perhaps unsurprisingly in a butchery restaurant, vegetarians don’t have a lot of choice. The schedule is small too, four days a week for lunch and three early dinners, no reservations. Nine to Five still have Saturday, however.
The suspense for Café Bar Moriarty was longer than the wait for an award-winning prosciutto, and even more rewarding. The couple who brought their love for Spanish cuisine back to Buffalo have built their dream restaurant, on their terms, and invited you for lunch.
The Café Bar Moriarty will not make you chicken fillets and fries. But it will make you happy.
Opening hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday to Saturday.
Price: tapas, $2.50; small plates, $6 to $10; plates of the week, $11 to $22.
Wheelchair accessible: no
Outdoor dining: in summer
Photos: Discover the dishes of Café Bar Moriarty
Spring at Café Bar Moriarty
Lunch crowd at Café Bar Moriarty
Caitlin and Tom, owners of Cafe Bar Moriarty
Promotions board at Cafe Bar Moriarty
Beef on weck at Café Bar Moriarty
Boudin blanc sausage with panzanella salad at Café Bar Moriarty
Ham and potato croquettes at Café Bar Moriarty
Pintxos include chicken skewers at Cafe Bar Moriarty
Salt cod and beans at Café Bar Moriarty
Lamb shashlik at Café Bar Moriarty
Beef on weck and small plates at Café Bar Moriarty
Assortment of tapas at Café Bar Moriarty
Egg, anchovies and red peppers at Café Bar Moriarty
Caitlin Moriarty at Cafe Bar Moriarty
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