The first time Sandra and Paul Wilkins wanted to buy a building in Buffalo, it turned out to be too difficult, so they built a house in Grand Island.
But the dream persisted. The Wilkinses, career information tech professionals, wanted to be part of the redevelopment of downtown Buffalo. A decade later, shopping for a restaurant lease, they got a good look at 537 Main St., and “fell in love with it,” Sandra Wilkins said in an email. “Even though when I told him that I wanted to move downtown he said ‘Not that again!’ ”
Times have changed, though. The City of Buffalo was much easier to work with this time around, and the couple bought the building in 2011. It’s their home now, and will be their business soon, when they open a casual French-styled bistro named Raclette this spring.
The Wilkinses plan to introduce Buffalo to raclette, the often leisurely meal centered around the French-Swiss cheese of the same name. It typically includes tabletop gear to assist diners in putting melted cheese on things, like potatoes, vegetables, eggs, charcuterie and galettes, or buckwheat pancakes. “This is a very social meal and is not unusual to last an hour or more,” she said.
The melted cheese angle makes it much like fondue, which Raclette will serve as well, except fondue is served by the cauldron.
It’ll be a lunch and dinner restaurant, with grab-and-go sandwiches for lunch, baguettes and crepes, in addition to raclette and other items. Dinner will include other French bistro classics like cassoulet and beef Bourguignon, she said. Her sister Kathleen Novelli, a restaurant veteran, will run the front of the house. A chef has not been named yet.
Plans call for 40 seats inside, 15 at the bar, and a 20-seat rear courtyard in good weather. French wine, craft beer, a full bar and coffee will be available.
“A decadelong dream of not only living downtown, but also being part of the revitalization of Buffalo, was once again sparked and has finally come to fruition,” Sandra Wilkins said. “We couldn’t be happier.”
Raw food pioneer: Cheektowaga does not have a reputation as an epicenter of health food.
The Raw is Life Juice & Smoothies Café may start to change that. The café opened at 1238 Walden Ave., Cheektowaga, in October. It’s a rare retail provider of raw foods, which in a restaurant context means much more than carrot and celery sticks. “It’s food that’s in its natural state, providing the natural enzymes and vitamins for maximum nutritional content,” said Cheryl Howard. She owns the store with her husband, Charles.
The café offers juices and smoothies, which aren’t cooked, of course. But it also offers kale chips, and chips and crackers made by dehydrating vegetable pulp and grains. The key is not raising the temperature of the food above 117 degrees, which can damage its nutritional content, she said.
Raw crackers come in flavors like tomato cilantro. The Howards also turn post-juicing carrots, celery, beets, apples and more into raw food products. “We don’t waste the pulp, we add ingredients to it to make it into crackers,” she said. The green one with a celery, romaine lettuce, cucumber base has been dubbed The Incredible Hulk.
Herbal teas, organic coffee and Teeccino alkaline coffee, which has a lower acid level, are available. They have desserts that are never cooked, or baked.
They wondered if Cheektowaga would be interested in health food, Howard acknowledged. “You wouldn’t believe. It has been amazing,” she said. “When we came here we had so many people coming from the neighborhood, making up a part of the routines after their walks, so happy we are here,” she said. “We have been doing excellent here.”
Lancaster gets cassoulet: The Fireside Inn, 205 Central Ave., Lancaster, has closed. It is being turned into The Yelling Goat, offering an eclectic menu of American and internationally flavored favorites from John Rooney and Laurie Kutas, owners of Medici House and Theas in East Aurora.
The menu will include American steak and seafood favorites, but also pastas, mammoth hamburgers with house-made french fries, and Reuben sandwiches in the style of Katz’s Deli, Kutas said. It’ll also include favorites from the owners’ East Aurora restaurants, like thin-crust pizzas à la Medici House, and chicken wings with Ethiopian Berbere spices, a hit from Theas.
A draft menu suggests that Lancaster is about to get its first crispy pig ear salad, and cassoulet, as part of the vast menu. Much of it will be instantly familiar to customers of Medici House, or Tantalus, the owners’ prior restaurant concept.
“It’ll be a casual, fresh food concept,” Kutas said. There’ll be a full bar, more than 100 beers in bottles and cans as well as 20 craft taps, and a wine list with inexpensive bottles as well as finer choices.
Kutas said the restaurant is aiming for a late January opening. (Hat tip: William Scheu)
For sale: The Red Mill Inn, 8326 Main St. in Clarence, one of the town’s longest functioning restaurants, has been listed for sale at $789,000. It opened in 1962 as The Red Sleigh Inn. (Hat tip: Alan Bedenko)
Celebrating: Ilio DiPaolo’s Restaurant, 3875 South Park Ave., Blasdell, is marking 50 years of serving up Italian classics to its fans. The celebration kicked off with a commemorative Mass on Monday, and will continue with a slate of events during the year.
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