By Andrew Z. Galarneau
Buffalo food blogger Jeremy Horwitz has invited Western New York food lovers to help make his restaurant dream come true.
On Tuesday he announced plans for Mercado.
"Curated by an amazing chef, Mercado will create a central hub for Western New York artisanal foods and upscale casual dining, bringing over 15 distinctive dining options - chef- and artisan-operated - under one roof for the first time in local history," according to the project's Kickstarter page.
Horwitz seeks donations of $150,000 to defray opening costs. Donors get their money back if the project doesn't go forward.
No one has tried to crowdfund such an ambitious restaurant proposal before in Western New York. It has the potential to measure how optimistic local eaters are about the future of the nascent Buffalo restaurant scene -- especially the younger generation, who hit the Kickstarter button without fretting that hackers will steal their credit card.
Here's part of his pitch: "Imagine a single destination where Western New Yorkers with different tastes could all find great things to eat. A place where you could mix and match your meal: a drink from a soda fountain, two plates of dim sum, some Spanish cheese and olives, then a freshly-made crepe for dessert. Or a place where you could pick up locally-made artisanal foods to bring home: freshly made tortillas for tacos, aquas frescas, and churros with the area's best ice cream. How often would you visit?"
Horwitz suggests that getting foodish entrepreneurs together in one space can have a synergistic effect that will benefit the community.
"Cooperation is one of Mercado's key principles. Rather than playing a zero-sum game, we believe in win-win scenarios - a rising tide that lifts all ships. The chefs and artisans within Mercado will collaborate, using their combined products and skills to make incredible new things that Buffalo - maybe even the world - could never have imagined before. (Shhh... we're already working on it together, and it's really happening!)"
Horwitz is a Buffalo native and editor-in-chief of iLounge.com, a website dedicated to Apple devices and accessories. He also founded BuffaloChow.com, offering reviews on restaurants in Western New York and around the world.
He's a huge fan of Chef Jose Andres, the award-winning Spanish-born chef who has built luxury restaurants from coast-to-coast selling little plates of fine food reinvented as avant-garde artworks. After Horwitz visited Minibar, Andres' 12-seat jewelbox of a restaurant in Washington, D.C., Horwitz posted his review on BuffaloChow.com, including a photo of Minibar Chef de Partie Scott Kollig.
Kollig noticed, and sent Horwitz an email. They started corresponding, and exchanging ideas. Kollig, who is from Clarence, has worked at nationally celebrated restaurants like WD-50 and Cafe Boulud. He is working as assistant sommelier at Four Seasons Baltimore.
Horwitz is looking for a place to lease, and could have an update on the site before the Kickstarter campaign ends in 37 days or less, according to Mercado spokeswoman Nanette Tramont, who teaches in the Communication Department at SUNY Buffalo State and is Kollig's mother.
If Mercado happens, her son is coming home. The rest of Western New York might have good reasons to celebrate as well.