It was back in 2011 that Jill Gedra Forster first opened Nickel City Cheese & Mercantile on Elmwood Avenue. After five successful years in business, Jill has opted to close up shop and head to higher grounds. A little over a week ago she opened up her super-sized version of the business in the former Martin Cooks space within the Horsefeathers Building on Connecticut Street. The move adds to developer Karl Frizlen’s original vision of what the building should be and how it should operate. Not only does half of Jill’s business stock incredible cheeses and food market items, the other half is dedicated to preparing delicious sandwiches and cooking seasonal delicacies.
The sandwich café boasts a wide open kitchen, with opportunities to sit, browse, taste, order, chat, read… the space is expansive, bright, and conducive to suit whatever mood that you’re in. The only requirement is that you must be hungry, or at least on the hunt for exquisite cheese and edible sundries.
“I looked for a new space for a year and a half,” Jill told me. “There’s hardly anything out there. I was never looking to open a full fledge restaurant, but when this opportunity came around I could not pass it up. It’s essentially two businesses under one roof. The restaurant is Lait Cru Brasserie, and then we have the Nickel City Cheese & Mercantile. The restaurant is initially open for breakfast and lunch. Dinner will follow soon enough. As for the market, we’re adding new items all the time. The cheeses will be seasonal. We are also anticipating on selling beer and wine. When that happens, we will have a cheese table at the bar, where we can pair everything together. It will be an all French wine list, heavy on sparkling wines and Champagne. Over the winter we want to continue on with the spirit of the winter market, by bringing in producers and farmers. We have already talked to Flat #12 Mushrooms, and they say that they are onboard.”
If all goes according to plan, Jill will have a business that not only has a market feel, it will also act like real old school European market. Customers will be able to grab a glass of wine while they browse the cheese selections. There will be cheese classes offered, as well as cooking classes and other private events. In order to advance her mission, Jill has brought on chef Will Peterson (photo standing with Jill) who opened the Black Sheep with Steve Gedra. The practiced chef will be bringing a fantastic gourmet cooking element into the fold. Aside from creating impeccable seasonal dishes, he plans on curing his own salmon and making in-house pâtés and terrines. Jill is allowing her crew to add their own personalities and flair to Lait Cru Brasserie. She even has chef/master butcher Bruce Wieszala conducting a whole hog butchery class on Sunday, August 21.
According to Jill, she will be ramping up her offerings by the end of the month. At this moment, she is open for business, though she is nowhere near where she wants to be. There are a lot of different moving pieces that she is contending with, all of which she wants to make sure are perfect. At this point, she is considering the next couple of weeks as a “soft opening”.
Nickel City Cheese & Mercantile and Lait Cru Brasserie join a number of other rocking culinary institutions on Connecticut Street, including Black Sheep and BreadHive. A serious Buffalo foodie could easily spend an afternoon/evening visiting these shops, in search of some of the most respected culinary minds in the business. Not to mention the other permanent food-oriented businesses within the Horsefeathers building, including Michelle’s Caribbean Cuisine and Nature’s Apothecary.
Hopefully we see a couple more property owners step it up on the street and release/fix up their buildings. Connecticut Street could be a real culinary gold mine with some more infill. The Armory Restaurant held down the fort for a long time, and now the relief troops have started to arrive.