When we told a friend we were headed to the Niagara Falls, N.Y., to check out the iconic waterfalls, our friend piped up, “You’ve got to have a beef on weck.”
Beef on what?
Buffalo, New York, is famous for Buffalo wings, those crispy, hot-as-heck chicken wing parts served with celery and blue cheese dressing. A less well-known (though no less delicious) Western New York culinary tradition is roast beef on a kummelweck roll, also known as beef on weck or beef on wick. This sandwich is made with rare, thin-sliced roast beef on a kummelweck roll (sometimes spelled “kimmelweck” or “kümmelweck). The top bun gets a quick dip in au jus and the sandwich is served with horseradish.
It’s the kummelweck bun that gives this sandwich its distinctive flavor. The soft, white bun has caraway seeds and coarse salt baked into the top. Some food historians credit a German baker William Wahr, who had immigrated to Buffalo, with inventing the delicious roll. Legend has it that a local pub owner used the buns to make beef on weck, a salty sandwich that would encourage patrons to order more drinks.
While a number of bars and restaurants around Buffalo and the surrounding area serve beef on weck, none is better than Schwabl’s, a long-standing favorite in West Seneca. Schwabl’s has been serving customers beef on weck and all manner of rib-sticking German specialties for nearly 180 years. The Schwabl family of restaurateurs claim they actually invented the beef on weck sandwich. They insist that great grandfather Sebastian Schwabl, who immigrated here in 1837, created the first beef on weck.
Today, the small restaurant on Center Road just off Union (277), serves up half-pound sandwiches like Grandpa Schwabl meant them to be—a pile of juicy, thinly-sliced rare roast beef atop pillow-soft, slightly salty buns that are bathed in flavorful au jus. The roast beef is expertly cut to order by a chef who slices the meat from large roasts with a special long carving knife. They have the kummelweck buns specially made for them and shipped directly to the restaurant. The sandwiches, served up by veteran waitresses dressed in 1950s polyester white uniforms, come with soury dill pickle spears and hot horseradish. The beef on weck at Schwabl’s will set you back $10, but this sandwich is well worth it.
Editor’s Note: We also tried beef on weck at a popular wings joint in Buffalo. While the wings were terrific, the beef on weck couldn’t hold a candle to Schwabl’s big meaty, juicy version. The beef on weck at the other restaurant (which will remain nameless) was less flavorful, not as juicy and contained about half the meat of the Schwabl’s sandwich. Additionally, their weck bun was softer and less substantial than Schwabl’s.
Real Bottom Line: Next time you’re in Western New York, indulge in a beef on weck for a true taste of German immigrant history. And, if you want to savor the real deal, order your beef on weck from the iconic Schwabl’s Restaurant in West Seneca.
789 Center Rd, West Seneca, NY 14224