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Restaurant notes: Ballyhoo, Saigon Bangkok, Billygans

Bigger than Ballyhoo: The owners of Ballyhoo have taken over the former Century Grill, and are planning to open a restaurant there this summer.

There's no name yet for the new place at 318 Pearl St., said Timothy Stevens, who owns Ballyhoo with his wife Morgan.

The Stevenses had been working on plans for a restaurant at 50 Broadway, but changed their minds when the Century Grill space became available.

Stevens said he was working with Block Club on developing the branding, and doesn’t have many details to offer yet.

"It'll definitely be a lot different than Ballyhoo. The kitchen here is a lot bigger, so it'll be a full menu. We'll be serving lunch, although I don’t know if we'll do that in the first weeks, so we can get our stride first."

The space will take much less work than the Broadway spot would have, Stevens said. "It's just a heavy remodel, redo the back bar and put some fresh seating in."

The restaurant will "definitely have more of a food presence" than Ballyhoo, seating 85 to 90 in the dining area.

"This is a way better suited spot for what we wanted to do, and it's already built out," Stevens said. "I've had a crush on this building, if you will, for years."

Hopefully the restaurant will be open by early summer, he said.

Saigon Bangkok Southtowns: The family that operates Saigon Bangkok restaurants in Tonawanda and Amherst is opening a Southtowns location in Hamburg.

The Truong family bought the former Mike's Lucky Dog building at 255 Buffalo St., and have renovated it for a restaurant. It will serve mostly Vietnamese dishes, and hopefully open by the end of March, said Tommy Truong, an owner.

His family operates Saigon Bangkok, 512 Niagara Falls Blvd., Tonawanda, one of the longest-serving Asian restaurants in town. A second location, 8080 Transit Road, Amherst, opened about 10 years ago.

[Read 2012 review of Saigon Bangkok's original location here]

While the other Saigon Bangkok locations split their menus between Vietnamese and Thai dishes, the Hamburg menu will be mostly Vietnamese, Truong said. His wife and business partner Hong My Trinh is from northern Vietnam, and the new menu will offer dishes from that region.

"We're going to incorporate more traditional noodle soups," he said. Those include bun bo hue, a spicy noodle soup with a lemongrass-flavored beef broth, and bun rieu, which often includes tomato and crab. "She's bringing a new touch" to the Saigon Bangkok menu, he said.

There will still be pho, the iconic Vietnamese beef noodle soup, and other dishes like pork chops on rice.

The restaurant will seat about 45, Truong said.Like the space, "the menu will not be as expansive" as the other restaurants.

"We completely gutted the place, and built an addition to the front vestibule, to make sure that when customers open the door, the wind gusts of the Southtowns don't make it to the dining room," he said.

In good weather, patio tables will be available, adding to the attraction of a neighborhood that has become more walkable. The restaurant has applied for a beer and wine license, and may open before it's approved.

Tonawanda cafe: Billygans Café offered the City of Tonawanda another choice for breakfast and lunch when it opened last week.

The restaurant, 38 Niagara St., is the work of a 1977 graduate of Tonawanda High School who returned to town after moving to Florida.

Bill Karcher started his restaurant career at 18, shaking chicken wings at Johnnie’s Old Timer Saloon in Kenmore. He’s been cooking professionally ever since. His wife Nancy, a Kenmore West graduate, is the other owner.

The Karchers recently spent six years in Florida, where Bill did corporate cooking for Lockheed Martin and Honeywell. Last year they bought the Tonawanda building, which was last Magpie’s Bake Shop, and years before that, the Driftwood Lounge.

While in Florida, assisting with a friend’s restaurant, he brought a better beef on weck to Dunedin, “and they loved it,” Bill Karcher said. So he’s decided to bring a touch of tropical flavor to his Tonawanda menu.

There’s a Cuban sandwich of roast pork, ham, salami, Swiss cheese, and pickles ($5.99) on the lunch menu, along with a turkey sandwich with mango chutney spread ($4.99). Muffins will include a coconut-pineapple version, Karcher said.

The plan is for breakfast sandwiches and burritos in the morning, plus specials like eggs Benedict with fresh orange hollandaise sauce. Lunch is sandwiches and salads and soup. Friday is the only day for dinner presently, with fish fry and seafood dinners ($8.99-13.99) and clam chowder available.

Hours: 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday- Sunday, dinner 3-8 p.m. Friday. Phone: 692-2700.

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