[BN] Food & Drink Newsletter June 8, 2022: Vegan fast food is coming downtown | To eat
For 14 years, Joel Capolongo and Nick Ryan figured out how to sell vegan fast food to the citizens of Syracuse.
“When we started 14 years ago we had to do a lot of explaining, what things were like, but that’s long since passed,” Capolongo said. “Veganism, the vegan lifestyle and the vegan diet have become totally mainstream.” Despite the pandemic, Strong Hearts had its best year ever in 2021, he said, thanks to an easy-to-use online ordering system.
Now they’re bringing their well-honed recipes and twist on vegetable-based comfort food to Buffalo, where they see a growing market for animal-free meals. They hope to open in July, at 295 Niagara Street, formerly Ru’s Pierogi.
The Strong Hearts menu, at stronghearts716.comincludes vegan versions of chicken subs, mac and cheese, and a chicken wing burger that includes a Beyond Burger, Chicken Tenderloins in Buffalo Sauce, Dill Pickles, Red Onion, and a homemade ranch or blue cheese sauce, $16 with fries.
People also read…
There are nachos, chicken wings, Reubens, chicken parmesan, a chicken-bacon-ranch sandwich made with “bacon” tempeh, and loads of loaded fries. Sweet Sassy Molassy, grilled tofu with chipotle and maple, comes in a sandwich or wrap format. Like many Strong Hearts dishes, a gluten-free version is available.
“It’s, as you know, the second largest city in the state, and we felt it was very underserved in the vegan market,” Capolongo said. “There’s just real pride in the Buffalonians, and coupling that with the room for growth here, we really like it so far.”
Dig, Buffalo: Southern Junction chef/owner Ryan Fernandez is smoking a unique barbecue that’s “a bit of Texas, a bit of India.” Watch now >>
Sponsored by Orville’s Home Appliances
Casa Azul: Zina Lapi began her restaurant career driving the Blue Balls Bus food truck, a journey that took her deep into the heart of Allentown. At Casa Azul, his talented team has composed the details that make it the best Mexican-inspired restaurant in Buffalo. Read more
Next week: Jasmine Thai: The veteran of Western New York’s Thai restaurant population has weathered the pandemic, churning out dishes like the irreplaceable mee krob, crispy stir-fried noodles that are the adult cracker jacks of Thai cuisine. Read the 2016 review
Kenmore Retrospective: Owner Jason Wood returns to the 1970s with Nowhere Lounge, 3115 Delaware Ave., transforming the former Bimber’s Delwood space into a wood-panelled basement game room with period decor of lava lamps and drinks to match . Wood plans to open this month, according to Buffalo Rising. Read more
Yemeni coffee: Socotra Cafe, 671 Ridge Road, Lackawanna, started serving Yemeni “beehive bread”, made with orange blossom water and cheese, plus pastries, strong Yemeni coffee and smoothies.
Hours: 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 7 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday; 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday. Phone: 716-939-2778. Read more
MORE INFORMATION ON RESTAURANTS
Help in the restaurant: A Cook’s Tour, the fundraiser for restaurant workers inspired by TV culinary personality Anthony Bourdain, returns June 20 to Kleinhans Music Hall.
All proceeds go to Family Meal Hospitality Trusta non-profit organization that helps local workers in the restaurant industry.
Everyone gets two drink tickets and grazing rights to bites offered by restaurants such as Chez Ami, Rick’s on Main, Osteria 166, Swan Street Diner, Hooked, Mister Sizzles, Forno Napoli, Britesmith Brewing, Lago 210, Flint , Fresh Catch, Pendleton Creek Club, Breezy Burrito and The Sweet Whisk.
Admission to Kleinhans, 3 Symphony Circle, is $65, with 6 p.m. entry, or $100 for VIPs, including 5:30 p.m. early entry and a t-shirt. Tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets. Read more
ASK THE CRITICISM
Q: Why don’t you rate restaurants anymore? I really enjoyed seeing what you thought they deserved. Maybe because of the pandemic you didn’t want to be harsh? Now that we are past that stage, can you include it again in your review?
-Patricia Lorence, Grand Island
A: During the pandemic, I stopped applying scores because it was impossible to compare anything fairly to what was before.
I am trusted to present 45 to 50 places a year to readers. Why spend it somewhere I wouldn’t recommend? What a waste of hours of writing and the day of a talented photographer.
The review is a chance to tell readers about a place that does something I love. It is my duty to convey this appreciation to the reader.
I understand that people in a hurry want a score, the complexity of a restaurant reduced to single digits. New York Times critics can go back to one place until they feel they’ve nailed its truth. I usually get one or two visits. It’s valuable little data to establish a definitive unified ranking of Western New York’s myriad restaurants, across genres, price points and decor levels.
Typically, my reviews take three minutes to read. I will continue to strive to make these words worthwhile.
Send restaurant tips, heartfelt recipes and questions to [email protected] or One News Plaza, PO Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240.
Send restaurant tips to [email protected] and follow @BuffaloFood on Instagram and Twitter.