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Restaurant Notes: Downtown lunch options about to grow

EXPO food hall plans to open next week in Main Street’s Market Arcade building, aiming to disrupt the lunch routines of downtown Buffalonians.

When it begins its soft-opening phase at 11 a.m. Feb. 18, six restaurants will be offering meals that aim higher than standard quick-serve fare. Built into the Theater District space at 617 Main St. last occupied by Perfetto, it’ll host an official grand opening in a few weeks.

EXPO will be the only downtown venue able to handle large groups without reservations, and everyone will have a seat at the table, said manager Paul Tsouflidis. “The market mix is the most diverse in the area, offering a range of cuisine options from a Thanksgiving hoagie at Bobby Alfman’s to mango sticky black rice from Sun Roll.”

Here’s the opening day lineup:

Newbury Street, a second location of Tsouflidis’ Elmwood Avenue healthy foods emporium, will offer salads, rice bowls and burritos.

Crush Juicery, another Tsouflidis operation, will offer juices, smoothies, acai bowls and more.

Gypsy Bohemian Grove Bar, from Gabrielle Mattina (Gypsy Parlor), will be EXPO’s adult beverages purveyor, with 24 beer taps, cocktails and wine.

Sun Roll, from Kevin Lin of Sun Restaurant, will offer original Asian fusion dishes like burrito-sized wraps with meat, vegetable or seafood fillings, black rice salads and sushi rolls.

Mercato, from Osteria 166’s Nick Pitillo and Jeff Cooke Jr., will let lunchgoers design their own pastas, and also offer meatballs, risotto sticks and more.

Bobby Alfman’s Gourmet Sandwiches, from J.J. Alfieri, Bobby Missana and Charlie Goldman, will offer deli sandwiches and Italian specialties like porchetta.

“At the heart of every great city is a thriving downtown that attracts people with a vibrant mix of retail, restaurants, entertainment and the arts,” said developer Nick Sinatra, whose company owns the building. “The mayor’s Cars Sharing Main Street initiative was a big help – cars are back, retail is on the rise – and we saw a great opportunity for an upscale craft food and beverage market concept like EXPO to succeed and spur interest and activity to our city center.”

Bourbon & Butter changes: All-star cocktail whiz Tony Rials is leaving his post as beverage director at Bourbon & Butter, Mike Andrzejewski’s restaurant in Hotel @ the Lafayette. Bartender Jill Hutnyan is leaving, too. A farewell party, at 6 p.m. Feb. 17, will feature cocktails from the departing duo.

Andrzejewski said he’ll be revamping the restaurant’s food menu in coming weeks. New offerings will include a Wednesday “family meal” featuring a set menu of three or four courses for $30, with 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. seatings, aimed at industry professionals. Another new concept will be a late-night dining “happy hour” with a 50 percent discount on menu prices after 10 p.m.

MidTown Kitchen chef: MidTown Kitchen, delayed by fire, has announced its chef.

The restaurant, expanding the former Nektar space at 451 Elmwood Ave., will have Adrian Bylewski leading its kitchen. At 25, Bylewski has worked in the kitchens of Hutch’s and Tabree. Bylewski will aim to use the “best possible locally sourced ingredients to make food that has nostalgic value, using big, familiar flavors with a blend of modern and classic cooking techniques,” said MidTown partner Charles Barone.

Bylewski will help MidTown Kitchen present a “comfortable, fun” menu meant for sharing and informal gatherings, Barone said.

He will have time to work on his menu, as construction on the restaurant was halted by a Jan. 16 fire that caused heavy smoke damage. Cleanup began Tuesday, with construction to resume soon, Barone said.

“Our contractors have reassessed everything, materials have been ordered, and a restoration crew is on standby,” Barone said. At this point, he said, he hopes to have the restaurant open before the end of May. “This was an unfortunate setback, but our vision has remained as it was from the beginning.”

New Amherst Mexican: A Mexican restaurant has replaced The U in Amherst’s Maple Ridge Plaza.

Papi Grande’s, 4276 Maple Road, opened last month. Before that, owner Jimmy Spano operated The U, a student-oriented tavern, in the space for nearly five years.

“We chose Mexican because, first and foremost, I got hooked up with our chef here, Jose Camacho,” said Spano. “He was working at a local country club, and I’ve always loved his food and his taste.”

There seems to be a lack of authentic Mexican fare in the area, and the neighboring movie theater has done an extensive renovation, that keeps the parking lot busy, Spano said. “So we decided to give it a shot.”

Grande’s has been open seven days a week, for lunch and dinner, with a full bar. Menu appetizers range from chips and queso ($4.50) to ceviche ($12.99). Entrees range from $12.50 to carne asada, grilled, marinated steak.

East Aurora taps flow: East Aurora Pour House hosted its first crowds over Super Bowl weekend.

Formerly Craft Tap House, the tavern, at 701 Main St., East Aurora, was renovated extensively by new owner Dan Ranger, who also owns Hamburg Pour House.

There’s 23 taps, with most devoted to craft beer. Locals breweries represented include 42 North, 12 Gates, Hamburg and Big Ditch. Its tavern menu includes, wings, chips and dip, and Reuben and Rachel sandwiches. Phone: 652-7687.

Hertel Marco’s moving: Marco’s Italian Deli’s Hertel Avenue location is moving down the street, to a space across from Lloyd Taco Factory.

The new location, 1518 Hertel Ave., was formerly a Subway. “The move should be complete by April 1, but may happen sooner,” said founder Marco Sciortino.

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