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Restaurant notes: Oshun, Lucky Day, Poutine & Cream, Sandwich Envy

Lucky Day Whiskey Bar will aim to become a lunchtime favorite for time-harried office workers and a Theatre District destination for whiskey lovers.

Located at 320 Pearl St., the space formerly occupied by Century Grill has been taken over by owners Timothy and Morgan Stevens, who own cocktail-and-sausages spot Ballyhoo near the Cobblestone District. The planned opening is June 7.

The building, constructed as a Masonic temple, now holds a dining room redecorated in an 18th-century English style, with new wallpaper and redone floors, Timothy Stevens said.

The back bar has been expanded to hold up to 600 bottles of whiskey, with a rolling library ladder to reach them.

"The entire back bar is ceiling to floor, front-lit so the labels will pop," said Stevens. "I want to take it to the 'Oh my god you've gotta see this,' level, more of a destination, if you're into brown spirits."

The whiskey library will "go deep into brands and varieties, now that whiskies are obtainable from all around the world," Stevens said. It'll be around 400 bottles to start, filling out the shelves this fall. They'll be augmented with classes and presentations from distillers and other brand ambassadors.

The restaurant will seat about 85 diners at first, Stevens said.

At lunch, among other options, Lucky Day will serve hand pies, a quick-serve mobile meal that Stevens came to appreciate during a New Zealand trip. There, pies are sold in bus stations and consumed en route.

That seems right for all the downtown workers limited to 30 or 60 minutes, he said. He envisions a 9-inch pastry folded in around fillings like rabbit stew, or a vegetarian option, ready to go at lunchtime. "Not just minced meat and cheese, more thoughtful fillings," he said.

Dinner, served 4:30 to 10 p.m., will include a more expanded menu of standards and weekly specials. Distinctive editions of fried chicken and steak, among other things.

Bar snacks will include throwbacks to old-school European flavors like limburger cheese sandwiches, liverwurst, pickled herring, as well as lighter offerings like salads and pickled vegetables.

There is a raw onion and limburger audience, Stevens said, "and I think they're underserved."

Ballyhoo owners plan restaurant in ex-Century Grill space

Hertel fries and cones: Fries-and-cones specialist Hertel Avenue Poutine & Cream has opened its doors, on the corner of Sterling Avenue, next to Family Video.

The store, 1488 Hertel Ave., is the second in a series, after the first, Allen Street Poutine, opened in 2015 as the city's first dedicated poutine supplier. The Hertel store offers a second specialty: housemade ice cream, dished up in sundae-hybrid "freak shakes" and stuffed inside doughnuts.

Coconut, cake batter and mint chocolate chip and Nutella are among the 12 flavors of hard ice cream, and a peach-mango vegan version with a coconut milk base. Those are scooped into cones, or stuffed inside Famous Donuts.

The "freak shakes," served in a canning jar with a handle, include options like the Chocolate Mouse ($8), built on peanut butter chocolate ice cream, plus crushed Reese's Pieces and chocolate and caramel sauces, and Reese's Cups for ears.

"It's a different crowd than Allen Street in that there's a lot of kids and families," said Marc Adler, an owner. "It was amazing how many people just walked to us, all day."

The Hertel store has almost all of the poutine versions offered at the Allen location, Adler said.

Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight daily. Phone: 551-6995.

Niagara Street pizza: On May 19, Ricotta's Pizza Niagara started offering its pizza, wings, and open-faced chicken souvlaki on Niagara Street.

Mayor Byron Brown and State Sen. Tim Kennedy stopped by the shop, 349 Niagara St., for a ribbon-cutting.

Most of the food is Italian and American – including antipasti and steak hoagies – but owner Mike Khoury, who's Lebanese, is proud of a Mediterranean touch.

"We make our own Greek dressing for the souvlakis, and the chicken is always fresh," he said. "It’s a big hit."

Khoury was formerly a partner, along with brothers Sam and Samir Khoury, in Ricota's Pizza, 206 Elk St., a pizzeria whose name is not misspelled, even though the Italian cheese is spelled ricotta.

