For those of you who are not from Cleveland, you need to understand something about this city. There is an East Side and a West Side. Most people from the East Side don’t go to the West Side and vice versa. For some reason, all East Siders think that the West Side is on another planet and it takes just as long to get there as it would to get to the moon. I am a die-hard East Sider. Why? I have no idea, I just am. There are plenty of great restaurants and things to do on the West Side, but I don’t know the area well and am not inclined to drive more than 30 or 40 minutes to get somewhere. I guess the same could be said about Akron- that’s only about 35 or 40 minutes away and it never comes to mind when we are trying to figure someplace to go.
Knowing this information, we now plug in that North Olmsted is on the West Side. And the Harry Buffalo is a bar. There is no way that I would travel all that way for bar food. I think that is a truism of life. I was on the West Side at the Disney store picking up a die cast Frank the Combine for Connor’s birthday tomorrow and met a friend who lives and works on the West Side at this location. So now that the mystery of the Harry Buffalo location is solved, let’s get to the review.
This bar is decked out- it’s new and has both an inside and an outside seating area. Being that it was 90 degrees and humid, I opted for the inside. I saddled up to the bar because I was about a half hour early and ordered a beer. Their beer lineup was just okay, nothing special, but they had two that I had never tried before. The first was a Leinenkugel called Summer Shandy. This was a cloudy beer with a soft hay color to it. The citrus smelling head on the beer was like no other beer I have enjoyed without adding some type of citrus to it. It smelled like the tail end of a lemon air freshener that has been in a car for too long. The taste was initially refreshing but smacked my palette on the tail end with bitter lemon. If you like lemon, this is a beer for you. Not for me.
The bartender had a certain trucker aura about her that I couldn’t exactly place, but she was at least nice. She dropped off my second beer which was Bell’s Oberon Ale. This beer had a huge head on it and smelled of orange. Apparently the manager likes fruity beers at the Harry Buffalo. This is a slightly sweet beer but after the lemon of the Summer Shandy, I just couldn’t handle it. Down the shoot quick like a bunny. Two outs in a row. Three outs and it’s game over Harry Buffalo.
So my friend Lisa shows up and we take a look at the menu. The menu is a little unusual. It’s got a little bit of everything and is kinda confusing to look through. The design department sorta just upchucked every possible idea all over the menu. They have pictures of the pages on fire and of these strange looking wooden buffalo heads- it’s really just a terrible looking menu. The food on the menu is all over the map as well. Burgers, salads, wraps, pizza, “buffatizers,” “chickentizers,” hot sandwiches, cold sandwiches, signature sandwiches, lions, tigers and bears… Oh my! Give me a break people- it’s simple: appetizers, sandwiches, pizza, dessert. Keep it simple, stupid.
We choose our meals. I am psyched because they have something called a Mahi slider. I am a sucker for a mahi-mahi sandwich and have never had a mahi slider before. Lisa is being good and orders a salad. The Buffalo French Chicken Salad. Well, we’ll see what happens with this one. About fifteen minutes later, our food arrives. Overall, it looks good.
Then, I kicked the tires and looked under the hood. My mahi sliders were weird looking. I thought that she brought me something other than Mahi. For the first time in my life I was staring at a mahi nugget. That’s right, they flaked off some mahi-mahi, added some binder and compressed it into a nugget. It reminded me of a fishy chicken roll or something. Really strange and not all that appetizing. Is it that hard to grill up a piece of fish, quarter it and toss it into a mini-bun? Apparently at the Harry Buffalo it is way too hard to do that. Better to open up a plastic bag and pull out four mahi-mahi nuggets and go to town.
Fish nugget aside, there was just about no sauce on it. So you have this dried out, weird sausage patty looking thing with no flavor and then no sauce. Had plenty of raw onion which I promptly picked off. Huge piece of lettuce? Check. Giant slab of tomato? Check. Flavor? Umm… I think they forgot to check for that one.
When Lisa’s salad arrived, she looked at it with what I could only call apprehension. Maybe I was reading the situation wrong, but it wasn’t exactly a look of wonderment. I know, it’s just a salad, but wait till you read my J. Alexander’s review. Now that is a salad and a half. This looked like eggy colored (you know, when you hard boil eggs wrong and the yolk turns kinda yellowy green?) romaine topped with Sysco prepared chicken bits, lots of onion, filler croutons and a strangely thin dressing. The three wedges of pita chips did make the presentation though. I thought that pita wedges disappeared in the 90′s?
When the bartender took our plates, more than three quarters of the salad was left. Lisa commented that the dressing was really “Frenchy.” With the exception of homemade French dressings, I have yet to meet a French dressing from a bottle that is even near to tasting good. The bartender asked her if she wanted it boxed up… “Ummm… No.” Enough said?
All told, the Harry Buffalo has a lot of potential. It fails to meet that potential at every turn, opting for mediocrity, trying to blend in with the rest of the chain-bar fillers that are out there. I know that this is America and the almighty dollar drives just about everything, but sometimes you have to open your eyes a little. Don’t opt for the cheapest crap you can buy to serve to people. Serve them good food and instead of having a three quarters empty restaurant during the lunch rush, you will have all the seats filled. If your food is delicious people will want to come there and bring their co-workers and friends. I would never bring anybody to eat compressed fish nuggets on a mini-bun. I doubt that Lisa will be rushing back with her husband to down another uninspired salad. It’s not that hard to figure out people!
I give this restaurant a solid C-, bordering on D+. There are plenty of other places you can go in the same price range that give you better food. When you drive by the Harry Buffalo in North Olmsted, give em a honk and keep driving to another restaurant that serves good food.