We walked out of the synagogue after my grandma's memorial service and asked what any Jewish family would ask each other after a difficult experience– where should we eat? Despite filling up on coffee cake while accepting condolences from friends, I was in need of some Jewish penicillin, and there was only one place I could think of.
"Let's go to the Buffalo," I suggested. My husband rolled his eyes. He believes the Buffalo is mediocre and overpriced (this from the man who believes the standard-bearer of Italian food is the Olive Garden). Perhaps because his wife's grandmother recently passed away, or because said wife was 22 weeks pregnant, he kept the kvetch to a minimum and dutifully drove me to my matzo ball soup.
The Buffalo Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor is a fixture of the Buffalo Grove community. Though it's technically a Greek deli, the restaurant serves a variety of Jewish comfort foods and is one of the only places I can never go without make up on, since I am guaranteed to know at least one person there. The menu includes the aforementioned matzo ball soup, which boasts two big, fluffy balls in a just-salty-enough broth. Enjoyed with a roll from the bread basket, matzo ball soup at the Buffalo feels like home.
The Buffalo has played the "supportive and comforting friend" role in my life for as long as I can remember. Being centrally located in between the baseball fields and home, my family would eat there after my brothers played. We went there for ice cream after attending family Shabbat services at our synagogue. In junior high, when I was finally grown up enough to go out to eat with friends (and without any parents), the Buffalo was one of the only places we could get to on foot from our neighborhood. We often paid in change and under tipped the poor sucker who got stuck serving us. Allowance only went so far.
In high school I was involved in theater and choir. After a performance, our cast would often head to the Buffalo, celebrating over deep fried anything, massive ice cream sundaes, and of course, matzo ball soup. My high school boyfriend and I shared many evenings at the Buffalo over the "Lover's Delight," an ice cream creation I'm too embarrassed to continue thinking about.
When my friends and I were home from college on break and needed a place to meet, it was the obvious choice. When I lost my first job, hated my second job, and landed my third job, I drowned my sorrows and celebrated there. Battling a bad cold or upset stomach? The Buffalo.
I moved to the city, which certainly did not lack for Jewish delis, but nothing compared. It was one of the first places my husband and I went for dinner after we moved back to the burbs. I was excited to introduce him to my place. He probably would have preferred the Olive Garden.
And so I found myself there after the memorial service, surrounded by family, slurping soup, and remembering Grandma. The familiar surroundings, the comforting food, and the shared memories of a lost loved one helped put a Band-Aid on my sadness. The Buffalo, my supportive and comforting friend, came through once again.