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Hydraulic Hearth, Harry Zemsky's Larkinville restaurant, to offer brick-oven pizza, experimental beer

Hydraulic hearth 2

Above: The former Swan Lounge is expected to become Hydraulic Hearth this summer. Photos: Harry Zemsky.

By Andrew Z. Galarneau

This summer, Larkinville should welcome its newest attraction: The Hydraulic Hearth, in the old Swan Lounge building, 716 Swan St., across from Larkin Square.

Harry Zemsky, son of Buffalo developer Howard Zemsky, will run the restaurant as part of his family’s Larkinville redevelopment project. He hopes to open mid-summer, if all goes well.

“Back in the day, the hearth used to be the center of a community. People from the neighborhood would come together to share a communal hearth,” Zemsky said. “That represents what we’re trying to do in Larkinville, where we’re trying to rebuild a community. So, Hydraulic Hearth.”

The brick oven pizza restaurant will bear the name of its neighborhood, shaped 150 years ago by the textile industry’s energy source, water.

Amid a number of interesting features Harry Zemsky described - shuffleboard courts, a beer garden and a dedicated parking spot for a food truck - the restaurant aims to harness Buffalo’s new power source: beer.

The most-anticipated Buffalo restaurant of the year, successor to Bistro Europa, has a name

Bunyan sized Ho-ho roll at Bistro Europa with berries

By Andrew Z. Galarneau

Steven and Ellen Gedra's new place, at 367 Connecticut St., is going to be called The Black Sheep Restaurant and Bar.

Steven Gedra said details are to come.

The Gedras’ tiny Elmwood Avenue restaurant has 28 seats, where the chef-baker couple has cultivated a loyal following with traditional and original compositions of fresh seafood, nose-to-tail heirloom pork, and inspired uses of local produce. Then there's the desserts, with standards like sticky toffee pudding and specials like slices of Bunyan-sized housemade Ho-Hos, served with local berries.

It closes on March 31, and after that the Gedras will be working on the building they bought, the former Golden Key Tavern. They hope to have The Black Sheep open in 2014.

Lots of people who have been turned away in the last year are looking forward to the new restaurant, expected to seat 50 at tables and more at the bar.





Last chance to vote Buffalo's own Lloyd taco truck as America's best food truck taco

By Andrew Z. Galarneau

You can find more taco trucks in plenty of U.S. cities, but you'd be hard pressed to find a more passionate city of eaters than Buffalo.

Maybe that's why Lloyd taco truck is among the leaders in a national poll aiming to name America's best food truck taco for 2014. The poll ends tomorrow, at midnight Central time.

As this is written, Lloyd is leading the poll by a few dozen votes. If you haven't voted yet, your time is running out.

Here's the poll page, if you're so inclined.




Local Restaurant Week, over 125 WNY places with $20.14 meals, starting March 31

By Andrew Z. Galarneau

Get your reservations now: the spring 2014 edition of Local Restaurant Week starts March 31.

Through April 6, more than 125 locally owned restaurants in Western New York offer $20.14 meals to give new customers a reason to come in, and to reward regulars.

Depending on the level of service and cuisine, that $20.14 can get you dinner for two, or one entree and a glass of wine.

Check out the list of participating restaurants, and details on their specials, at


First bite: Housemade pierogis, kielbasa from Betty Crockski, Buffalo's Polish food truck


By Andrew Z. Galarneau

Ben Tsujimoto from went to the Adam Mickiewicz Library last week to get a taste of Betty Crockski, Buffalo's new food truck featuring housemade pierogis and kielbasa.

Here's his report, in words and pictures.

If those pictures make you hungry, consider that Betty Crockski is scheduled to join 18 other food trucks at Live at O'Larkin on Friday. Here's more details on that event.



After shoveling, we eat: Event brings 19 food trucks to Larkin Square on Friday

By Andrew Z. Galarneau

For all of the variety they’ve brought to the Western New York eating landscape, the drawbacks of food trucks remain. Brick-and-mortar restaurants don’t close because of minus-12 wind chills or failing transmissions. Tracking one down can be frustrating.

That’s one of the reasons the weekly summertime food truck rodeo at Larkin Square drew such crowds last year. On Friday, the food truck roundup is back.

Nineteen will line up as part of the pre-St. Patrick’s Day festivities at the second annual Live at O’Larkin event from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday at 745 Seneca St.

There will be music, from the likes of McCarthyizm, Crikwater and the Greater Buffalo Firefighters Pipes & Drums. And there will be food, from falafel to barbecue, from arancini to pad thai.

One of the standout dishes guaranteed for the O’Larkin event is the El Gordo burrito, from Lloyd the taco truck.

