By Michele DeLuca firstname.lastname@example.org
Niagara Gazette — The owners of the new Griffon Pub in Niagara Falls are feeling the love.
They already considered themselves pretty blessed by the constant traffic in their new restaurant since it opened on Military Road five months ago. But, just recently the New York Times tipped its hat to The Griffon in a recent story, “52 Places to Go in 2014.”
Niagara Falls took the last spot on the list, and was cited for its evolution into a place for those who love food. As evidence, the writer cited the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute, and The Griffon, a “gastro pub,” featuring 50 beers on tap and “creative New American dishes like gnocchi poutine.”
When that happened, just about every foodie in the region sat up and took notice of The Griffon, which was opened in August by the owners of the Lewiston Village Pub.
Similar to the Center Street pub in Lewiston, the Niagara Falls pub features unusual menu items like “Devils on Horseback,” which includes port-wine steeped prunes stuffed with gorgonzola cheese, wrapped in applewood-smoked bacon broiled until crispy and drizzled with balsamic glaze.
While some may turn up their noses at the idea of prunes, the appetizers are selling briskly as customers seem to enjoy the mix of sweet, salty, and savory, said co-owner Ken Scibetta, calling it a “classic” dish.
Surprisingly, the two pubs only share a few menu items in common, with the Falls pub being like the mature older brother to the Lewiston pub, Scibetta said. Both, however, operate under the owners’ belief that “you eat first with your eyes.”
Customers were seen leaning out from their booths to get a better look at some of the food as servers passed by, including a hamburger that sits nearly a foot high, held together with a large pick. The co-owners tried 18 blends of meat before settling on the special blend for the burgers. “We want the dishes not only to be amazing in taste but visually stunning, as well,” Scibetta noted.
Scibetta, who got his start in the business as a waiter at La Hacienda in the Town of Tonawanda, and later managed the Left Bank in Buffalo, met his partner, Ed Webster, when both were working at the Waterstreet Landing, Scibetta as the general manager and Webster, as the bar manager.
They united under the common belief that the restaurant business should be fun, and opened the Lewiston Village Pub to prove it. That worked very well, they said, especially with celebrations like their Cinco de Mayo event, complete with hay on the floors and donkeys parked outside.
The Griffon is a little more upscale, like a “slightly refined older brother,” added Scibetta, a Kenmore East grad. The pair chose it’s location near the Fashion Outlets Mall long before all the new construction began nearby, because they loved the building, and because Webster, a Falls native, wanted their second restaurant opened in his home town.
The Griffon, after nine months of renovation, boasts double layers of 50 beer taps behind the bar and provides an ever changing selection of brews. Webster, who runs a beer club at the Village Pub that he plans to move it to The Griffon, adding that after traveling several times to England, “I am obsessed with the beer revolution.”
“The U.S. is putting out better beer than any other place in the world,” Webster added.
There are a variety of other unusual menu items, which Scibetta loves to describe with closed eyes and demonstrative hand waving. Among them is a “Kicking Scotch Egg,” reminiscent of those Webster found in England; bacon jam bruschetta, which are crostini topped with maple bourbon bacon jam; and Pub Poutine, mentioned in the Times story, created from fresh cut garlic Parmesean fries topped with smoked gouda cheese curds and house-made bowling alley brown gravy.
There’s also much standard pub food, including beef on weck, and chicken wings with a variety of sauces, including a death sauce which requires the patron to be over 18 and sign a waver.
The Griffon is offering a special Valentine’s Day couples menu, which includes the aforementioned Devils on Horseback, and a burrata salad, featuring fresh made mozzarella stuffed with fresh ricotta, served with vine-ripened tomatoes, Parma prosciutto and drizzled with balsamic reduction. There’s also a seafood stuffed puff pastry, filled with grilled tiger shrimp, pan seared scallops with hand-pulled lobster meat topped with sherried-crab cream sauce, served with grilled asparagus. The Valentine’s menu ends with Chocolate Oblivion, a flourless chocolate fudge served in a chocolate ganache shell served with housemade, warm rasberry jam.
But, while the pair seeks to always provide a menu that makes the customer lick their lips in anticipation, it is service on which they pride themselves. Scibetta says that the place welcomes people of all walks of life, whether they’re tourists in T-shirts or a wedding party in tuxedoes. Customers become family, in their eyes, they said.
“It’s like (the restaurant is) our house, and every night, we’re having people over for dinner,” Scibetta explained.
Webster agreed, adding: “We never want anyone to walk out of here unhappy.”
IF YOU GO WHAT: The Griffon Pub WHERE: 2470 Military Road, Niagara Falls
FOR MORE INFORMATION: Call 236-7474 or visit Griffon Pub on Facebook