Ever since opening, there’s been a lot of well-deserved hype revolving around Chippewa’s newest destination, The Lodge. My first glimpse of the finished restaurant was a photo that I saw on Facebook (lead image) that generated quite a buzz. It was just today that I saw the place in person, after heading over to grab lunch. Before sitting down to the bar for a meal, I decided to take a walk around to see all of the features that had come together to comprise what some people are now calling “The anchor of Chippewa”.
Not only is The Lodge designed in a vibrant, warm and welcoming manner, it does something very unique for downtown Buffalo. It has been able to smoothly cross over from restaurant (during the day/evening) to lounge-style, atmospheric post-dinner club (after 11pm)… and even then it retains an ‘upscaleness’ about itself that will appeal to an older crowd of Buffalonians looking to venture onto the street for a quality night out.
I spoke to General Manager Liz Warden who told me that she felt that the vibe The Lodge is delivering has been lacking in Buffalo. “We’re an upscale restaurant without being pretentious,” she explained. “We have the ability to draw and retain the business crowd for lunch, happy hour and dinner, carrying the restaurant theme on until we transition into a lounge-like setting. But even at that point we retain the upscale atmosphere… nothing rowdy and nothing drunk.”
The Lodge could have gone overboard with campy outdoor decorations, but instead it created a beautifully lit, swank 6000 square foot, rustic-meets-polished dining experience unlike anything else in the city. The attention to detail is a welcome surprise for visitors who can be seen staring at the shimmering artistically decorated acoustic tiles (as if lit by the sun reflecting off rippling water) on the ceiling, or gazing at the ever-changing woodlands behind the bar (lit by LEDs). A cleverly elevated lounge platform acts as a room divider between the massive bar and the sidewalk seating area (with clear garage doors that open to the street on warm days). The above-mentioned platform doubles as a stage. Other atmospheric design touches include a set of mason jars with electric fireflies ‘trapped’ inside, and retro TV sets showing old ski instructional videos and retro camping lodge movies (I could do without the hunting shows on one of the flat screens above the bar, but that’s just a personal preference).
As I walked through The Lodge, from the front to the back, past the bar and the booths, and up the stairs to the game room and the Ice Bar, the transitioning stages of design (referred to climates) are inescapable.
One half of the upstairs has been fashioned to be a bit more playful, with games such as skee ball and a pool table, with old TVs playing throwback cartoons. Then, towards the back of the second floor is the Ice Bar, where many of the corporate parties have already been booked.
As one of the the servers put it so well, “The Lodge is like an Instagram goldmine!” It’s true. Everywhere you look there is a lighting element, or a water feature, or a TV set playing “snow” with The Lodge logo on it, or a branchelier (the more updated version of antler chandeliers, although there are plenty of those too). There’s even a handsome patio overlooking Chippewa outfitted with foliage and dining tables – not a bad view either.
The food at The Lodge matches the setting well. There’s something for just about everyone… even a vegetarian. You can get mix and match sliders (veggie burger to bison), or a soft shell po boy, a BLTE (the “E” is for fried egg), lobster mac and cheese, pan roasted striped bass, wild mushroom strudel (yummy), blackened fish tacos (also yummy)… there’s also Buffalo style chicken wings and shrimp, and even a stag on a stick (you can figure that one out). For the ravenous The Lodge has entrees ranging from from beef tenderloin seared ahi tuna, and for the pickers there are small plates, soups and salads. Chef Fortune Macri has dubbed the eating affair as “Bold New American” cuisine, dedicated to the best of American fare, with a healthy dose of world influences.
Thankfully, we are seeing a continued evolution of the Chippewa restaurant scene, with this latest entry doing a smashing job at helping to elevate the dining-over-drinking scene on the street. Not to say that there won’t be plenty of time to belly up to the bar at The Lodge, it’s just that we’re seeing the district grow up in front of our eyes. Now there are a few different eating destinations on Chippewa that appeal to the well heeled traveler, rather than a one-dimensional, party-centric bar hopper.
Interior design by Rohit Kapoor | Artwork by Crystal Dickey | Artwork by Rita Wojcik (RRKW Photo)