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Explore the West Side Bazaar

Dollar for dollar, the West Side Bazaar is the most interesting dining room in Buffalo.

The building, at 25 Grant St., is officially a small business incubator run by the Westminster Economic Development Initiative. One side is small retail booths offering handcrafts, clothing and more. The other side is where I spend most of my time.

Immigrant cooks offer dishes from Burma, Thailand, Jamaica, Ethiopia, Laos, India and Pakistan at rock-bottom prices. It’s not much for creature comforts, with cafeteria seating that can get crowded at lunchtime. But if you have to wait for a table, you can spend the time watching people work on their American dream. Below, you can meet some of the talented cooks offering their pride and joy to the Buffalo buffet.

For me, the West Side Bazaar is a place of discovery. With more than 100 choices from eight ethnic backgrounds, and menus that change frequently, I can always find something new. Not every dish thrilled me, but here are some of my favorites.

The bazaar is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tues. through Thurs., till 8 p.m. Fri., and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sat. Phone: 464-6389.

Family Thai | Abyssinia Ethiopian | Rakhapura Mutee & Sushi | M Asian Halal Foods
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Kyel Sein Hein Burmese | Gourmet Lao Food | Mr. Patty’s | Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

Family Thai

Pah Du.

Pah Du

Owners: Pah Du and his wife, Mu Naw

Age: Du is 43

Country of birth: Burma

Other countries lived in before coming to U.S.: Thailand

Entered U.S. in: September 2008

Came to Buffalo in: September 2008

Started in West Side Bazaar: May 2013

Why started food business at West Side Bazaar: WEDI helped with training for opening a business.

Prior restaurant experience: “Yes, as a cook in a restaurant Thailand for about five years, but my wife worked in the restaurant industry for 20 years!”

Family Thai dishes shown below (click photo for next): tom yum soup, sour with lemongrass broth and mushrooms ($6.99); whole fried pompano fish with chile sauce ($9.99); whole fried pompano doused with chile sauce ($9.99); pad gapow basil stir-fry with chicken and egg ($6.99); yum woon sen, tangy seafood and chicken salad with bean thread noodles ($6.99). (See larger images here.)

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Abyssinia Ethiopian

Zelalem Gemmeda, 45, is the owner of Abyssinia Ethiopian Cuisine in the West Side Bazaar. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

Zelalem Gemmeda

Owner: Zelalem Gemmeda

Age: 45

Country of birth: Ethiopia

Other countries lived in before coming to U.S.: Yemen

Entered U.S. in: Sept. 22, 2005 (She said "I would not forget that date it was a huge day for me")

Came to Buffalo in: Same as arrival date

Started in West Side Bazaar: April 1, 2013, "another important date I would not forget"

Why started food business at WSB: Because WEDI is the only organization in Buffalo that I found who would help and support me to start my own business.

Prior restaurant experience: “I was a restaurant business owner in Yemen for 5 years. Before owning the business I worked in the restaurant for a year in all departments.”

Abyssinia Ethiopian dishes shown below (click photo for next): vegetarian (vegan) sampler with beets, green beans, potatoes and cabbage, red lentils, yellow split peas, collard greens, salad ($8.99); meat sampler with doro wot, braised chicken and egg, and beef tibs ($9.99); owner Zelalem Gemmeda; chicken sauteed with peppers and rice ($8.99). (See larger images here.)

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Rakhapura Mutee & Sushi

Win Shwe

Win Shwe

Owners: Win W. Shwe and her husband, Khaing Thein

Age: Shwe is 35

Country of birth: Burma

Other countries lived in before coming to U.S.: Thailand (Khaing)

Entered U.S. in: September 2004 (Khaing), December 2012 (Win)

Came to Buffalo in: Same as above

Started in West Side Bazaar: April 2013

Why started food business at WSB: I received information regarding about WEDI is helping and offering small business to the community. So, I applied my application to the West Side Bazaar. The reason was that I need spend for living, so I created my Sushi Business at West Side Bazaar.

Prior restaurant experience: “I do have restaurant experience over eight years because when I was undergraduate period, I worked and studied for my goal. I did dishwasher, busboy and loading food.”

Rakhapura Mutee and Sushi dishes shown below (click photo for next): Rakhaing Mutee chicken soup with lime and fried onion ($4); Shwe Taung crispy noodle in coconut broth ($5.99); Khaing sushi roll with tuna, cucumber, cilantro ($7.50: American roll with avocado, crab salad, fried onion ($7.50). (See larger images here.)