It’s built around chicharrones-like crispy fried pork nuggets, combined with a sharp, feta-like cow’s milk cheese called cotija.

Instead of using the traditional pig skin to make chicharrones, Lloyd trims the fat caps – and about a half inch of meat – off the hormone-free, antibiotic free pork shoulders used to make other fillings. Those slabs are roasted over low heat for eight hours, to render fat out and make the meat tender, said Chris Dorsaneo, Lloyd chef-owner.

They are cooled overnight, and cubed. On the truck, they’re fried to crisp them up, then tossed with Lloyd’s salsa roja, made of ancho chiles, tomatillos and more. That goes onto a flour shell, topped with fresh cilantro, chopped onion and cotija. Cost is $7.89.

“It’s probably our most street-authentic item,” Dorsaneo said. “It’s like a Mexican chicken wing, actually. I think that’s why people like it so much.”

Other trucks appearing include Black Market Food Truck, Hot Off the Press, Cheesy Chick, Betty Crockski, Fally Mac, R&R BBQ, Thai Me Up, Pizza Amore, Rolling Joe, Gelato Gypsy, DaBlue, Roaming Buffalo, Sweet Hearth, Whole Hog, Frank, House of Munch, Amy’s Place and Knight Slider.


Local food blogger tries the menudo at Agave, new Mexican restaurant on Elmwood Ave.

By Andrew Z. Galarneau

Michael Chelus, who blogs as The Nittany Epicurean, stopped by Agave (765 Elmwood Ave.,887-2933) to sample some of the less gringo-centric dishes. This is a guy who's willing to drive to Medina, or even Canandaigua, in search of authentic Mexican delights. 

He tried the menudo, which is tripe soup in chile broth, only available on weekends, and some al pastor tacos, pork with pineapple. Check out his words and pictures here.


Buffalo Chef James Roberts questions the cult of the 'hangs-off-your-plate' fish fry

By Andrew Z. Galarneau

I'm not saying it's just a Buffalo thing, but there's a real cargo cult streak among Buffalo eaters. Many - if not most - diners thrill to news of a place where you can lug away as much as you eat.

At, Park Country Club Executive Chef James Roberts stepped up to the mic last week, and he had something to ask us:

"Do you really think bigger is better? Wouldn’t you rather have a smaller piece of something remarkable? And who needs 19 ounces of fish for dinner, especially 19 ounces of crap fish? Why are we so enthralled by size?"

Roberts, a veteran chef who gave a 2012 TEDxBuffalo talk on mentoring, aimed part of his screed at young cooks, too.

"While you may think that blueberry gorgonzola, port wine, pecan, demi glace, butter sauce would be AMAZEBALLS on your pork chop with roasted brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes, it’s not. It might—and that’s a BIG might—be edible, but for how many bites after the first one? After that, your palate is so blown out and overtaken by your brilliant concoction of flavors that you wouldn’t know if your sweet potatoes were made with paper pulp."

Roberts argues for restraint, finesse, and focus on quality over quantity. If the phrase "hangs off your plate" ever convinced you to visit a restaurant, give Roberts a few minutes and read his piece.






Beef on weck deserves to share the spotlight with wings, 'Food & Wine' site argues

Schwabl's beef on weck

By Andrew Z. Galarneau

Amid this chicken wing intensive week, Carey Jones of "Food & Wine" argues that beef on weck has earned its own day in the sun. 

"It's time we gave Buffalo's beef on weck the recognition it deserves," her article says.

Specifically mentioned: Charlie the Butcher, Schwabl's, Bar Bill, and SeaBar, for its beef on weck sushi roll. 

(Schwabl's beef on weck, above; Buffalo News photo)




Betty Crockski, Buffalo's Polish food truck, debuts pierogis tonight at Adam Mickiewicz

By Andrew Z. Galarneau

Why wait for Dyngus Day?

Tonight, Betty Crockski brings its housemade pierogies and sausage to the hungry at an outpost of Old Polonia.

The food truck starts serving at 7 p.m. tonight outside the Adam Mickiewicz Library & Dramatic Circle (612 Fillmore Ave., 847-0839). Inside, beer, vodka and other traditional library features are available.

As Samantha Maziarz Cristmann reported Jan. 8, "Owned by Buffalo natives and lifelong amateur cooks Kate Hey and Dana Szczepaniak, the truck will feature a core menu of homemade pierogi and kielbasa.

“We're doing riffs on very traditional Polish flavor combinations,” Szczepaniak said. “We'll have a kielbasa that's our house recipe and a core menu of pierogi that are kind of traditional pierogi reinvented.”

Here's the menu, with cheese, sauerkraut, potato, pork and tonight's special, chicken and wild mushroom. Pierogies are $2, or three pierogies with housemade kielbasa for $8. 




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