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Restaurant Notes: Turkish fare to be featured at remodeled Kenmore Avenue spot

Work is underway to turn the former Torches space on Kenmore Avenue into a Turkish-centered restaurant called Babylon Gardens.

Owner Mushtak Almosaadi is from Basra, Iraq. He’s hired a chef who cooked in Turkey for 10 years, he said. He’s planning a menu including dishes from Turkish, Lebanese and other Mediterranean cuisines.

“I’m planning to open in the new year, January,” Almosaadi said, “the first week if everything goes smooth.”

The restaurant, at 1141 Kenmore Ave., Kenmore, will be a midrange place with entrees in the $10-$20 range, he said.

The opening menu should include things like kabobs, lamb chops and chicken dishes, using halal meat, as well as rice dishes, and Mediterranean salads like fattoush, he said. He plans on serving beer and wine.

Almosaadi said Babylon Gardens will aims to offer shawarma with “authentic flavor, more like what you would find in Israel, Jordan or Turkey,” he said. “I have a chef who is knowledgeable. When I looked around North Buffalo, I did not find a quality restaurant that offered the original taste of the Mediterranean, so I saw an opportunity here.”

Torches closed in May, and chef-owner J.J. Richert was reunited with his brother Kevin in the kitchen at Smoke on the Water in the City of Tonawanda.

Hertel adds diner: Café on the Avenue has opened on Hertel Avenue, offering an American diner menu for breakfast and lunch.

Its space, at 1240 Hertel Ave., was formerly Sister’s African Cuisine. It seats about 30 diners.

There’s pancakes, French toast and eggs, and a breakfast burrito. Lunch can include salads, burgers, housemade potato balls and more. “We have a doughnut robot, and we’re cooking fresh doughnuts every day, offering nine to 12 kinds daily, said Rick Keohane, who’s managing the spot with his brother Robert, the owner.

It’s open 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., seven days a week, for now. In a few weeks, after a grand opening, dinner Thursday through Saturday could be added, Rick Keohane said.

Elmwood excavation: Construction is underway on the restaurant and apartment building that’s replacing a gas station at 905 Elmwood Ave.

Removal of the gas station’s underground tanks has been completed, said Chuck Mauro. “Now they’re doing excavation work for the basement, and we’re hoping to have some steel in the ground by the end of the year.”

Mauro, a partner in Siena, Rocco’s and 800 Maple, is working on the project with veteran restaurateur Henry Gorino and Ellicott Development’s Bill Paladino.

“It’s going to be Italian, it’s going to feature a wood-burning oven, but it won’t be a Rocco’s or a Siena,” Mauro said. It should be poised between casual and fine dining, less expensive than Siena, with a big bar, he said. The restaurant will seat about 130 on the first floor, with another smaller room on the second floor, and a large patio.

The four-story building will also hold 22 apartments, and a retail space on the corner, at West Delevan. “If all goes well, our target date is the end of September 2016,” Mauro said.

Williamsville cupcakes: Baked Cupcakery has opened its second store, in Williamsville.

The Grand Island cupcake specialist opened last week at 5428 Main St. It’ll offer the same cupcake lineup, with frequent changes posted to its Facebook page, and nitro cold-brewed coffee, said owner Jonathan Biondi.

The phone number is 276-8977, and it’s closed Sunday and Monday.

Wehrle diner changes hands: The Wehrle Restaurant, whose vintage pink sign has cast a glow for decades over a busy Cheektowaga intersection, is changing hands for the first time in 30 years.

The new owners, Jaspal Singh and his wife, Amritpal Singh, plan to rename the eatery the Wehrle Diner and feature what they describe as healthy Mediterranean food. The restaurant has long been known for its down-home Greek offerings including souvlaki and spanakopita.

A restaurant employee confirmed the sale, but the new owners were not available for comment. Sunbelt Business Brokers of Western New York, who handled the sale, reported that the Singhs plan a renovation of the dining room. They plan a fresh approach emphasizing locally sourced meat, produce and coffee, according to a Sunbelt press release. Beer and wine will be served upon approval of a liquor license.

Jaspal Singh has managed restaurants in Connecticut and Greece and, according to Sunbelt, has always wanted to own his own restaurant. He and his wife searched for a restaurant in Western New York to be near their daughter, a law student at the University at Buffalo.

They are purchasing the restaurant from Sylvia Klentos, who owned it with her late husband, George T. Klentos. George Klentos died in 2009 at 71.

The Wehrle Restaurant is located at 29 Wehrle Drive at the corner of Harlem Road, on the edge of a busy three-way intersection with Kensington Avenue. – Mary Kunz Goldman

Closed: JD’s Smokin Grill & Bar, 1956 Ridge Road, West Seneca, has closed. The property has been listed for sale.

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