If I can, I try to support local. Whether that’s the local pizzeria, the local diner, the local bar, anything. I think it’s because I personally like to know where my money spent is going and if it’s truly supporting a Buffalo-rooted entity. There are a lot of great local businesses that make Buffalo’s food and beverage scene the powerhouse that it is.
My guy and I finally had a free night recently to plan a date night, so we chose to go explore downtown Buffalo for our night out. It happened to be a Sabre’s game that night, so we did have to sit in a bit of traffic, but it was surprisingly worth it. We were able to sit for a while in our Uber on the 190 and get a great view of the downtown skyline. It was nice to stop and look around at this reinvigorated city.
We stopped for happy hour at Black Button Distilling, a newly found favorite of mine. For starters, the vibe is so mature and hip. I loved the urban curb appeal it has, being in the heart of downtown, and the dim lighting with cozy bar seating inside.
The bartender started us off with a nicely sized charcuterie board, full of great meats and cheeses to nibble on before our dinner later in the evening. There were so many great cocktail options on the menu, so I wanted to take a little time to decide what to try, as well as pick the bartender’s brain about each cocktail.
This night was a lightly snowy, but terribly freezing, night in Buffalo, so I started myself off with Black Button’s seasonal warm cocktail: Dorothy Hamill’s Winter Cocoa. It happens to be a customer favorite, so that certainly influenced my decision! This cocktail, which consists of Bespoke Bourbon Cream, 20-Plate Vodka, Vanilla Bean Syrup, Hot Cocoa, and Candy Cane Rum, totally won me over. It reminded me of winter time, cozying up on the couch with my love, and snuggles!
I have never had a warm cocktail prior, actually, so this was something completely different to me. I loved how it literally warmed me up and tasted like a sweet hot cocoa, except with a nice buzz! It tasted more like a treat and dessert, so I had said that I wished I ended my night with the Dorothy Hamill’s Winter Cocoa, as it’s the perfect night cap! I’m so glad I tried it.
Because we were having such great conversation with the bartender and enjoyed our drinks, we decided to do another round of cocktails. This time I landed on the Clementine Jubilee. I am forever calling this ‘my drink!’ This cocktail consists of Citrus Forward Gin, Ginger Syrup, Clementine soda, and Leonard Oakes Sparkling Riesling. Although I don’t drink gin often, the Riesling is what sold me on it! This blend worked incredibly well together, with a lightness and crispness to it. I’d imagine this would be a very refreshing summer drink, but to me in that moment it just tasted dang good!
And the presentation and smaller glass was just too cute!
We were having such a nice time at Black Button that we honestly lost track of the time for our dinner reservations at Hydraulic Hearth! We Ubered down the street to Larkinville in no time though. I can tell Hydraulic Hearth is a great place to visit in the summer time with their outside bar, patio, and lawn games! And as I write this in the month of February I am craving sweet summertime and it’s abundance of vitamin D.
Our hostess seated us at their pizza counter, which is right in front of the brick oven. I have to say, this is definitely one of the neatest seats inside. You get to watch them toss the pizza dough in the air and see all of the delicious, fresh pizzas coming out of the oven. But if you’re starving, this could also be pure torture!
We ordered some wine to start us off (but let’s be honest I was wishing for another Clementine Jubilee from Black Button). For our dinner, we chose a pepperoni, sweet green peppers, red sauce, and mozzarella pizza. I patiently watched for it to come out of the brick oven and it looked absolutely fabulous once it was ready.
Had we come a little more hungry, we probably would have ordered two pizzas for us to have individually. Since we came from picking away at the charcuterie board and sipping drinks at Black Button, we just decided to order a pizza to share, along with some side salad.
The pizza was pretty standard overall with a thin crust and not over-cooked nor under-cooked. The crust had an every so slightly smokiness from the brick oven. The good kind, not in a way that tastes like straight char. The pepperonis and sweet green peppers had just begun to crisp on the edges too, which helped to elevate the taste as a whole.
I think my favorite part of this pizza was that since the slices aren’t that huge, you could eat this pizza so fast and so contently. Being thinner and not especially large, you can pound down slices pretty quickly and enjoy ever single bite along the way. It was not too messy as some thin, floppy pizzas can be where the toppings just slide right off the top.
I would have wanted a little more toppings other than pepperoni and sweet green peppers together, perhaps like sausage and onions, but this pizza still tasted good overall. I was not blown away, but I would certainly come back and try a new pizza to switch things up.
As far as the space goes, we went on a Friday night and Hydraulic Hearth was packed! It was pretty busy and perfectly loud in the restaurant, so we had a great experience overall. I loved the dimly lit atmosphere and mix of seating options. You could sit at the bar, the pizza counter, the booths, or tables. The variety made it feel more casual and fun for whatever type of occasion you were dining for. Our waitress was average, managed us well without going above and beyond, and what you’d expect for a relatively busy evening at a popular restaurant. We were pleased!
That’s what I love about local businesses. There’s this unique character to each one where you develop your own experience different from anything else. They represent the hustle, the pride, and the passion that fuels Buffalonians.
This was a great date night at both Black Button Distilling and Hydraulic Hearth. I’m looking forward to going back for more!
Pizza & love,