Neither fire nor war could stop Rodney Wilkinson from opening his first restaurant.
After nine years of work, the Fire Spot, 3300 Bailey Ave., started selling fried chicken and waffles and more last month. The menu starts with breakfast and continues with fish and grits, and steak hoagies with Wilkinson’s own “Tailgate Come Back Sauce.”
Wilkinson is a lieutenant with the Buffalo Fire Department’s Ladder 7 at Main and Mercer streets. Shortly after he bought the building in 2007, it was damaged by an electrical fire. “I didn’t have insurance,” he said. “So it was kind of bombed out, but with the help of my family, and friends, I rebuilt it.”
Part of the reason it took so long is that Wilkinson also serves with the 914th Airlift Wing out of the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station. Between missions in the United Arab Emirates and Iraq, he returned to Bailey Avenue to push his own place forward, with help from his family and friends.
“I would deploy, then come back and work on it, then deploy again,” he said. “It’s a family thing,” he said. His mother Ernestine Wilkinson and brother Derrick Norman are key parts of the operation.
Sometimes he felt like giving up, especially after the fire, he acknowledged. “I just said, ‘I can’t quit. I’m not a quitter.’ ” The restaurant had its first day Feb. 8, and so far chicken and waffles is the top seller. “We don’t precook anything,” he said. “Everything is made to order.”
The plan is to open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The phone number is 835-3473.
Good time for crash: Tony’s Ranch House is open for business after a Buick crashed into the restaurant Monday – an accident that could have been much worse.
The car wiped out three planters and ran over a boulder before impact, driving glass fragments into a corner booth inside the dining area, At the time of the accident, just before 2 p.m., the booth usually holds customers enjoying the afternoon sun, said Jerry Candiliotis, who owns the restaurant with his wife Christina.
On this afternoon, however, the restaurant, at 2285 Main St., was closed, due to an injury to Christina. The booth was empty.
Police said the driver, a 40-year-old man, was taken to Erie County Medical Center after the accident. No one else was injured.
The restaurant is structurally sound, and remains open, Jerry Candiliotis said. “I know the people who congregate there every day at that time. I’m going to go give them a hug.”
Clarence bistro expands: The Hollow Bistro & Brew is close to opening its expansion, built next door to its century-old building in the heart of Clarence.
It should be done in May, said Katie Yu, an owner. The current restaurant, at 10641 Main St., will become the restaurant’s bar. A new building has been constructed next door, after the owners demolished the building there. The new structure will be the restaurant’s dining center, with 45 seats, about 10 more than the current configuration, and an event room. Dining seats will also be available in the barroom.
“We’re a little over five years in now, and there has been a huge demand for more space, for private parties, definitely,” said Yu. “There’s a huge demand for outdoor patio, so that’s a huge thing we wanted to add to our restaurant.” Yu’s parents opened Heart of the Hollow Ice Cream Parlor at the address in 1994.
The kitchen is being expanded, and plans include a patio facing Main Street, she said. The menu will stay largely the same, she said.
Brick and wooden beams reclaimed from the demolished building will feature prominently in the new space, Yu said, including the new fireplace and mantel.
New Falls restaurant: At just 22 years old, opening your own restaurant seems like a big leap – but not if your name is Weber.
Emory Weber, who will turn 23 at the end of this month, is set to soon open the Third Street Retreat, at the corner of Third Street and Rainbow Boulevard, with his girlfriend, Kallie Castetter, 22. But this plan is not on a lark. Running a restaurant is a family tradition for Weber.
He grew up in Youngstown where his grandmother, Quain Weber, owned the former Fyfe and Drum Restaurant and Inn. It has since closed due to a fire.
His dad, Shawn Weber, had worked there until he opened his own restaurant, Wine on Third, also in Niagara Falls.
Now Emory, who grew up working in the family business, is ready to strike out on his own.
The restaurant will be located in the Jefferson Apartments, which his father and grandmother own with a group of partners. The restaurant, located on the lower level, takes the place of Murphy’s Café, which closed in September. Weber and Castetter are planning a trendy restaurant serving breakfast all day, chicken wings, burgers, sandwiches and salads, as well as wine and beer.
Located at 250 Rainbow Boulevard, the establishment will be a little hard to find, since the entrance is on Third Street, but a sign with an arrow proclaiming “Third Street Retreat” was approved by the city and is expected to help out a bit. People can park in the city lot or the Jefferson lot and parking will be validated on the way out, Weber said. - Nancy Fischer
Double dose of Devine’s: Jack Devine’s Neighborhood Bar opened in Wheatfield two weeks ago, and plans to reopen Wednesday or Thursday in Hamburg.
Both locations have been extensively renovated, said Robert Duvall, general manager of the Hamburg location, which has been at 4170 Southwestern Blvd. since 2011.
The Wheatfield location, 6935 Ward Road, was formerly J.T. Wheatfield’s and Westby’s Pub. “That place was totally gutted,” Duvall said. The Wheatfield renovations include redone banquet rooms, more televisions and a patio that will be ready for seasonal weather, Duvall said.
The Hamburg location, which was closed for renovations, had a wall installed between the dining room and the bar, and a stage for live music was moved to the bar. Both locations share the same menu, Duvall said. Efforts are underway to open it Wednesday, but it might take until Thursday, he warned. (Hat tip: Dan Meyer)
New Indian coming: Aman’s Restaurant, at 224 Plaza Drive, Amherst, in the Dash’s plaza, has closed. Restaurateurs have informed the Town of Amherst of plans to turn it into an Indian restaurant called Namaste, said Amherst supervising code enforcement officer Bill Pidgeon. (Hat tip: Janice Schlau)
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