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Restaurant notes: Garage Cafe, Deep South Taco, Seabar

A Hertel Avenue auto repair shop will turn into a coffee shop, lounge and live-music venue to reflect the changing lives of its owners.

J & L Automotive, 1127 Hertel Ave., is becoming The Garage Café & Lounge.

Joe Riniolo has owned J & L Automotive for 25 years. A motorcycle accident left him bedridden for three months last year. He can walk and get around now, but can't be a mechanic any more, said his wife Lisa.

"We had to make the decision to close the business and retire a little early," she said. They also closed Peace of Mind Coffee Café in Akron, which she had operated for a year and a half.

"We loved our café, we loved the music we brought in, we loved what we were doing," Riniolo said. "So we decided: let's turn J & L Automotive into the Garage Café & Lounge."

The Riniolos hope to open in January.

The thoroughly remodeled interior tries to keep "as much character of the auto repair shop as possible," she said.

Breakfast will include Sicilian espresso, panini sandwiches, egg sandwiches, and such. Dinner will include sandwiches, soups and salads. There will be Italian cookies and pastries, part of a housemade menu with a "definite Italian slant."

There will be a stage and lounge seating, for live music scheduled every week. They've applied for a beer and wine license. A patio will be added out front for the summer.

"We've been in this community a long time. I have people knocking on my door just to come in and say 'hi' every day. We're excited to be here, and to stay in this community."

Deep South Taco on Transit: Modern Mexican restaurant Deep South Taco's third outpost opened Dec. 7.

Located at 6727 Transit Road, Lancaster, in front of Regal Cinemas, it's offering tacos, nachos and more plus a full bar.

The restaurant's food menu is much the same as its first two locations, 291 Ellicott St. and 1707 Hertel Ave. But an on-site brewery will add another dimension to the restaurant's offerings.

LuchaBrew, a lager developed with help from East Aurora's 42 North, will be available, as well as a Mexican stout and rotating seasonal Mexican beers, said owner Richard Hamilton.

Deep South Taco adding third restaurant, brewery - and a farm

"This is a true testament to the rebirth of Buffalo,” Hamilton said. “Buffalo is among a small number of cities where we could have achieved this kind of success at such a rapid rate."

Seabar chef coming to TV: Top Buffalo chef Mike Andrzejewski went head-to-head with Bobby Flay in a cooking battle filmed for television.

The results won't be revealed until February, when the episode of Food Network's "Beat Bobby Flay" airs.

In the meantime Andrzejewski, an owner of Seabar, 475 Ellicott St., and Cantina Loco, 191 Allen St., shared some details of the experience.

Last spring, after a call from a casting agency, Andrzejewski did Skype and telephone interviews to vet his television potential. "They were pretty intense interviews, almost like an audition," he said.

After interviewers reviewed video footage showing his role as color commentator at the Nickel City Chef live-cooking competition, he got the call.

After being flown to New York City and limousined to his studio, Andrzejewski competed in two stages before a live audience.

First, two chefs have 20 minutes to exploit a mystery ingredient, with the winner getting to battle Flay, the star. The show balances Flay's years of experience in competitions by giving his opponent their choice of dishes.

Andrzejewski said he couldn't reveal the results, but he encouraged his customers and others to look forward to the February broadcast. "What a great experience," he said. "What a polished, professional operation they have."

Will the mystery dish be available at Seabar? "People will be able to get what was cooked on the show."

An extraordinary night in SeaBar earns a top rating of 10 plates

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