The Big Apple-esque branding of New York Beer Project, a bonkers 24,500-square-foot beer house and gastropub in Winter Garden, belies its upstate roots — Western New York roots, to be exact.
Like the 17,500-square-foot original just outside Buffalo in Lockport, New York, and the 16,000-square-foot NYBP in Victor, New York, the bricked behemoth in Horizon West is built to resemble an old New York City brewing warehouse. There's MTA subway lettering, a melon-shaped chandelier resembling the one in Grand Central Station, and big Scrabble tiles above the doors spelling out things like "Hell's Kitchen" and "I Hate Tourists." OK, the latter doesn't appear anywhere, but the point I'm trying to make is that all this Manhattanalia sure beats an interior filled with more geographically appropriate images of missed field goals, abandoned factories, winter blizzards and Irv Weinstein. (Kidding, Buffalo, just kidding. Laugh a little. And RIP, Irv.)
Joking aside, I think Weinstein would approve of seeing crispy wings ($16 for 10; $30 for 20) served in traditional Buffalo style with celery, carrots and blue cheese. NYBP will even make them extra crispy if you ask, but the Eyewitness News legend would certainly fault serving them virtually dry instead of wet. We had to ask for extra sauce to enjoy them, though enjoy them we ultimately did.
Same goes for the beef on weck ($16), another Queen City classic with luscious roast beef served in a kummelweck roll properly crackly with caraway seeds and coarse salt. It's served with jus, a pickle and a batch of forgettable truffle-Parmesan fries that tasted neither like truffle nor Parmesan and spent too long in the fryer. An item NYBP does cheese up right are the mozzarella logs ($12). Not sticks, mind you, but logs, each a veritable superfreak (to use the term coined by Buffalo native Rick James).
American and Swiss cheeses goo up the patty melt ($17), arguably the best item we ordered thanks to 10 ounces of burger, caramelized onions and honey mustard on buttery grilled sourdough. Pairing the sandwich with sweet potato fries, instead of the truff-parm misfires, was choice. Pairing it with NYBP's Coconut IPA was even better. Which brings me to the beers: Many are brewed on-site in the massive brewery, and you'd do well to get a flight of four 5-ounce pours for a very reasonable $10 — the Destination IPA, snowbird Florida stout and strawberry shortcake cream ale being faves of ours.
There's beer in the cheese sauce of the "Manhattan Mac" ($14), and a buttery crumb topping too. A shame there wasn't any salt. There are also seasonal specials on the menu and seeing it was still technically winter, we went with the winter stew ($18), a hearty plate of slow-roasted beef, baby carrots and blistered corn plopped onto whipped potatoes. Swigs of the Destination IPA made the meal all the heartier.
Did we need to end with a warm chocolate chip cookie skillet ($9)? No, but like I said, it was still technically winter, and we were all getting in touch with our own private Buffalos. BTW, the NYBP brand is growing — our very capable server mentioned to us that the fourth location will open in Orchard Park, New York, home of the Buffalo Bills, later this year. By the looks of it, it would appear that Kelly and Kevin Krupski, the New York owners of the mammoth beer and grub house, are in an empire-building state of mind.