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 familyâs Larkinville redevelopment project. He hopes to open mid-summer, if all goes well.
âBack 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,â Zemsky said. âThat represents what weâre trying to do in Larkinville, where weâre trying to rebuild a community. So, Hydraulic Hearth.â
The brick oven pizza restaurant will bear the name of its neighborhood, shaped 150 years ago by the textile industryâs 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 Buffaloâs new power source: beer.
Zemsky said Community Beer Works will open a test brewery at Hydraulic Hearth that gives craft beer adventurers - and average pizza eaters â a chance to try never-before-tapped experiments along with an collection of established craft beers. The plan is for 12 beers on tap: six European imports, and six local beers, including four Community Beer Works test kitchen beers, exclusive to Hydraulic Hearth, plus bottles.
The menu will be stripped-down and pizza-focused. A wood-burning oven will be built in the front of the house, with sushi bar style counter seating around it, he said.
"Unlike some restaurants, where pizza is just a component of the menu, our menu will be like three salads, three appetizers, and 12 pizzas," he said. Six conservative and six adventurous ones, all brick oven pizzas.
âSort of the food truck model. Iâd rather offer a few things good instead of a million things OK. Instead of making pastas and sauces, I can focus on making interesting bases for my pizzas. Itâs going to allow us the room for a lot more creativity.â
There are also plans for a cozy beer garden, shuffleboard courts, oversized Jenga block towers, and a dedicated stage for a food truck to park and add its wares to the Hydraulic Hearth menu.
"Our mission statement has been collaboration. We're working with Community Beer Works, the food trucks, like at Larkin Square. It was their busiest night of the summer, for a lot of them, and it was good for us. We're definitely learning the value of collaboration."
Below, the future Hydraulic Hearth, with the beer garden and shuffleboard spaces on the left.