There’s a new shining star in the Downtown restaurant scene. It’s a new breakfast and lunch spot called Mon Ami, and it fills an eatery niche that was sorely lacking.
Buffalo has plenty of Greek diners, and greasy spoons. It’s easy to find a good pancake, or a quality burger. In fact, overall, the city’s food offerings are “tres magnifique”, except when it comes to dining with a French twist. The first thing that I thought of, after visiting Mon Ami for the first time was… how come nobody has done this before? The concept is so simple, yet at the same time it’s hard to pull off I suppose.
Mon Ami has opened up at 298 Main Street, in the former Globe Market Downtown location. When Globe Market closed at this spot, I felt that it was a big loss for burgeoning business district that borders Cathedral Park. It’s was the wrong time in Buffalo’s renaissance to see this auspicious location go dark. But it did. And we waited, and waited… to see who would come and turn the lights back on.
Lo and behold, it took two real estate guys to see that this building was primed as a first class restaurant. Greg Grigorian (from Buffalo) and Armen Pogosyan (from NYC) temporarily hung up their real estate hats because they realized that an opportunity was knocking. The two had done enough traveling to know exactly what this restaurant location needed. The concept would be to serve up a different breakfast and lunch menu that everyone else was putting out, and do it in a manner that would be on par with anything that one would come across in NYC. In fact, the location reminded the two of a NYC locale, which helped to drive the concept.
It was the wide open space, with brilliant natural light, multiple entrances, vaulting ceilings, and a picturesque view onto Cathedral Park that initially captivated their imaginations. It was like being handed a beautiful frame and being asked to paint a work of art that would play off that frame. The first thing they did was to go out and get a “brush” in the form of head chef Jake Barton who had studied classic culinary arts at the French Culinary Institute.
With Barton in place, and the interior of the restaurant undergoing a serious refresher, Grigorian and Pogosyan had a recipe for success. Not only are they hands-on owners, they are also relentless in their pursuit of perfection. Everything that comes out of the kitchen is made fresh and/or made to order. I got a chance to try out a few of the offerings a few days ago and was beyond impressed with the concept and the execution.
First of all, if you’ve never tried a Buffalo-style quiche, I’m telling you right now that if they sold nothing else, they would have a hit on their hands. I could eat this for breakfast/lunch every day. It’s light, yet so tasty. According to Grigorian and Pogosyan, their quiche is what they want to be known for. The Buffalo-style quiche is their signature, but they are planning on introducing myriad other styles. As I ate my quiche, I wondered to myself what other restaurateur in Buffalo has ever hung his or her hat on the simplicity of quiche? “It’s what we want to be know for,” the owners told me. “It’s already been a huge hit because it’s so perfect for a quick and delicious meal, and it’s not your every day item on a Buffalo menu.”
Quiche is not the only menu item that sets Mon Ami apart from the pack. As far as I know, this is the only place that is serving up Intelligentsia Coffee (based out of Chicago). Grigorian and Pogosyan said that they spent weeks sampling so many coffees that their houses resembled coffee shops, because they were filled with so many samples. “These beans were roasted two days ago, ” they told me, as I sipped from my cup. “And shipped overnight. It’s as fresh as can be, and we’re so happy to be introducing it to Buffalo.”
For me, there are a number of telltale signs that a chef knows what he or she is doing. One of the basics is the way that a salad is prepared. In so many Buffalo restaurants, the salads are overdressed. Usually, it’s best to simply ask for the dressing on the side. In the case of Chef Barton, he is the furthest thing from being heavy handed. The ratio of dressing to salad greens was la perfection – the greens were so fresh and tasty – the light white balsamic dressing was simply an accent flavor – just enough to coat, as it should be.
I asked Grigorian and Pogosyan what some of the customer favorites have been since opening a month ago. The chicken salad and tuna croissants are going like crazy – the croissants are light and airy, and delicious on their own. There is also a high demand for the breakfast bowl. The potato chips are made in house, which, for me, usually spells trouble, but in this case they were done really well. In my book, house made chips tend to be flavorless, greasy, tough and overcooked. But not these. “The croutons and the yogurt spread are also made in-house,” they told me. “The avocados are scooped out per order. The hollandaise sauce is made fresh every morning, as are the donuts, which are more on the gourmet end – they’re brioche.”
If donuts aren’t your thing, then try the melt in your mouth macaroons, which are also made fresh each morning – the lemon macaroon is divine.
Thanks to Mon Ami, there’s another great reason to work and live, in downtown Buffalo… or pay a visit for that matter – you won’t be disappointed. And it won’t be long before there’s a Parisian-style outdoor patio, serving up beer and wine, so we can all look forward to that.
Whether it’s an early offsite Monday morning office meeting, or meeting up with co-workers and friends for a Friday afternoon nip, Mon Ami has got you covered, and then some. If you’re ready for some great American favorites with a French twist, served up fresh and quick, then it’s time for a visit my friend.