Back in the early days of Buffalo Rising, one of our crew became heavily addicted to Louie’s Original Footlong Hotdogs. He would go every single day, and come back with hotdogs, hamburgers, fish sandwiches… he was hooked on Louie’s for a long, long time. When Louie’s shuttered their doors on Elmwood, due to a fire, I didn’t know if my friend was going to make it. To this day he still talks about the food at that location.
When I heard that Louie’s was making a comeback in the city, at 1893 Niagara Street, after being closed for five years, I knew that there were going to be a lot of people reveling at the news. I caught up with owner Angelo Turco, to get some background on his decision to open on Niagara Street, and to catch up on some fond Louie’s memories. Angelo started off by talking about the opening of the Turco family’s Elmwood restaurant, which was the spot that helped to solidify the now iconic Buffalo brand.
“It became very apparent to me… shortly after we opened on Elmwood and Hodge in the mid 1980’s we were going to need a ‘much bigger boat’,” said Angelo. “It was such a vibrant spot from the day we opened. For nearly 25 years we made that tiny corner a favorite go to place in the Elmwood Village. Shortly after the fire in 2013, my father passed away. It was his wish that I focus on our original location in Tonawanda, where he spent 60 years of his life developing our brand name. It meant a lot to both him and me… he knew I would do just that. After I announced I would not be reopening on Elmwood, I began to refocus on our landmark location in Tonawanda, where our company began in 1951.”
The announcement that Louie’s would not be reopening on Elmwood was certainly a surprise to many people. Louie’s had become an institution on the street. Just as the city was starting to “take off”, Louie’s was not going to be a part of the rebound moving forward. “As we left the city of Buffalo, I knew we would be missed,” Angelo reflected. “I knew there would be disappointment in the hearts, and taste buds, for the wonderful people in the Elmwood village, where I still live today, AND the entire City of Buffalo. Since the night of the fire, our customers have been visiting us at The Sheridan Park location, encouraging us , and reminding us how much we’re missed in the city. Every time I heard it, it was a reminder to continue looking for that ‘bigger boat’ – a boat that would be ‘docked’ in the City of Buffalo.”
The inset photo of Angelo’s dad cutting the onions by hand to make his onion rings is the same way they do it to this day. Hand cut ‘colossal’ onions, along with their homemade batter recipe that Louis came up with while he was a cook in the army during WWII.
According to Angelo, he kept his eyes peeled for a suitable urban address. He knew that the day would come, soon enough, but he didn’t want to rush into anything. “As I was in the airport waiting to board the plane on November 1st, to head to my Florida home, my phone rang, and the location I had my eye on for three years was offered to me,” Angelo exclaimed. “I immediately closed the deal. It was always my intention to reopen in the city I love so much. The Elmwood corner was the first store I truly did on my own, without the help of my father. I wanted to prove to my father I could operate a Louie’s on a high level without his help. I did just that with the Elmwood business. That store was like a child to me. Coming from a person who had no children, it meant everything to me, and when it was destroyed by a fire, I felt lost and alone.”
It took a while for Angelo to refocus his energies on the city, but he knew that it was only a matter of time. “I always knew in my heart I would reopen in the city. It was paramount that the new location fit our business model. Our company is EXTREMELY excited to return to the city of Buffalo. Louie’s opened in the city in 1980 in The Main Place Mall. We opened our 2nd location on Elmwood and Hodge in 1987, and will open once again in the city in 2018. Like our Elmwood location, our Niagara Street location will be a year round spot, offering both in house AND delivery service. We’re shooting for a March 1st, 2018 opening date.”
A lot of people are going to be very happy when Louie’s opens in its new home. Louie’s always had plenty of distinctive menu items to choose from, including a loganberry shake. It was also the second home to famed Buffalo rock star Lance Diamond. As if that weren’t enough, according to Angelo, they still hold the record for the World’s Longest French Fry, measuring in at 11 feet 10 inches long!
Store hours will be 10:30am – 10pm 7 days a week.