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M Asian Halal Foods

Mohammed Yaseen

Mohammed Yaseen

Owner: Mohammed Yaseen

Age: 40

Country of birth: Burma

Other countries lived in before coming to U.S.: Thailand

Entered U.S. in: September 2007

Came to Buffalo in: October 2011

Started in West Side Bazaar: December 2013

Why started food business at WSB: “Because here there are a lot of international customers.”

Prior restaurant experience: “Four years’ experience in St. Louis working as a cook in an Indian, Pakistani restaurant.”

M. Asian Halal Foods dishes shown below (click photo for next): dosa with goat curry, coconut chutney ($5.99); chapli kabab, spicy chicken sausage with coriander, pita bread and salad ($8.99); chicken biryani, fragrant basmati rice pilaf with braised bone-in chicken ($8.99). (See larger images here.)

(Click the image to see more food photos)

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Kyel Sein Hein Burmese

Soe Maung Maung

Soe Maung Maung

Owner: Soe Maung Maung

Age: 28

Country of birth: Burma

Other countries lived in before coming to U.S.: Thailand

Entered U.S. in: Aug. 8, 2005

Came to Buffalo in: Same as above

Started in West Side Bazaar: March 2013

Why started food business at WSB: Because this is a place to start up a small business, and this area is where my customers live.

Prior restaurant experience: “I cooked at Jasmine Thai on the Boulevard for a while. Before that, when I was living in Burma I cooked every day for my family, not professionally, but we cooked every night instead of going out for dinner. That is more of the way in Burma. We only go out on special occasions.”

Kyel Sein Hein Burmese dishes shown below (click photo for next): kyar san chat, chicken soup with four kinds of mushrooms, clear bean noodles and shrimp meatballs ($5.99); kay oh (available Wed., Fri. only), pork meatballs in pork broth, greens, quail egg, chicken egg, noodles, tofu ($6.99); Shan noodle, chicken stirfried with noodles, chicken broth, pickles, chile ($5.99); garlic noodle chicken, with fried garlic chips ($5.99); mohinga, catfish chowder with crunchy bean chips ($5). (See larger images here.)

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Gourmet Lao Food

Owner: Boulivone Serixay

Age: Unknown

Country of birth: Laos

Other countries lived in before coming to U.S.: None

Entered U.S. in: July 2000

Came to Buffalo in: Same as arrival date.

Started in West Side Bazaar: April 2013

Why started food business at WSB: “I had just lost a job I needed a steady stream of income. I really enjoy cooking. I also enjoy talking and meeting new people. And the bazaar was cheaper to start a business.”

Prior restaurant experience: “Not in the United States. In Lao I worked in the same restaurant as a cook and waitress for more than 10 years.”

Gourmet Lao Food dishes shown below (click photo for next): fried lotus-flower cookies with black sesame ($2); rice pasta rolls with pork, mushroom, fried onions and sauce ($4.99). (See larger images here.)

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Mr. Patty's

Marcus Tunstall

Marcus Tunstall

Owner: Marcus Tunstall

Age: 41

Country of birth: United States, Tennessee

Other countries lived in before coming to U.S.: Lived all over the United States moved often because he had a military father.

Entered U.S. in: not applicable

Came to Buffalo in: 2014

Started in West Side Bazaar: July 2015

Why started food business at WSB: “Cooking is my passion, and I love creating authentic Jamaican cuisine and I am happy to bring that to Buffalo.”

Prior restaurant experience: “In St. Louis I worked at a soul food cafe for four years as a short end cook.”
Mr. Patty's dishes shown below (click photo for next): jerk chicken with rice and beans, cabbage, plantains ($7); veggie patty ($3, $5/2); beef patty ($3, $5/2); stewed oxtails with cabbage, plantains ($10). (See larger images here.)

(Click the image to see more food photos)

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Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

Aster Mekonnen

Aster Mekonnen

Owner: Aster Mekonnen

Age: Unknown

Country of birth: Ethiopia

Entered U.S. in: Arrival into U.S. was in Buffalo, unclear when

Why started food business at WSB: “I wanted to make my own source of income. The bazaar was a place I could start my own small business. I would like to grow out my business and have my own place.”

Prior restaurant experience: “I worked as a manager in a restaurant in Ethiopia for four years.”

Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony dishes shown below (click photo for next): flan, baked eggy custard ($5); freshly made coffee ($1.50). (See larger images here.)

Email: agalarneau@buffnews.com

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