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Joys of expression: The birth of Canvas@1206

blog by BuffaloDotCom  • 

Both Steve McCarthy and Dawn Kirchmeyer relish the imagery of a blank canvas, an untapped goldmine meant as a vehicle for artistic expression. The two owners of Canvas@1206, a new Buffalo restaurant at 1206 Hertel Ave., have sketched their own design by blending their talents into a single, unique restaurant.

McCarthy, a guitarist/producer hailing from London, UK, spent 15 years in a band that traveled all over Europe—his fondest memories include opening for Ice-T in France in front of 10,000 fans and producing “Neon Roaming” as Parallel, an album which peaked at #7 on the UK charts. Although he loved his music exploits and his career with Sky TV as a graphic designer, McCarthy tired of traveling—his canvas had started to fade.

Kirchmeyer owned a catering and lunch delivery business called “Dawn’s Lunch Basket” in Hamburg for 12 years, but her dreams—the canvas she really sought to create—was operating her own restaurant. Introduced to McCarthy through common friends, promise soon became reality on Hertel Avenue, one of Buffalo’s burgeoning neighborhoods.

There’s no question that Canvas@1206, at least in its early days of business, is pushing toward a classy-but-not-stuffy feel—there’s dim lighting, shiny white tablecloths and napkins, and a side wall adorned with local photographer Cheryl Gorski’s black-and-white photos of Buffalo jazz greats. The interior is simple and refined.

The restaurant’s goal is to unite McCarthy’s musical passions with Kirchmeyer’s food expertise. While the former’s musical tastes don’t center around jazz—his band emulated DJs’ house music with live-band performances—Canvas intends to respect the strong tradition of jazz in Buffalo. McCarthy also mentioned that, in addition to comedy acts on Monday nights and open mics on Wednesdays, Tuesdays would be a night of blues music with Labatt Blue and Blue Lights offered for $2.00. Any band that plays at Canvas@1206 has the option to have its performance recorded in McCarthy’s studio upstairs, which the owner is currently importing from London. Part eatery, part live-music joint, part recording studio? Is this real life?

Kirchmeyer is quick to mention that, while the restaurant does have an upscale feel, the menu is certainly affordable. “The food is inexpensive, and the entertainment will be free—it’s fine dining without the price tag,” Kirchmeyer explained. Canvas@1206’s grand-opening gala is scheduled for New Year’s Eve. 

Kathryn and Ben T. rolled in for a late lunch last week, and they were immediately presented with a more detailed menu than anticipated from a brand-new restaurant. Both breakfast and lunch menu items are served between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., while the dinner entrees are offered from 4 p.m. until 10.


Tempted by the soup, Kathryn ordered a bowl of the tomato basil ($3.95)—she enjoyed the chunkiness and rich flavor. She then opted for the crab cake salad (small, $5.25; large, $7.75)—the fastest selling salad, our server mentioned—which Kat described as “fresh and light” with a good bit of tang. The crab cake was moist, and the mango jalapeno salsa was a perfect zesty complement.


Ben T. couldn’t look past the Canvas burger ($12.95), as 1) he’s awfully gullible when the name of the restaurant is present in the menu item and 2) he sneakily picked out Johnny’s Meats through Canvas’ window, and knowing the butcher’s reputation, was sold instantly. While he wasn’t blown away by the result, the burger was large—certainly daunting for someone with a small mouth. In the future, he’d order it with cheese (+$.75), bacon (+$1.50) or sauteed mushrooms (+$.50).


We’ve had the hand-cut vs. frozen french fry debate for months now, and we’ve concluded that—while we admire restaurants’ ambitions to hand-cut—it’s much tougher to pull off consistently. The sweet potato fries were excellent, however, and the honey drizzle was a pleasant-but-not-overwhelming addition.

Dessert was obviously on the docket, and the Buffalo.com content duo opted for a slice of raspberry chocolate cake. Again, the portion size was excellent, and the smooth raspberry cream in the middle of the cake wasn’t agonizingly sweet—a quality we were thankful for. The chocolate cake itself was moist—and probably would have been even better if we’d eaten it immediately after being served (hey, we’re chatty!).


Kirchmeyer has grand plans for the desserts—and awesomely, some will be infused with alcohol. Finally armed with a liquor license, the co-owner mentioned her array of martini flavors—carrot cake, strawberry shortcake, pineapple upside down cake and key lime pie, among others. Wine ice cream—yes, you read that correctly—will be (temporarily) exclusive to Canvas on Hertel, and the flavors will include Riesling, cherry Cabernet, chocolate Merlot and peach Zinfandel. These will be available on the menu shortly after the kickoff gala.

The strawberry shortcake martini was the highlight of the meal. The liquor wasn’t overbearing, and the flavor was tantalizingly close to strawberry shortcake. You’ll be tempted to order at least four of these.


Canvas@1206 is unlike any restaurant or bar on Hertel—carving out a niche won’t be difficult for an upscale restaurant with live, local music. The creativity in drinks and desserts, coupled with a cozy stage near the front window makes for a worthy “going out” destination.

Canvas@1206 on Urbanspoon

TAGGED: canvas@1206, food, hertel avenue, jazz music, restaurants wny, steve mccarthy

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  1. Maggie Rozell December 28, 2011 @ 9:52am

    The crab cake listed above is amazing!

    Maggie Rozell's avatar
  2. Ben Kirst December 28, 2011 @ 11:23am

    I had the crab cake sandwich, which was huge and delicious.  Sweet potato fries were also very good.  Had breakfast here last week, too, and the use of real butter on the toast and hefty hunks of home fries were welcome indeed.  My only negative about the place is that it gets a little drafty with the front door opening and closing…otherwise, I think this place is awesome.

    Ben Kirst's avatar