After a brief closure in early April, Dobutsu (Seneca District) will reopen as another concept called Compass Run. Restaurateurs James and Connie Roberts are drawing inspiration from James’s time spent during his youth navigating the Louisiana Delta alongside his father and grandfather, fishing, shrimping, and hunting. Often times, the men would have to rely upon compases and simplistic devices and measures to find their way along the foggy pre-dawn routes. To James, this was a form of character building that he relied upon throughout his life. It’s also one of the main sources of inspiration for Compass Run, which will play off of one of James and Connie’s other big Buffalo success stories, Toutant.
“As a young man, learning how to find our way in heavy fog built my confidence and gave me a sense of gratification,” says James. “It was under their direction that I learned the value of diligence and discipline.”
While both Toutant and Compass Run are inspired by James’s love for the comfortable and simple cuisine that is reminiscent of the Louisiana Delta, each restaurant will have a distinct menu. To that end, the Compass Run dinner menu will focus on regional Southern specialties such as:
- Cajun Hot Boudin
- Chicken fried steak
- Hoppin’ John (southern peas and rice)
- A rotation of country hams from America’s best producers
- Wood grilled steaks and chops
- Custom mac and cheese
- A smashburger
- A crispy fried chicken sandwich
- Homemade pies, bourbon pecan chocolate balls, seasonal fruit buckles, and old school bananas foster
Many of the above dishes are ones that James grew up loving and ultimately cooking, in a similar way that the dishes at Toutant are near and dear to his heart. They will be accompanied by variations of homey fried shrimp and fish platters, seasonal low country boils, and austere crudos and ceviches. An ode to New Orleans’ French fare will come in the form of such dishes as crab-stuffed flounder, blackened redfish, and Pascal Manale-style bbq shrimp.
“What diners want is always evolving. Sometimes these shifts are incremental and driven by short-lived fads. Other times they are sea changes impossible to disregard,” says James. “Since early 2020, the climate has made it increasingly evident that diners want food that is familiar, wholesome and comforting.”
Since early 2020, the climate has made it increasingly evident that diners want food that is familiar, wholesome and comforting.
“Dobutsu offers a menu of dishes and ingredients that I, as a chef, have longed for since moving to Buffalo 15 years ago. It was a passion project for me and the team, and we have had a blast. It’s been a journey, and sharing that experience with Dobutsu’s loyal customers has been an honor and a joy. It’s clear what the people of Western New York are looking for. The reception that Toutant has had and the volume of guests we care for there each week is both humbling and exciting.”
Compass Run’s cocktail program will be overseen by Justin DeVoe, specializing in southern classics, bourbon and rye whiskeys, and custom seasonal cocktails. Lauren Romanillos will continue to manage the restaurant entity, as she did Dobutsu.
Along with a new southern comfort food approach, Compass Run will also take better advantage of the 500 Seneca Street building by incorporating a new interior courtyard featuring balcony patio dining. That alone will be an incredible ancillary draw to the existing restaurant space, which is being updated accordingly.
“We are happy to retain the amazing staff we’ve built at Dobutsu, and are thrilled to have such wonderful, loyal employees both here and at Toutant who are excited about the new concept,” says co-owner Connie Roberts, who, in addition to co-owning both restaurants, also works as a designer. “Consistency between the brands is key for us and our guests.”
Stay tuned: Compass Run
Guests holding Dobutsu gift certificates will have until the transition to use them if they wish to enjoy the Dobutsu menu. Anyone with a Dobutsu gift card who prefers to use it at Compass Run may do so. Reservations are recommended.