Every once in a while, a business concept comes along that I consider another Buffalo breakthrough. This time it’s big. Really big. And really delicious – something that Buffalonians are going to go crazy for.
This coming Thursday, Rowhouse Bakery & Restaurant will be opening its doors at 7am, and once it does, the culinary scene in the city will forever be changed. I know that that sounds a bit dramatic, but I just got a tour through the place, and it’s sensational. Proprietors and life partners Sean Tuohey and Myriah Jaworski have done a fabulous job of overseeing the resurrection of four Midway rowhouses, boasting nine apartments, an antique shop, and the pièce de résistance – Rowhouse Bakery & Restaurant.
The entire 12,000 square foot bakery and restaurant complex seamlessly transitions between three of the buildings. Upon walking into the former Lord Chumley’s/Stillwater operation, it’s hard to believe that it’s the same place. To the left, is a cosmopolitan espresso-centric bar area (with “pastries piled high”), where customers can fuel up before heading out on their adventures, in-house or out on the road.
Those familiar with the former commercial occupants are aware that the layout was somewhat tough when it came to efficient flow. Now, the disrupting metal staircase has been ripped out, and another one has been installed towards the end of the first floor common space, which essentially opens up the whole place. In its current state, the giant room functions more like a market space, with a mix of old world brick and freshly painted white walls. The addition of the white brick walls is very refreshing, and provides a more contemporary feel to the space, while retaining the dignity of the building.
At the far end of the room is a custom designed pizza oven that is absolutely gorgeous. “There’s hardly a menu item that goes out that does not pass through the flames of that oven,” said Sean. Myriah agreed, stating, “In the morning, you can smell the bakery, and come noon the wood fire stokes up.” Speaking of wood fire, the pizza is not the only oven that is fueled by wood.
Right next to the pizza oven sits a Grillworks Argentinian style grill that will help the chefs to keep up with the demand of grilled meats. According to Myriah’s dad, Mark, there’s nothing else like it in Buffalo. I believe it.
It’s interesting to note that Sean and Myriah spent a lot of time researching a variety of marketplaces all over the world. They took the best bits and pieces of each, and integrated them all into the space. Once open, customers will be able to find a variety of products made in-house, and others sourced around the state of NY. Some of the offerings include cold pressed juices, a prepared food section, baked goods including baguettes, almond milk (made in-house), fresh breads, honey, jams, fruits, cheese, soups and sandwiches.
As I walked about, listening to all of the stores about the incredible restoration of the buildings, and the offerings that were being rolled out, I couldn’t help but feel that this was a true Buffalo story in the making. It’s got everything from history, to European flair, Rust Belt blue-collar sensibilities, with a bent on organic, farm fresh goods.
If you’re happy with what you’re seeing, just know this – you aint seen nothing yet! Look up and you will find micro greens growing, tended by our friends at Vertical Fresh Farms. Stacks of wood for stoking the fires lay in wait below on the cobblestone floor (complete with manhole cover to resemble a real cobble street).
The faux windows on one side of the room feature works of art by Travis Keller of Buffalo Arts Studio. The rest of the works of art are being hung at this moment.
The place is casual, yet refined. It’s full service in the dining areas, and grab ‘n go at The Larder (market store). It’s local, yet worldly. It’s got a sense that everything is imported, but that’s not the case. The only element that was imported was certain integral members of the staff, such as the artisanal baker who hails from the Hudson Valley.
Walking up a set of steps alongside a giant mural of Mark Twain and Frances Folsom Cleveland (by artist Mark DiVincenzo), I found myself in “The Perch” overlooking the marketplace. This is where people will be able to eat and drink, while observing all of the action below via a balcony vantage point. From there, I walked on over to another room that is an updated version of Lord Chumley’s, but much less stuffy and more genteel. The old Chumley’s chairs had been recovered, adding a charming pop.
The wood floors and walls have been lightened up, to create a more vibrant and inviting area for which to drink and dine. I was happy to find that the pocket doors were still operational, which will allow for private parties on the fly. Off to the right (one of three rooms) was a setting that appeared to be a sort of sophisticated French café, complete a “great window” and an overlook onto the first floor bar. Before heading back downstairs to the bar, I checked out the awesome patio (coming soon), and the upper kitchen area complete with an arsenal of industrial ovens.
Heading down a back staircase, I found myself at the full cocktail bar, where signature drinks will be made using ingredients from all five culinary concepts within the complex, from the pastries to the microgreens. I am told that soon the fourth floor will have an entire micro green garden, also by Vertical Fresh Farms. Back to the bar/lounge – customers will be able to hang out and drink, or sit down and order food. The exquisite bar has a bit of a contemporary grotto feel that offers up a prohibition-style vibe.
A visit to the basement is fairly mind-blowing. It’s sort of like watching a small village in action, with chefs, bakers and prep cooks running to and fro. Mark told me that the entire basement had to be jacked up, as the steel beams were bowing under the weight of the structure. In the process, they built out a stunning modern kitchen operation, complete with an elevator to run the food/baked goods from floor to floor. The basement is where the sourdough is mixed and where the meats are cured. There are numerous walk-in refrigeration units and coolers. There’s even a composting station. Eventually in-house canning/preserving will also be underway.
All in all, this operation has taken 18 months to get to this point, and I’d say that the wait was worth it. From restoring the leaded glass windows, to removing layers of carpeting, to scraping caked on varnish and shellac off the wood ornamentation, to sanding the floors and bringing back the original luster, this team has nailed it.
They hit a home run, which will be evident when everyone who walks through the doors. With six ovens, six bathrooms, multiple floors, a trio of buildings, a communal table, a chef’s counter woodfire dining experience, a circular tiled pizza oven (circular patterns can be found throughout the complex), and a crew of professionals that will tie it all together, Rowhouse Bakery & Restaurant is nothing short of brilliant.
Not to mention that Sean and Myriah are also in discussions to implement curbside service, valet during peak hours, bike racks, and outdoor benches to create a park-like atmosphere out in front. The complex is also accessible in the back (Virginia Place), where there is an ADA accessible ramp and bathrooms. Best of all, the marketplace will be a destination that will continue to morph as the years go on. Sean and Myriah have vowed to look for the best locally sourced goods, while providing customers with an unparalleled market and restaurant experience. Welcome to the new Buffalo.
Executive Chef: NICK SCHABERT | Executive Baker: WALTER GROHS | See team