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Restaurant notes: JT's, Fry Baby, BreadHive, The Lodge

JT's Urban Italian, the new wood-oven-centered restaurant from the operators behind Siena, 800 Maple and Rocco's, opens to the public on June 23.

Starting at 5 p.m., people can see what's cooking at the corner of Elmwood and West Delavan, where a gas station and convenience store stood until 2015.

Both floors of the two-story space in the mixed-use building at 905 Elmwood Ave. have folding doors that open to the street in good weather.

Executive Chef Lennon Lewandowski and Chef de Cuisine Chris Smaldone have been working in the new kitchen for three months, Lewandowski said.

The menu has a core of dishes from the wood-fired ovens at JT's Urban Italian. (Andrew Galarneau/Buffalo News)

Snacks include baked oysters with bacon and herb hollandaise ($16) and rice balls with black currant and tomato sauce ($8).

From the wood oven, there's balsamic marinated wood oven wings with garlic chile dip ($13), pizzas ranging from margherita ($14) to steak with mushrooms, spinach, fontina and porcini cream ($18). Housemade pastas include tagliatelle primavera ($24).

Staff training continued Monday in the bar at JT's Urban Italian. (Andrew Galarneau/Buffalo News)

Large plates include steaks ($35-$39), barbecue ribs with scallion-apple slaw and asiago knots ($27), and "for the table" scale entrees of pork shank, meatballs and sausage on pasta ($39) and seafood risotto ($48). Vegan dishes include a garden roast entrée with fennel, greens, farro and romesco sauce ($22).

JT's operators include Henry Gorino and Chuck Mauro, whose work at Siena, 800 Maple, Rocco's and formerly Oliver's has built expectations for the new place.

The second-floor patio tables overlook Elmwood Avenue at JT's Urban Italian. (Andrew Galarneau/Buffalo News)

Given its location and pedigree, expect JT's to be busy from the start. Mauro said that on Saturday JT's decided to offer a limited pizza-centric lunch menu unannounced because of the proximity of the Buffalo Living Tour, a survey of Buffalo apartments that included 905 Elmwood Ave. "We did 200 lunches by accident," he said with a chuckle.

JT's will be open for dinner June 23, 24 and 25. On Monday June 26, daily lunch service will begin as well, Mauro said. Brunch dishes will be tested on Sunday lunches in anticipation of full-fledged brunch after July 4. Phone: 882-0905.

Luba's last sandwich: Luba's Place has gone dark after 27 years, for the one of the best reasons anyone can have for closing their business.

"I am 70 years old, and I think that's enough," said Luba Levin, who ran the sandwich counter inside 135 Delaware Ave. "And I have now three grandchildren who have moved recently back to Buffalo, so I have three babies I will spend time with more."

She served her last customer June 15.

Levin has worked feeding Buffalonians for more than half her life. After emigrating from Russia, she worked at Mastman's Deli on Hertel Avenue for 10 years, she said. Then a friend who had the counter inside 135 Delaware Ave. decided to depart, and recruited her.

That was 1990. Since then she has risen at 5:30 a.m. on workdays to get ready for the work of feeding her customers, who are mostly lawyers. The federal courthouse is across the street.

Her menu topped out at $3.59, for the egg and toast with ham and cheese. It was not possible to get a fresher egg salad sandwich in the city, as Levin did not crack the eggs until the sandwich was ordered.

A young couple from India is taking over the sandwich counter, she said. They will keep some of the menu, she said, but probably add some of their traditional dishes.

She will miss her customers, she said. "After 27 years, you become a family," she said. "That's what it is. And after 27, years, this place is my baby." (Hat tip: Howard Goldman)

Luba Levin has retired after 27 years at 135 Delaware Ave. (Howard Goldman)

Vegan doughnut shop: Buffalo's newest doughnut shop offers unusual flavors such as bubblegum and root beer float, and standards, such as chocolate glazed.

What it doesn’t offer is doughnuts containing eggs or milk. All of Fry Baby Donuts' treats are vegan, right down to the sprinkles.

If owner Ann Hogan hits her target, you won’t be able to tell. "I think we nailed it," said Hogan, who opened last week at 336 S. Elmwood Ave., near the corner of West Tupper. Ultimately, she said, customers will decide.

Doughnuts are $2, six for $11, and 12 for $22. There are currently no gluten-free options. Fry Baby will post to social media when it runs out for the day, so check Facebook or Instagram, Hogan said.

Chocolate glazed will be one of the standards at Fry Baby Donuts, Buffalo's new vegan doughnut shop. (Fry Baby Donuts)

"Vegan baking seems like an afterthought sometimes," said Hogan, a professional baker since 2009. "Establishments see that vegans are spending money and will make something for them as an afterthought. I wanted to make something that was good for everybody, appetizing enough for non-vegans to not realize it was vegan."

Doughnut flavors will change week to week, Hogan said. Wildberry, s'mores, cookies and cream and jalapeno raspberry are other flavors offered so far, in addition to cinnamon buns and fritters.

Besides doughnuts, Fry Baby sells soda, tea and coffee. The half-and-half for the coffee is the only non-vegan stuff in the store, said Hogan.

Hours: 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Phone: 783-7837.

BreadHive adds patio, hours: There's more ways to enjoy the West Side's BreadHive Bakery & Café, and more time to enjoy it.

The worker-owned cooperative business at 402 Connecticut St. has added covered patio seating, where customers can enjoy bagels made from scratch in Buffalo and a game of beanbag toss. A blue awning now covers picnic and cafe tables next to the bakery.

BreadHive has also started offering its breakfast sandwiches all day. The Aaliyah ($7), its most popular number, packs housemade breakfast sausage, scrambled egg, cheddar and maple butter. The sandwiches are prepared on the bakery's bagels, sourdough bread, or pretzels.

The bakery has extended its hours for the summer, to 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday.

Starters: BreadHive Cafe's breakfast, lunch sandwiches

BreadHive Bakery Cafe has added patio seating next to its West Side building. (BreadHive)

The Lodge closed: The Lodge, the multilevel restaurant opened in 2013, has turned out the lights.

Its Facebook page describes it as "permanently closed."

The Lodge opened in 2013 at 79 W. Chippewa St., offering "stag on a stick" among its wide-ranging menu, and Skee-Ball in its second floor entertainment zone.

[Read a 2013 review of The Lodge's adventurous menu]

Forty Thieves coming: The next restaurant at 727 Elmwood Ave. will be Forty Thieves.

Restaurateur Tommy Cowan, partner in Midtown Kitchen, MTK Prime and other local spots, posted a Forty Thieves logo to his Facebook page. "Coming soon," he wrote.

The banner is also flying at 727 Elmwood Ave. Briefly operated as 727 Elmwood, the restaurant was formerly Blue Monk, and Merlin's before that. The building has been an Elmwood Village nightspot for decades.

[Look back at 727's opening, the closing of Blue Monk and photos from Blue Monk's closing party.]

Send restaurant tips to agalarneau@buffnews.com and follow @BuffaloFood on Instagram and Twitter.

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