It’s not often that a restaurant transitions to a new space at the top of its game. But that’s what happened at Martin Cooks, when owner Martin Danilowicz pulled the plug on the operation in order to move to a larger footprint on Niagara Street. The restaurant closed approximately seven months ago, much to the chagrin of fans who had become accustomed to the various offerings, including the Saturday/Sunday brunches and the nighttime tasting menu. Fans of the restaurant also liked the wide open dining area, situated inside the Horsefeathers Market building.
In a couple of weeks time, the doors will open to Martin’s new restaurant, called Roost. With the help of chefs Paula Danilowicz and Amelia Nussbaumer*, the restaurant will cater to a wide range of culinary delights, set in a space befitting the food that will be prepared. Roost, located on the first floor of the towering Crescendo building, has two a massive arrays of windows on the east and west sides of the restaurant – facing Niagara Street and the Niagara River. The lack of walls means that the design team (Carmina Wood Morris) needed to highlight the industrial elements of the space, while building signature utilitarian elements throughout.
Walking into Roost, visitors are greeted by a giant mural of a rooster emblazoned upon a wall along the entranceway (lead image), compliments of artist Chuck Tingley. The splash of fiery red color is both warm and dramatic. Once inside the space, the 30-person bar with bowling alley surface (by Dan Topolski) awaits. Standing idly by, as if on guard, is an outrageous Marana Forni wood fired rotary pizza oven. Apparently, there are only two of these pizza ovens in the country. One of the goals of Roost is to create pizzas unlike anywhere else in Buffalo, sticking to the simplicity of great ingredients, starting with an incredible crust.
To the left of the pizza oven are two impressive looking temperature controlled Börgen wine cases, holding a total of 800 bottles. This impressive wall of bottles is both sleek and functional. Just past the wine cases is the temperature and humidity controlled dough room, built to ensure that the pizza doughs will remain constant throughout the changing seasons – another trick of the trade.
A little further down is the giant six skewer rotisserie oven, where a variety of meats will be cooking throughout the day. Customers will be able to order items to go (full chicken, porchetta, etc.). The rotisserie selections will also be incorporated into the daily lunch and dinner menu offerings. Roost will start by serving ala carte dinner, and will then open for ala carte lunch after a few weeks (once the staff settles in).
A number of Roost’s custom furniture design items were built by Brian Wilcox of Reclaimed Innovations. The custom pieces help to tie the place together nicely, with custom crafted racks and cases. This time around, Martin and his team had the benefit of created a desired look and flow that would appeal to staff and to the customers. Everything has a purpose, making it effortless to get from place to place without jumbling into one another. There are seating areas off to the back, with banquet seating, a private dining area, and bar stools along the windows where customers can look outside. Altogether, the new restaurant incorporates 117 diners. Despite that large number, Roost will never appear crowded due to the layout. Although the interior is spacious, each area has its own comforting and relaxing quality.
Altogether Roost looks fabulous. There’s even an impromptu chef’s table for select diners to get close to the action. In the summer, a small elevated patio will be perched above the private parking garage. The restaurant is sleek and beautiful during the day, with low ambient lighting at night. The mood will change depending on where the customer is seated – the ambient lit bar will be lively, whereas a back booths (not pictured) will be more subdued.
Roost is opening at a time when a lot of Niagara Street is reawakening from a deep slumber. The restaurant will be doing its part to add to the diverse mix of businesses that are opening on the street. Not only will it have a built in clientele (apartment dwellers living on the five floors above), it’s also going to draw upon the loyal customers that have been waiting for the big day to come around.
For those wondering, and who repeatedly ask, lunch, brunch and dinner will all be served ala carte (first come first serve). There will be no tasting menu at night – instead dinner will operate much the same as lunch and brunch. Due to the expanded size of the restaurant, the Roost family wanted to be able to accommodate more people while cutting down on wait times.
In the end, most everything that people loved about Martin Cooks will be offered up at Roost. The biggest difference is the space, which is pretty darn impressive. Everything is amplified in order to highlight the acclaimed culinary offerings.
*Amelia is my wife, for the record.