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Nick Kotrides doubles down on Brunch

I’m always looking for new places for brunch. Places open, places close. One spot serves brunch one day… and the next day nada. When it comes to brunch I’m pretty picky – some places that say they serve brunch might as well call it ‘serving breakfast on a Sunday.’

When I think of brunch I think of a table set up with special offerings… not necessarily a buffet, but something that says that the restaurant has gone out of its way to offer something special. A pastry and yogurt stand… a chef station serving waffles… over the top Bloody Marys… these are the types of treats that distinguish a special brunch from an ordinary Sunday breakfast. I recently learned that Nick Kotrides, owner of Toro on Elmwood and Empire Grill on Hertel, has been experimenting with what he considers The Ultimate Brunch.

What Nick has done is unusual. He has whipped up two completely different brunch concepts for each of his restaurants. Empire Grill is based on buffet stations – seven different stations to be exact. To start, there’s a seafood station with crab legs, salmon and clams. Then there’s a hot buffet with ribs, chicken, pork-chops, eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes and an assortment of other items that change weekly. Add to that a carving station and an omelet station, along with cold pastas, salad, dessert and bottomless mimosas and you’ve got yourself a pretty stellar Hertel brunch haven. Nick has even made sure that the families are taken care of – in addition to everything else, there’s a children’s station serving kid-friendly food. “The brunch with buffet at Empire has taken off,” Nick told me. “And this Sunday we’re
expecting over 200 people. The brunch at Empire is fantastic…
something totally different. We’ve brought a real brunch concept to Hertel that people really appreciate.”

Adults $20.95 | Kids $10.95

The Empire Grill brunch has been so successful that Nick sat down and began to brainstorm a completely different type of set up for Sundays at Toro. “Toro has been open for nine years,” said Nick. “We’ve always kicked the idea around… we wanted to do something different there too. We brought DJs on board for Saturday nights and it’s been phenomenal to see the place jumping. That got me thinking about Sundays… I wanted to show off our kitchen staff beyond what they were already doing, so I brought in Bobby Anderson from Hell’s Kitchen to consult with our brunch concept (starts this Sunday). It’s going to be a la carte with Mediterranean and Spanish flavors changing from week to week. We didn’t want to duplicate the brunch from Empire – we wanted to play off the strengths of Toro.”

Rather than rattling off a few of the selections for you, Nick allowed me to pass along this Sunday’s menu items. Pricing was not yet available.  

Duck Confit Hash with poached eggs, ancho maple jus and crispy scallions

Open faced Shrimp Relleno with Roasted Peppers, Tomatillo Salsa and Agave Nectar

Savory Cheesecake with Asparagus, Crimini Mushrooms, Manchego and Goat Cheese

Pastrami Cured Salmon Piadina with Lemon-Dill Marscapone and Tradtional Garnishes of Chopped Egg, red onion and Capers

Cheese Blintzes with Sangria Dried Cherry-Blueberry compote, whipped cream and sliced almonds

Smoked paprika dusted Crabcake Benedict with crispy prosciutto, roasted garlic bread, mixed greens and saffron Sabayon

Cinnamon French Toast and Carmelized bananas in maple-rum sauce with whipped cream and powdered sugar

Creamy Polenta with grilled asparagus, roasted tomatoes and Romesco Shrimp

Huevos Rancheros over Cornbread with chorizo, white beans, cheddar & Jack cheeses, ancho jus and Pico de Gallo

Crepes Stuffed with Black Forest Ham, eggs and gruyere cheese over mixed greens with creamed leeks

Empire Grill
1435 Hertel Ave
Buffalo, NY 14216-2826
(716) 446-0700

Toro Tapas Bar
492 Elmwood Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14222
(716) 886-9457

Empire Grill image: Michael Gelen

Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside, Buffalo Porchfest, and Paint vs. Paint. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market on Elmwood. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at Statler City, the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival, and The Flutterby Festival.

Contact Newell Nussbaumer |

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