The “front and center” restaurant space in the Horsefeathers Building on Connecticut Street is considered “the anchor” tenant. It’s the most visible space, and the most commanding. That’s why it’s so important to have it filled.
While there have been a few different restaurant and café concepts anchoring the space over the years, it has been vacant since its last tenant, Perks, moved out.
Thankfully, there is a super upbeat restaurant concept that is now setting up shop, which I believe will be a big draw for a wide range of people from all over the city (and the region) – a concept that suits the building perfectly. It’s called Mister Sizzle’s, and it’s the brainchild of Casey and Chris Casas, both of whom have been in the restaurant industry for quite some time.
Talking to Casey and Chris, they had a lot on their minds, starting with… this was not their originally intended location for their initial restaurant venture. They told me that they were planning on opening up a concept (it’s still on the table, so they’re not divulging anything yet) at 319 Connecticut Street (a building owned by John Pantalena and David Wagner), which is kitty-corner to the Horsefeathers Building. But due to the pandemic, that plan has been delayed, although the engines are still revving, so stay tuned.
In the meantime, as the two were kicking tires, Casey and Chris saw that the Perks location had freed up. So they talked to John and Misha Pantalena (co-owners of the 319 Connecticut Street) about teaming up to open a classic American hamburger joint in the space. It was John and Misha’s 7-year-old daughter who came up with the name Mister Sizzle’s.
“We’re super excited to be embarking upon this restaurant,” said Casey. “Our goal is to feed the families of Buffalo. The burger concept is near and dear to our hearts – it’s Chris’s favorite food. We want to pay homage to the original burger places… you can see it in the logo, which has a nostalgic diner inspiration. It’s going to be an Archie comics vibe, with 80s music, craft cocktails, and beers on draught.”
“And we want to bring back happy hour,” added Chris, who feels that this concept is the perfect fit for the neighborhood.
Casey and Chris are enthused that there is so much untapped potential on Connecticut Street, with the ability to create a neighborhood feel similar to Five Points, which is located a few blocks away.
They plan on doing their part by creating a food and beverage destination unlike anything else in the city – a fast-casual burger joint that serves ten “outrageously delicious” burgers (with plenty of vegan burger options and/or gluten free rolls), fried chicken sandwiches, boozy milkshakes (some dairy free), and old fashioned floats (root beer, loganberry, orange cream, etc.). They have also invested in a crowler canning machine, so that customers can take canned cocktails and beers home with them. Customers will order at the counter – there will be no servers, but there will be food runners. It’s going to be a fun, fast-paced setting designed to feel like “the family room of Buffalo.”
Talking to this couple, it was obvious to tell that they cared about the food – the burgers will be made from meat that is “never frozen” – sourced from NYS farms. They are all about supporting the NYS economy that has taken a hit during the pandemic. Along with the food and the customers, they told me that their employees will be a big focus.
“We want to give back to the restaurant community,” explained Chris. “We want to create a safe place for workers.”
“Chris and I don’t drink anymore,” added Casey. “This is a very difficult industry, with a lot of pressures. Employees are often under-appreciated and overworked. We want to give people in this industry a career, not just a job, with a livable wage. We want the staff to know that we are here as much for them as we are for our guests. It’s our way of giving back to the restaurant community.”
I asked Casey and Chris to give me a little bit of their backgrounds, to see where they were coming from. Casey told me that she had worked as a bar manager at Lockhouse Distillery, bartended at the Hydraulic Hearth, was a longtime server at Mothers, and before that she was a GM at a restaurant in South Carolina.
Chris got his start at Santora’s when he was 15. He has been a line cook, and has experience bartending and serving – he worked at Bravo Cucina Italiana. He was also the ‘opening GM’ for Carte Blanche in Hamburg, the bar manager at Bacchus, and bartender at Thin Man. “We’re going to carry a line of Thin Man beers,” he told me. “These are the places that have supported us, and we want to support them.”
Between the two, they’ve been around the horn a few times, and it is that experience in the bar and restaurant industry that will keep them afloat. Both Casey and Chris said that they cherish the support that they have received from past employers, as well as their friends in the restaurant industry – it’s what’s driving them to open Mister Sizzles.
In order to get what they want out of their new space, Casey and Chris have taken it down to the studs, and are rebuilding it. Once open, there will be a 25-seat bar, 15 tables, a partially open kitchen, and an ADA-compliant wheelchair-accessible counter space.
Once again, they are excited to be an integral component along Connecticut Street, joining Black Sheep, Taste of Soul (“a hidden gem” in the basement of the Horsefeathers Building), and BreadHive, among a number of other vital businesses.
Their objective is to become a vibrant cornerstone business, frequented by customers who will love the food, the affordability, and the welcoming vibe that will soon resound throughout the neighborhood.
Mister Sizzles is another essential ingredient to the Connecticut Street formula that will help to elevate the commercial corridor to a “smashing success” status, there is no doubt.
Mister Sizzles is slated to open in May. Hours to start are Monday-Saturday 11am-11pm.
346 Connecticut St, Buffalo, NY 14213 | (716) 919-4949 | Facebook