When I heard that the former Cozumel restaurant might be heading in the direction of offices, I thought to myself, “There goes one of the best patio opportunities in Allentown and the city.” After all, I spent my fair share of time soaking up late afternoon rays along with a couple of beers back in the day.
When I heard that a young newly married couple had set their eyes on leasing the building, in order to bring it back to life as an upscale supper lounge, I was thrilled. Monique Fortunato-Lester and Bryan Lester will basically be gutting the place in order to create a candle-lit, sultry, low conversation, atmospheric getaway for those who have been looking for something a bit more sophisticated in Allentown. The two have literally traveled the world (together and apart) in search of inspiration for their combined dream establishment that might be reminiscent of a cozy library in a nearby mansion found on Delaware Avenue.
Bryan moved to Buffalo from Chicago for a senior risk manager position at HSBC Bank in 2004. When HSBC downsized, and then pulled out of the city, Bryan felt that he needed to diversify his talents and became a partner in what is today Vera Pizzeria on Lexington. That’s when he met Monique who had moved back to Buffalo from the Congo, where she was a biological anthropologist. The two were immediately smitten with each other, and discovered that they both had a passion for the city that had brought them together. “Black Swan is a dedication to the people of Buffalo who stuck it out all these years,” Bryan told me. “It’s a tribute to the big thinkers and the ass kickers. The name “Black Swan” refers to the cultural and economic renaissance that we are experiencing. Similar to a ‘black swan event‘, the rebirth of Buffalo is a big surprise to many people, and in the end there are some who would say that it was inevitable… well, we want to create a place where people will feel that they are experiencing something special when they arrive, from the time they step off the Elmwood sidewalk to the time they relax inside, sitting on a comfy lounge chair with a craft cocktail in hand.”
The interior of the Black Swan will be part upscale lounge, part bar crowd, part high bistro table setting, and part patio (lots of patio). “We love this neighborhood,” Monique said. “This is where we wanted to be. My family hails from Allentown and was involved in the restaurant business on the city’s West Side. When we wrote the proposal for the lounge I kept in mind that I wanted to help create something that was special for Buffalo, as my family had done so in the past. We are going to create one of the most beautiful patios around – something that will complement the interior decor. Have you ever been to Gilt Bar in Chicago? Or Apotheke and Gin Palace in NYC? Have you ever been to Brassai’s patio in Toronto? We are going to refer to design ideas that we have fallen in love with from our travels, and we’re going to incorporate them into Black Swan. We want this to be the perfect setting for a girls’ night out or a place for co-workers to mingle for happy hour. We’re paying attention to the details – lighting, acoustics, cocktail servers, delicious small plates of food, custom made couches with pillow dividers that can be moved about, outdoor heating elements, greenery and trellises. We want to make this a special place for people who appreciate a more upscale social experience, without being stodgy.”
Black Swan will be quite a change from what people were used to when the building was a party bar. This sort of elevated drinking and dining experience is a welcome addition to the neighborhood, and appears to be heading in the same direction as a few other up and coming establishments in the area and in Buffalo in general. The Black Swan will be an intimate getaway for those looking to chill in a cozy and comfy setting, on the sunny side of the street, in a part of the city that looks to have fresh inspiration being infused into more than just the cocktails.