By Cindy Hemper
As Erie is filled with great places for dining, it is so hard to choose what place to go to next. With the summer days being so pleasant, most of the time I just let my feet do the walking and stop in to whatever place they may lead me.
Recently I walked into another beautifully historic restaurant located at 414 French Street, The Pufferbelly. This extraordinary establishment that is housed in a more than 100 year old building that originally was built as a firehouse in 1908, served up some of the best local atmosphere and food that I have had the pleasure of sampling in our city.
The Pufferbelly was founded more than a quarter of a century ago, and is owned and operated by Bruce & Mary Ellen Hemme. The menu selections are wide and varied, with top-notch service to match.
The owners and staff have created a unique casual feeling, while at the same time, you know you are in an upscale restaurant, that welcomes everybody.
The Pufferbelly serves a fantastic menu that includes everything you might want, from chicken breast to chicken Marsalis to Filet mignon with catch of the day fish entrees and burgers, all prepared how you like them. The appetizers include Baked Brie with Almonds, Bacon Wrapped Shrimp and Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms along with many more tasty treats to bate your taste buds. They also have a nice selection on their children’s menu as well.
First, the French Onion Soup is simply the best I have had anywhere in the city. I followed that up with the Southwestern Rubbed Strip Steak, simply the most amazing steak I have had to date in Erie.
This Strip Steak is served perfectly seared with the exact blend of Cumin, the second most popular spice in the world after black pepper, and the mild but earthy kick of Chipotle along with the hot and flavorful chile ancho Chili Pepper, and yes, even a touch of Cayenne pepper flawlessly blended for a zesty and scrumptious steak.
Bread pudding is perhaps my favorite desert, and when I saw it on the menu I thought, if the rest of my dinner was any sign, I should definitely try it. Having spent time in New Orleans where the Bread pudding is a Creole specialty that is made to an absolute perfection, my standards, admittedly maybe a bit high. Although, the rest of my meal was to say the least, sensual, still, I did not have much hope for this dish. As I took my first bite a feeling of astonishment swept over me, this Bread pudding rivaled that of the old southern cooks and even that of Capirotada, which is the incredible Mexican version of Bread pudding that I sampled while in Acapulco two years ago.
Overall, my experience with The Pufferbelly restaurant was to say the least outstanding with the invitingly historic ambiance, warm staff and great service and especially the unbelievable food, I would certainly invite everyone to stop in and have a truly wonderful dining experience.