I am in awe of people who are opening businesses during the pandemic, and very appreciative. Take Jack Reid, for example. Instead of going on unemployment when his job at Briarwood Country Club was furloughed, and then eliminated, Reid decided to go for the gusto. He looked at this bizarre time as an opportunity to make a stand – to open his dream café in a location that unexpectedly became available for a number of reasons.
The location in question, formerly Mundy Cakes (220 Allen Street) turned out to be the result of a perfect storm. Reid told me that being friends with the owner of the business, Amanda Bernardini, was how it all came about. During the pandemic, Bernardini decided that she had to refocus her attention on her career and family. The dessert bar needed to take a back seat, which turned into a great opportunity for Reid, who lives right next door. “I see a lot of people walking past this spot every day,” said Reid. “So I know that the foot traffic is there. Amanda did a great business – with so many people at home because of COVID-19, she got really busy. But she ended up going in different directions, and that’s when I decided that it was time to do something on my own.”
Reid’s café will be based on comfort foods. He told me that he’s been working all aspects of the restaurant business for years, including front and back of the house. I first met Reid when he was General Manager at Frankie Primo’s on Chippewa. But before working in the restaurant business, and sharing recipes with his chef friends, there was his mom. It turns out that Reid has been around good food his while life. His mom, who is a professor at Buffalo State, apparently makes the meanest mac ‘n’ cheese on the planet, and will be making appearances in the kitchen a couple of times a week. “Ms. Shantell has always cooked like her food was built for a restaurant,” said Reid, speaking of his mother’s penchant for cooking.
I love the sound of that.
“I’ve always paid attention to people cooking,” explained Reid. “I would go to my friends’ houses and watch their moms cook. My chef friend Tony Tedesco at Rocco’s – his mom makes the best Caesar salad dressing that I’ve ever had. I’m hoping to get her over to the café to do a demonstration… she knows how much Jack loves Mrs T’s Caesar dressing [laughing].”
What interested me most about my conversation with Reid was how much he talked about gleaning inspiration from others that he has cooked with, or just eaten their food. These are the elements that he wants to incorporate into his recipe for success, which he is calling the Allentown Café. “Then there’s D’s chopped burger,” Reid mentioned. “He’s the chef at SoHo. I think it’s the best burger around, with sweet and banana peppers, onions, and cheese – that’s the inspiration. While most of the recipes on the menu are my own, I want to pay tribute to some of the people (my friends) in Buffalo who have come up with some incredible food.”
Reid is convinced that the success of his café will rely heavily on take-out, delivery, and catering, especially during the pandemic. He is aware that this is how he will manage to survive. “Everyone’s home,” he said. “They are going to want to eat at home. And they’re going to want to have good comfort food. I’m starting with breakfast and lunch – menu items that people feel good about eating, and meals that are affordable… such as…
- Allentown Scramble: Berkshire Sausage, Scrambled Eggs, Potatoes, Sweet Onion, Sweet Peppers, Served with Texas Toast -$12
- Smoked Chicken Sandwich: Smoked Shredded Chicken Breast, Cheddar Cheese, Tangy BBQ Sauce, White Vinegar Slaw -$12
- Glover’s Tuna Melt, House Made Tuna Salad (with all the Fixings!), Cheddar/White American Cheese Potato Sticks, Five Points Wheat Bread -12
- Jack’s Spaghetti Salad for sharing (served by the pound): Thin Spaghetti, EVOO, Red Wine Vinegar, Italian Vinagarette, Asiago, Grated Parmesan/Spicy Sopressata, Cucumber, Red Onion -$8
“There will be flat breads, an egg sandwich, Steel-cut oats, salads, and a fresh catch haddock sandwich… and I’ll be serving up a couple of late night items (on select nights) for the industry crowd, which doesn’t have a lot of late night options to eat. I always wanted something good to eat after I got out of work – I’ve made a lot of great connections in Buffalo, and I want to create a space for these people, restaurant workers and friends. There will be items that they can grab and go. This is not a big restaurant, so I have to make the best use of the space.”
Reid will also be serving up coffee, cold pressed juices, and kombucha. “My sister – LaCherie – is a flower child. She’s big into all this,” he told me. “Oh, and good coffee too. I’m working with Blue Mountain Coffee, and McCullagh Coffee Roasters. I will have a water purifier for the coffees and the teas. I want to make sure that everything that leaves this place is good. I’ll be running everything, which means that nothing will leave that isn’t top quality. When you eat this food, you will know what you’re signing up for.”
Allentown Café is scheduled to open sometime around October 20.