For about a decade now, it has fallen to me to chronicle the notable happenings in Buffalo’s restaurant community. In old-fashioned newspaper terms, I write birth announcements and obituaries.
Along the way, I have gotten to know a number of restaurant operators to varying degrees, in person, and by reputation. Run a restaurant in Buffalo for 20 years, and there are a lot of people out there who are going to have stories to tell about you.
Mike Andrzejewski has run restaurants in Buffalo for that long, as an Oliver’s executive chef, then owner, with his wife, Sherri, as front-of-the-house manager. Tsunami; Mike A's at the Lafayette; Bourbon & Butter; then Seabar, 475 Ellicott Street. He's also a partner at Cantina Loco.
He’s represented Buffalo at the James Beard House in Manhattan, at Super Bowl parties raising money for the food bank, in Washington, D.C.’s Buffalo nights and on the Food Network, where he “Beat Bobby Flay” with loco moco. He helped start Western New York Local Restaurant Week, putting the spotlight on other businesses in the community.
He’s made mistakes along the way. He’s closed restaurants (Tsunami, Mike A’s at the Lafayette, Bourbon & Butter) and survived a near-fatal motorcycle accident that cost him a leg, yet he has established a reputation of personal integrity in the Buffalo restaurant community.
He’s not one of the operators who takes advantage of employees and purveyors when business sours, insulated from the wreckage they cause in other lives by wealthy backers and legal niceties before they open their next enterprise.
Last month, Andrzejewski filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy at Seabar, one of the best restaurants in Buffalo. That’s keeping the business open while getting a chance to pay off their tax bill. He took responsibility in public, copping to business miscalculations. His employees are getting paid. His purveyors are getting paid.
He and Sherri did not choose Chapter 7, dissolve the business and say “that’s it, we’re done.” They decided to work their way out.
Based on everything I have seen from its owners, I’m rooting for Seabar.
If you’ve never been, give it a shot, for lunch (where you should strongly consider the $12 cheeseburger and fries), or dinner.
If sushi tacos, sashimi on lemon gelee and oysters with cucumber mignonette aren’t your thing, hit the meaty side of the menu – loco moco, pork enchiladas, meatballs, duck leg udon, that beef-on-weck sushi – the worst thing about Seabar is its name, which I have always felt hid its true carnivorous glory.
If you haven’t been in a while, go back. In a town that respects getting knocked down and getting back up as much as Buffalo, it should not be time for Seabar’s obituary.
(Of course I’m biased. It’s literally my job, and I gave Seabar a 10-plate rave review.)
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