At Colter Bay, sneaky good tavern food, no skis required | Restaurants

When the bar at the northeast corner of Allen and Delaware was renovated in 2016, the décor swerved hard toward Grand Teton lodge, with skis hanging from the rafters, a zoologically diverse forest of antlers, and a lift chair permanently installed for Instagram photo ops.

Typically, when I find myself in a restaurant thinking that an interior decorator certainly had fun shopping, the cooking coming out of the kitchen tastes like an afterthought. That’s the sneaky goodness of Colter Bay. Under the collection of Western ephemera lies the beating heart of a solid Buffalo tavern, serving a menu upgraded with stealthy finesse.

Former Blue Monk chef Tony Martina, now a Colter Bay owner, has been diversifying the dining experience while holding on to the anchor concept: better-than-usual frialator fare that goes especially well with what’s pouring from its 28 taps of craft beer and cider .

If you have sought a spiritual inheritor of the Blue Monk experience, Colter Bay might do. Here, one may eat as if you truly believe that living well is the best revenge.

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Colter Bay Scotch egg

Colter Bay’s Scotch egg is a soft-boiled egg, wrapped in sausage, then breaded and deep fried and served with maple bacon aioli and arugula.

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Behold the Scotch egg ($ 7). If you don’t enjoy egg yolk, move on. Because this sausage-jacketed golden-crumb-fried orb will spill liquid gold into the maple bacon aioli beneath it, while a few wispy fronds of arugula fail to staunch the flow.

Bacon confited baked potato at Colter Bay

Bacon confited baked potato at Colter Bay.

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The baked potato ($ 10) is an extra-large Idaho spud poached in bacon fat before it’s split and stuffed with bacon lardon, triple onion cheddar sour cream, butter and rosemary, its indulgent richness only heightened by a spray of astringent celery greens. Confited peel becomes pleasantly jerkylike, giving the dish a meaty chew.

Crispness isn’t the point of Colter Bay’s potato skins ($ 12), which might disappoint purists, but it’s hard to argue with the splendor of thick-sliced ​​bacon ensconced in extra sharp cheddar, ornamented with scallions and herbed sour cream. The unorthodox potato plank foundation brings the pig-to-potato ratio of bites to roughly 50-50, a lifesaver if you have recently been diagnosed with a severe bacon deficiency.

Short rib French onion at Colter Bay

Short rib French onion at Colter Bay.

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Short rib French onion ($ 16), a large bowl with a “massive” portion of braised short rib, scored a palpable hit. A savory red wine braise perfumed with star anise evokes pho, French onion by way of Bordeaux and Hanoi. That plus the cheese-pulling and crouton-scooping made this a destination French onion experience, for two.

Colter Bay staff ready to go

Colter Bay staff, from left: Taneda Travis, Nailawi Rot, Andy Bradshaw, Tony Martina, Calder Wright, Jordan Travis, Christian Velazquez and Shelby Robillard (seated).

Robert Kirkham / Buffalo News

Even the mac and cheese ($ 13) is extra, as the kids say. Elbow macaroni in an extra-sharp cheddar matrix gets a deeper dimension from caramelized onions as well as the obligatory bacon. Crushed potato chips as a topping is a throwback touch I plan to steal.

In recent, increasingly complicated years, Martina said, he wasn’t able to get away from Colter Bay for his favorite crispy chile chicken at Peking Quick One in Tonawanda. So he developed his own homage to the dish of intensely flavored crispy chicken nuggets ($ 12), twice-fired with aromatics and peanuts, served over white rice with housemade chile crisp.

Hot chile chicken at Colter Bay

The hot chile chicken bowl at Colter Bay.

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“GOOD STUFF” I jotted down, once I could see again. “CHILE ON SIDE NEXT TIME.” That was on me – I didn’t expect to meet this kind of heat on Allen Street, this far from Buffalo Tikka House.

Even the salads have oomph. The Colter Bay wedge ($ 14) hits entrée territory with Buffalo fried panko-crusted chicken breast leaned against a quarter-head of iceberg lettuce, bedecked with tomatoes, carrots, celery, red onion, crumbled blue cheese and blue cheese dressing.

Colter Bay sandwiches include Lamb Philly

The lamb Philly sandwich at Colter Bay.

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The game is down to the elk burger ($ 16), with walnut-crusted goat cheese and berry compote. But other stellar sandwiches include a lamb Philly ($ 22), boasting thin-sliced ​​roast lamb with sautéed Flat 12 mushrooms, onions, melted Muenster cheese, toasted baguette and roasted garlic aioli.

Half is probably enough for most people. That way you can also split a duck Reuben ($ 17), holding shredded fat-braised dark meat poultry, red sauerkraut, dijonnaise and Gruyère cheese on toasted marble rye. There’s a vegan Beyond burger with Daiya vegan cheddar ($ 15), but otherwise vegan fare doesn’t extend beyond french fries and stripped-down salads.

Duck Reuben sandwich at Colter Bay

The duck Reuben sandwich at Colter Bay.

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Steak frites ($ 20) at Colter Bay means grilled picanha, the top sirloin cut popular in Brazilian churrascaria restaurants for its half-inch fat cap, carefully crisped to add top-of-the-food-chain glee to every bite. With dank housemade steak sauce and plenty of crispy skin-on fries, it’s a pleasure well rendered.

Our server was friendly and efficient, armed with useful menu insights and prescient water refills. While the streetside booths are prime lounging territory, the patio tables on the Delaware Avenue side of the restaurant promise to be prime sipping territory once the weather turns.

If the weather turns? This being Buffalo, it might be snowing as you read this. If so, cheer up: You don’t need a lift ticket to warm up to the après-ski taste at Colter Bay.

Colter Bay's Among the devil's pasta

Damn pasta at Colter Bay.

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Location: 561 Delaware Ave., 716-436-5197,

Hours: 4 to 11 pm Wednesday through Friday; noon to 11 pm Saturday; noon to 10 pm Sunday. Closed Monday, Tuesday.

Prices: appetizers $ 7 to $ 14, sandwiches $ 13 to $ 22, entrees $ 15 to $ 20.

Atmosphere: cheery ski lodge.

Wheelchair accessible: no.

Gluten-free: many choices.

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