To celebrate an angst-inspiring birthday (such a high number!), my siblings took me to 100 Acres, one of the restaurants symbolizing the resurgence in Buffalo. Set in the old Buffalo Psychiatric State Asylum, now the Hotel Henry, on the Richardson Olmsted Campus, the hotel and restaurant represent a study in redemptive architecture. Once a condemned building, planners added ultra-modern-chic décor and furnishings to a flawlessly preserved 1880 architectural masterpiece.
We drove onto the campus and found ample parking and valet parking, if you are so inclined. Spacious as its name denotes, 100 Acres occupies several rooms—two separate bar rooms and a coffee shop, several rooms for restaurant seating, a large foyer and an outdoor patio. We were seated at a table for eight in an open, yet private, room. To me, this meant we could have a proper conversation. From one end of the table to the other, we could hear each other. I sat with a view of the campus. My sister-in-law preferred her view of the grand staircase. As my brother observed, "It’s like we’re not in Buffalo anymore."
The food, from appetizer to dessert, was a delight. We began with candy-coated cherry tomatoes—a gift from the chef. Fresh from the garden, the sweet tang of the petite tomatoes burst in your mouth followed by a chewy caramelized candy. Unique. A cocktail menu offered various concoctions that added a gardener’s touch—my sister ordered the hobs: vodka, elderflower, lemon, ginger, garnished with a sprig of thyme. My brother commented that the establishment seemed interested in introducing their customers to new things.
The appetizers included a yellow fin tuna with avocado, cucumbers and citrus—the best flavors on the table. The warm goat cheese, tomato jam and flatbread satisfied all. Deviled eggs, while a bit heavy as an appetizer, certainly disappeared quickly.
Entrees included halibut covered in foamed potatoes sitting on a bed of green beans—an eating adventure for me as I have never experienced a “foamed” potato. Two of us had this entrée and agreed: superb flavors with a generous portion of succulent, tender halibut.
Strip steak best described as decadent, juicy, and evenly cooked.
Faroe Island Salmon with lentil ragout: salmon lightly cooked to perfection; lentils al dente and appetizing.
A side of crispy, truffled potatoes parmesan lived up to their description.
A free choice of desserts was offered to the birthday girl—fresh poached peaches, ricotta and almonds—glorious to the palate. 'Tis the season.
The berries with cream and lemon curd—not as popular but still outstanding.
Through some error in judgement and/or a need to modify our appetites somewhat, we did not order a more decadent dessert like chocolate and peanut butter mousse. Next time.
Dinner done, we had been sitting for several hours. No one wanted to leave, but we had to move around a bit. A tour of the premises was in order. We first checked out the rooms in the restaurant—the bars were booming, dark and atmospheric with a separate area for diners. We ventured out onto the patio—deserted on a cool September night. The patio looks south over the campus and I could envision lunch on a bright summer day. Upstairs we found the hotel. The architects have preserved the integrity of the massive building, retaining high ceilings, wide corridors, sweeping staircases and tall windows. We discovered a beautifully restored stone fireplace. Generous seating areas with flat screen TVs welcome visitors and guests alike.
Future plans for 100 Acres include adding a garden and greenhouse.
From the outside, the hotel resembles a castle constructed of Medina sandstone and red brick. Two towers, steeply pitched roofs, turrets and carved out tunnels on either side of the building add to the similarities. When lit up at night, it becomes a vision of a medieval era.
As a retired psychiatric nurse, I wondered about the hospital’s history and reputation when treating the mentally ill. The center of the building housing the hotel functioned as administrative offices. Ambulatory patients likely came there to meet with their doctors. Inpatients occupied wings off the center, men on one side, women on the other. A storied history, I am sure, but history it is. The present owners have launched a new narrative and one I hope continues for a long time.
I enjoyed a memorable birthday evening. We had lots to see, talk about and appreciate. A long languid dinner savoring the food and enjoying the company are easy at 100 Acres—the concept is supported by the environment and the staff—a true dining experience.
Soon, I will return to check out the coffee shop menu but especially their espresso machine for my morning latte.
For Western New Yorkers who haven’t experienced this local wonder created from an amalgam of the old and the new, get off your urban/suburban butts and visit. For travelers to Buffalo, don’t miss it.