Thin Man, the newest restaurant concept from Rocco Termini and Mike Shatzel, opens at 6pm this evening. Thin Man offers something for everyone when it comes to aesthetics and seating arrangements. Multi-level floors and half floors open up to various patio arrangements, clear operational garage doors, and overlooks. Look up and there’s an open expanse to the second floor. Look down and there’s the bar crowd. One interior window allows guests to view the brewery operation. 2nd floor patio guests have immediate access to a dedicated bar window. There’s even seating way up in the eaves of the building, which offers a view onto a the second floor. Even thought the place is expansive, with a seating capability of 260 inside and 90 outside, everything is controlled and contained due to the winding configuration.
The name ‘Thin Man’ was derived from the world’s first crash test dummy that was invented at Cornell Aeronautical Laboratories right here in WNY. Upon realizing this fact, Mike Shatzel immediately knew that he had discovered the perfect name for the brewery and restaurant. At the same time, the owners didn’t want to go too far overboard with the crash test dummy concept, so they incorporated some fun elements without it being in your face. “The thematic concept of Thin Man is more of a play on Buffalo’s inventiveness and ingenuity,” said General Manager Mike Pijanowski, former owner of Europa. “We wanted to reflect that with the atmosphere and the menu.”
While the Thin Man might be a bit downplayed, there are still plenty of tributes to the original crash test dummy. “Eventually Cornell Aeronautical Laboratories became Calspan,” mentioned Termini. “I figured that I would give a friend of mine at the corporation a call, and they ended up fabricating an exact replica of the original thin man for the bar.”
Aside from that cool historic element, there are other splashes of creative brilliance that will no doubt get customers’ attention. Like the bar top that looks like smashed glass. Or the factory lighting that might have been in a crash test laboratory. Or the splashed of cautionary yellow on the staircase, or along the steel beams. There are even old air bags that have been upcycled into lamp shades.
As for the food, the operators managed to get another local culinary superstar to run the kitchen – master meat showman Bruce Wieszala. Wieszala is going to town with a smoker that he says is already working overtime. Customers can expect to find lots of ribs and bacon offerings on the menu… and pork belly, lots of heritage pork belly. Even the bar snacks (not free) will be made of pork – pork cracklins’. Wieszala is procuring from the top regional farms, including T-Meadow. In order to pull off the large number of seats, Wieszala has two different levels of kitchens to work with showcasing all brand new top of the line equipment (including is very own pork chest – inset). Other menu items of interest include bacon nubs, fried chicken livers, roasted bone marrow, charcuterie, pâté and pickles, Tokyo Burger, fried homemade Spam, steak sandwich, house made sausage, meatloaf, banh mi, and… for the not-so-meaty side of the menu there’s a wedge salad, roasted beats and veggies, and a cheese plank.
To complement the food, Shatzel has curated a beer menu that he feels will match the best of them. Once fully operational, 12 of the 24 taps will be dedicated to in-house craft brews. The other 12 will be just as exceptional. Rudy Watkins (formerly with Community Beer Works) is the master brewer, which should say a lot for the operation. The brewery holds 8 fermenters, 2 brite tanks and a brew house.
I spoke to Ben Siegel of BMS Design Studio, who, along with Laura Wax at L2K Design, was able to take all of the creative demands thrown at the design team and make it work. From conceptualizing how to dig down to the foundation on the brewery side of the building(s) to working around structural supports that hold the weight of the massive beer cooler on the roof, there were plenty of puzzles to solve, but the end result is nothing short of spectacular.
There’s not a bad seat in the house at Thin Man. The high end pub food is made by some of the best in the business. Same with the craft beer selections. Great lighting, plenty of seating and lots to observe while you’re waiting for your meal. It’s the perfect place for people watching, which is an added bonus. And it’s right smack on Elmwood Avenue, which is currently experiencing an elevation in cuisine.