After hearing that a couple of my friends had lunch on the 7th floor of the HarborCenter building, I decided to bike down to Canalside for a bite to eat. Finally, a restaurant has opened that has elevated, sweeping views of the waterfront. Eating at Panorama on Seven is like eating inside a fishbowl, with awesome views down onto the canals and the Inner Harbor.
The restaurant, operated/managed by Shaner-Marriott (Buffalo Marriott HarborCenter), is open to both the public and hotel guests, with easy accessibility via parking ramp, or Metro rail. Panorama on Seven has been operational for six days, which for all intents and purposes, I never would have guessed, since everything appeared to be firing on all cylinders.
Bob Spink, my bartender who is originally from Buffalo and recently returned after 20+ years, was also firing on all cylinders. The guy was stoked about the hotel, the management and Buffalo in general. Before I knew it he called up Director of Food and Beverage, Orcun Turkay, who explained the regimen behind the operation. “We feature the core items for Marriott, with influences from Southern European countries,” Orcun (originally from Turkey, coming from DC) explained. “And we keep a Buffalo spin in mind. We also feature items from a few local businesses on the menu, including Nickel City Cheese and BreadHive. As far as the bar goes, it’s based on prohibition-style beverages… classic cocktails… original recipes, and craft beers, with Big Ditch on tap, (local) and Rusty Chain (local) in a bottle. We expect that the hotel guests will come here to eat and drink, but we’re also creating something special enough to attract the locals.”
Once again, one of the main attractions at Panorama on Seven is the stellar views. But there are also a number of other reasons to spend some time in the building, including street-level retail shops, two giant ice rinks (The Rinks), a hockey pro shop called IceLab, the Academy of Hockey, and Impact Sports Performance (training facilities). Spending some time eating and drinking at Panorama on Seven could entail paying a visit to all of these amenities. Or it could include a stroll at Canalside.
As I was pondering all of the different HarborCenter features, Orcun recommended that I switch up my coffee for a hickory smoked Manhattan. And within seconds he pulled out this crazy contraption that was generating a hickory smoke, which he then infused into a sizable glass of bourbon. Whoa!
As I was watching the mixologist work his magic, the Marriott’s General Manager walked up to say hello. His name was Huseyin Taran, and he was happy to talk about the restaurant and the hotel. He told me that this particular Marriott Hotel was only one of eight (out of 365 total) that boasted an M Club Lounge, which is the new direction that the company is heading. The swank lounge is situated nearby to Panorama on Seven, and is free to Platinum and Gold Club members. “We also have a 6000 square foot banquet space that can accommodate weddings, special events, etc. There’s a board room, a ballroom with wallpaper handmade in Italy… we are setting the bar here in Buffalo. This is the direction that the rest of the Marriotts are going.”
I asked Huseyin what his initial thoughts were when he was propositioned to open the Marriott in Buffalo, and he told me that he was super happy to be here. Then I fired back, “C’mon, really. What were you initially thinking?” He then fessed up that he didn’t want to come… initially. “But I agreed to check it out,” he told me. “When I got here in September ’14, I couldn’t believe that this was the same Buffalo that I had heard about. There were people kayaking and boating, and Canalside was beautiful. It didn’t take long before I was packing my bags to accept the opportunity. I was told that the Marriott’s mission in Buffalo was to help build the city, which I felt was an exciting prospect. The real Buffalo is not known to people. I knew immediately that I did not want to miss this chance.”
Before being given a short tour myself, someone’s hand landed on my shoulder. I spun around to find an old friend who I had not seen in about 20 years. His name was Bill Burke, and he was wearing a Bell Captain’s uniform. “A friend of mine told me about this Marriott opening in Buffalo,” he shared with me. “I always thought about coming back home, and this turned out to be the opportunity that I was waiting for. I had experience from a gig in Vegas, and Huseyin liked what he saw in me. So I’m back with my wife and twins. I can’t believe what’s going on around here. Who would have thought?”
After my tour, taking some photos, popping in and out of numerous facilities, and saying my goodbyes, I had an entirely new appreciation for HarborCenter (and this new full service hotel). Bob and I are now friends on Facebook, Bill is on my list of phone contacts, and Orcun and Huseyin’s cards are close at hand.
Today I met some original Buffalonians who thought that they would never return, and some new Buffalonians who never thought that they would ever call Buffalo home. They all have something in common, however. They are now chilling in an up and coming city that is unlike any other… a city that they are all enjoying together under the Marriott umbrella, which is the only way they ever would have made it here to begin with. May they all stick around for years to come.
Photographer featured in the lobby/ restaurant – Mark Brice (www.buffaloaerialpictures.com)