When his father originally bought the Elk Street pizzeria in 1988, dropping one letter from the name was part of the deal, Mike Khoury explained.

"Since I opened this place up for my wife and I and my children, I decided to do something a little different," he said, and returned the missing letter.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. Phone: 768-8966.

University Heights sandwiches: Jon Marantz wanted a certain type of sandwich he used to enjoy, but couldn't find in Buffalo. The result was a small University Heights restaurant called, appropriately enough, Sandwich Envy.

"In Toronto, a certain type of hot sandwich, often made with chicken, veal or pork, is very popular," Marantz said. "I didn’t see them here, and started making them myself, and people liked them."

Located at 3171 Main St., in the former Eddie's Chophouse space, it's a counter-service place with a few tables for diners, and a few more outside in a patio space. Sandwich Envy's flagship offering is a pork cutlet that's been pounded out, crumbed and fried to order. In this country, similar sandwiches are associated with the Midwest, especially Indiana and Iowa.

The standard American version is topped like a hamburger, with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and mustard, for $6.25. The crispy expanse of pork is more than twice the size of the toasted Constanzo's roll it's set on. Crunchy at the edges but still tender inside, tasting of pork and not just fried crumbs, it's a well-executed cutlet.

The Constanzo's roll cannot contain the pork cutlet at Sandwich Envy. (Andrew Galarneau/Buffalo News)

For another 50 cents, customers can get the Italian version, which adds marinara, provolone, and sautéed sweet peppers or jalapeno, and comes with an auxiliary  cup of tomato sauce, for more sauciness.

The cutlet sandwich Italian style at Sandwich Envy comes with a booster shot of marinara. (Andrew Galarneau/Buffalo News)

A marinated-then-grilled chicken breast also comes American ($6.75) or Italian style ($7.75).

Marantz is rolling and baking his own meatballs for the meatball sub ($6.75-$9.75). "People really like them, and there's no magic to it," he said, "we just don’t use frozen ones." The medium-gauge orbs provide enough beefiness to stand up to the cheese and marinara.

A bacon-wrapped meatloaf ($6.75) comes with a dunking cup of beef gravy. The highest-rolling menu item is the grilled strip steak sandwich ($13.95), topped with provolone, mushrooms and onions. The half-inch thick cut of medium-rare beef, robustly seasoned with pepper and salt, was tender enough to eat without wishing for a steak knife.

At Sandwich Envy, grilled steak is a strip steak, not chopped beef. (Andrew Galarneau/Buffalo News)

Vegetarians have a breaded eggplant sub with marinara and provolone ($6.75-$9.75) and a grilled veggie sandwich packing eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash and asparagus, as well as onions, mushrooms and peppers ($5.75).

Sandwich Envy also offers a housemade soup ($3.25), from a rotating cast, like the creamy potato-leek available last week.

The sole dessert choice carries on the sandwich motif, with a slab of vanilla ice cream between two warm waffles ($3.75), with chocolate, strawberry, maple or caramel sauce.

Marantz decided to open a sandwich shop after a career managing recycling facilities. He briefly operated a sandwich restaurant in Syracuse a decade ago. That experience that taught him a lot, he said, without curdling his dream of operating a successful little place.

"I am not by any means a professional chef," he said. "I'm just a hard-working cook."

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday. Phone: 436-4491.

Sandwich Envy, the new University Heights sandwich shop, is open six days a week. (Andrew Galarneau/Buffalo News)

Oshun closed: Oshun closed after service May 21, ending three years of oysters and more at the corner of Washington and East Huron.

The restaurant's lease is up May 30, said chef-owner Jim Guarino, who is going to refocus his efforts on Shango Bistro in University Heights, his first restaurant.

"We're relinquishing the space and not renewing the lease, and I'm going to concentrate 100 percent on Shango," Guarino said. "I've been spread too thin, and it's been hard to keep both places going."

Shango, opened in 2005, "needs some updating," he said, including a new menu he's planning to introduce in June.

The last day of service at Oshun was Sunday. "It's time to close this chapter, unfortunately," Guarino said.

[See Andrew Z. Galarneau's review of Oshun from November 2014]


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