Some call it a hidden gem. Others say it deserves more recognition. And most say they would come back for more. They’re all talking about Black Iron Bystro, tucked away along South Park Avenue in Blasdell.
You’ll find an eclectic décor and a small menu that’s full of flavor.
Owner Bryan Mecozzi used his 20-plus years of restaurant skills from both local establishments and corporate chains to open Black Iron Bystro back in May 2014. As he approaches four years in business, he stepped away from the kitchen to talk about his recipe for success.
Question: How would you describe your approach to the restaurant?
Mecozzi: It’s an organic atmosphere with both the menu and the food. That’s the style and the approach. I like to call it “Farmhouse meets Brooklyn.” The cuisine has a fusion – it’s your standby with a twist. The last couple of weeks we’ve been bringing on the waffles. We had a fried chicken waffle. We focus on classics but make them a little different.
Q: Do you use your restaurant background to perfect menu items?
A: Yes though I’m not culinary trained. I went to school for maybe a semester, but I’m going to be 36 years old and I’ve worked in a kitchen since I was 18 and even earlier as a dishwasher when I was 15, so I’ve always been in a restaurant.
Q: How risky did it feel to venture off and open your own place?
A: I was pretty confident I’d be in a good place so I took that mentality. Four years in, we have a solid base and we’re still growing thanks to my crew. We have the best crew in the world. There’s only five or six of us but we all work the same days and same hours.
I’ve changed the hours and tweaked them and tried lunch in the summer. But really at the end of the day, it’s up to the crew. I’m the chef and everyone manages themselves.
Q: What do customers keep coming back for?
A: The jerk shrimp nachos - they come with blue corn tortilla chips, black bean con queso, smoked shrimp and Krista Van Wagner’s jerk sauce.
Q: How do you rely on specials to mix things up?
A: We have a small menu with ten items and have specials that are different every week. We always have a burger and a steak dish. We might be serving duck or chicken or game hens. We usually have four or five specials every week. We do at least one pairing dinner per month with wine or beer or spirits.
Q: Does just as much thought go into the cocktails as the food items?
A: Absolutely. Joe is our cocktail guy. He runs the bar program and makes his own menu with drinks and craft cocktails. He’s an extremely well-versed bartender, and he’s very humble. He can make the most vicious of customers pleased. He has an amazing attitude that can light up the room.
And the servers are on point with what I’m doing. I’ll go to the market and start to prepare food and they see what I’m doing and know what’s going on. Of course we meet and I take suggestions and ideas from them, too.
Q: How do you manage to take a vacation day?
A: We are actually closing from Feb. 27 to March 3. We are all taking one week to recharge. Everyone agreed to take one week off. It’s the first vacation I’ve had.
INFO: Black Iron Bystro, 3648 South Park Ave., Blasdell. 240-9830. Hours: 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Patio in summer.