A number of Buffalo’s hottest food operations have opened under the auspices of EXPO Market. A former brewery/restaurant space has been transitioned into an all encompassing culinary destination, directly attached to the Market Arcade building. As I sit at GBGB (Gypsy Bohemian Grove Bar) writing this article, I am surrounded by a whirlwind of activity, as some of Buffalo’s most curious bar/foodie characters buzz by, preparing for the big public opening tomorrow (Thursday).
A walk through the space lives up to the anticipated hype. The food offerings are a mix of some of this city’s high profile restaurant concepts, including the ever popular Sun Roll (Japanese and Burmese) and Mercato by Osteria 166 – one of the most successful Italian restaurants to open in the city as of late. With healthy options from Crush and Newbury Street, and a killer cocktail and coffee list from GBGB (opens at 8am), and old world deli sandwiches (with a twist) from Bobby Alfman’s.
I got a chance to catch up with Nick Pitillo from Mercato who was very candid about his new business within the market. I chuckled [talking to Nick] when I pointed out the cast of characters that I ran into at the market (including Nick). “The cast of characters is what made it work,” Nick told me.
The cast of characters is what made it work.
“I feel bad for Paul (Tsouflidis), trying to keep us all in the same corral. We all go way back, and we all bring something different to the table. For me, I can’t get over the low overhead (there are no servers)… it’s a totally different animal and it’s very exciting.”
As I spoke with Nick, Paul Tsouflidis (one of the drivers behind the concept) walked up and shared his own thoughts on EXPO. “This is the first time that Buffalo has seen something like this. People can come here in groups and get a beer or Gypsy Juice, a smoothie, a sushi roll, a sandwich or a salad. Fortunately we have a great landlord (Nick Sinatra) who invested a lot of time, energy and money into this building – that’s the reason that we could pull this off. Everyone is working together. There are shared expenses, which makes everyone happy. It was my hardest project, but my most fulfilling at the same time.
Charlie Goldman, one of the proprietors of Bobby Alfman’s, agreed that the communal atmosphere was very attractive for a tenant. “Rent is based on sales, which is very fair,” he said. “A lot of the expenses that we normally have to worry about are all included, which makes this concept a real winner.”
Buffalo artist and creative brainstormer Casey Milbrand’s (inset photo with GBGB’s Gabrielle Mattina) design touches and 800 feet of historic-meets-modern day Buffalo murals are eye-catching and playful, and add perfectly placed design splashes to the expansive space.
He led me through the market, pointing out the various changes that took place throughout. “There are a lot of wall spaces in here to fill, and I wanted to bring a sense of Buffalo during the time of the Pan Am Expo, along with everything that’s happening these days.”
Nick Sinatra told me that he was very proud of all of the operators that had taken up space within the market. “Most of them went to NYC to look at concepts, in order to bring them back to Buffalo,” he told me. “To me, that says a lot about their dedication. I believe that this is exactly what Main Street and Downtown Buffalo needed. I was lucky enough to get commitments from a number of Buffalo restaurateurs who all believed in this concept.”