When Zahid Rahimi first came to Buffalo in 2014 to attend UB, one of his initial observations was that this city lacked in the “street food” department. Coming from NYC, he was intimate with that type of cuisine, especially since his family was in the business. When he talked to other students, he realized that he was not alone in his sentiments. So in 2016, as an undergraduate, Zahid decided that he could not wait any longer and opened Chick Mex Grill on the North Campus.
“I gave UB a proposal and they accepted it,” said Zahid. “I had a background in food since my family was in the business in NYC. I told them that there were so many UB students from other cities that loved street food. I think that it was considered unusual for an under grad to be running a restaurant on campus.”
Zahid told me that one of the biggest undertakings that he faced was streamlining the menu. He said that in NYC customers can get just about anything that they ask for. He finally decided to concentrate on two things – “Mexican and Halal.”
“There’s a growing crowd of people coming here from other cities,” Zahid explained. “These people are looking for foods that we don’t have here. Back in 2016, I knew that the food combination would be a hit with students, and it was.”
The Hertel location will be Zahid’s second business in WNY. When I asked him why he chose Hertel, he responded, “That’s where I hang out. I know all of the nearby business owners. When the owner of La Tavola – Vic – decided that he wanted to sell, I knew that it would be the perfect location. We’re not doing any major remodeling because the place suits our business model – we will be doing a decor changeup though. We’re going to run it like a street food operation, where customers will come up and order, walk along a counter and choose the items, and then take their trays back to their tables.”
Zahid noted that the most popular dishes at Chick Mex Grill are the combination plates with beef and grilled chicken, rotisserie-style, with salad, rice, and pita. “I create all of the menu items,” he said. “The sauces are all made from scratch – it’s our biggest advantage over the competition… the flavors and the spices are very unique. I am very picky when it comes to flavor profiles – it’s a blessing and curse at the same time [laughing]. Customers also love our burrito bowls. And of course we will have beer and wine because we’re on Hertel and that’s what our customers will expect to find as they relax and chill with friends (indoors or on the patio).”
While the pace of opening is speeding up, it has been a longer haul than expected due to the pandemic. But Zahid is confident that after he gets his special use permit on April 19th… “I want to be open the next day. I’m very excited – so our my neighbors who keep asking, and commenting that they can’t wait for the place to open. This is the perfect time to open on Hertel – I love the street and everything that is happening. I couldn’t be happier about all of this.”
Chick Mex Grill | 1458 Hertel Avenue | Buffalo, NY 14216