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Welcome to 'Joe-gie School': South Buffalo family takes over Artones

For anyone who's frequented Seneca Street in South Buffalo, hoagie shop Artones will be a familiar name.

The takeout-focused business, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this summer, changed hands in early August from Scott Dargavel to Joe Kurnik, who's lived up the street his entire life and managed the restaurant 20 years ago.

Back then, Artones was owned by Ed Mangone, who still runs Elk Provision, a meat specialist on Clinton Street. The sub shop dates back to 1968, when it was started by Art Mangone and Anthony (Butch) Augustine.

"I want to bring it back to when it was famous," Kurnik says of the hoagie shop, which flourished under Mangone's watch for nearly four decades. The new owner procured the original recipe for the steak hoagie - including the meat blend and the special sauce - from Mangone as part of the mission to return to the heyday, he explains.

The "super" size steak hoagie from Artones, $9.99, has been the signature selection over the course of the eatery's history. (via Artones)

"It's changed over the years by people who took shortcuts, who tried to save money," Kurnik claims.

Artones will open to the public at 11 a.m. Sept. 1 at 1880 Seneca St., welcoming customers until midnight. The festivities will overlap with the live music and corn hole at the opening of the Wheelhouse, a bike shop next store at 1872 Seneca. The dual openings will sit about a half mile away from the South Buffalo Irish Festival, which also takes place Saturday.

In his own words, Kurnik feels "destined" to take over Artones, in tribute to his late brother, David, who died last year; to work with his other brother Randall; and to provide opportunities for his kids Joseph and Taylor.

In fact, a T-shirt emblazoned with "Davie Donuts" - the nickname of his late brother, who also worked for years at Artones - will be framed on the wall with the number 15, a memorial and regular reminder of the importance of his family.

This story won't be unusual for South Buffalo natives to read; the community tends to take pride in its own and fiercely support entrepreneurs who both appreciate and remain close to their roots.

Through the front window facing Seneca, just below the vibrant reds and yellows of the signage, expect to see Kurnik behind the grill. "It's like I'm on a stage," he said with a laugh. There's only nine stools at the counter, so business is primarily takeout or workers stopping in and out for lunch.

"Hoagie guy" Joe Kurnik works the grill in Artones. (via Artones)

The longtime specialty of Artones is the steak hoagie ($7.99 regular, $9.99 super), a behemoth of a sub made with sliced sirloin - sourced from Mangone's Elk Provision - sauteed onions, peppers, mushrooms and the special sauce on a Costanzo's roll. There's absolutely no Cheese Whiz. And Kurnik, who honed his grilling skills two decades ago before stepping away for a time, is supremely confident he hasn't lost his touch.

"I'm known to many in the neighborhood as the 'Hoagie Guy,'" he says. "People like when they see me on the grill. No one else gets on the grill unless they've gone to 'Joe-gie School,' [getting] trained by me."

Beyond the heralded steak hoagie, the hot and cold subs - and the "parmed" options - will be popular, Kurnik expects. Other specialty hoagies include a stinger (steak and chicken finger), the Southside (steak, Italian sausage, sweet peppers), the Big Ed (steak, capicola, fried onions, named after former owner Mangone) and the Seneca Street (steak, sausage, capicola).

Kurnik tweaked the flavor of the pizza sauce to reflect Bocce Club Pizza, he says, which he realizes won't please all of the community's pizza eaters. In addition to small (six slices, beginning at $9.99) and large (eight slices, beginning at $12.29) pizzas, slices of cheese and one topping will be available for $2.29.

Kurnik, left, will open Artones on the same day that Adam Johnson, right, opens the South Buffalo Wheelhouse, a bike shop. (via Artones)

The refresh of Artones and the opening of the Wheelhouse continue the unexpected comeback of Seneca Street, spurred by the efforts of developers such as Hook & Ladder, Kurnik's landlord. The eventual goal is for Seneca to become increasingly walkable and bikeable, coinciding with a new rush of local businesses, to make an already proud community more active.

INFO: Artones, 1880 Seneca St. 822-2311. Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday.

Seneca Street joins Buffalo's redevelopment renaissance

*Read more on South Buffalo:
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- Smiles at South Buffalo Night at Live at Larkin
- Say cheese at Lactalis' South Buffalo plant
- Conlon's Bar & Grill closes after nearly nine years

Email: btsujimoto@buffnews.com

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