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Hamburg’s Bistro in the Square brings vintage alive

WHAT’S ON TAP? — Bistro in the Square is a place where ordering a breakfast cocktail before noon on a weekday is possible, and having a glass of wine with eggs Benedict in the evening is encouraged. Photos by Alicia Greco.
HAMBURG — Displaying a contemporary and vintage design, the recently opened Bistro in the Square restaurant is a time machine of sorts.

The brainchild of four creative entrepreneurs, Dan Sullivan and his wife Lisa, Tim Sardinia and Pat McKee, officially opened for business on Jan. 10. The idea was prompted by the owners’ stated desire for a catering venture; they decided on a location close to the sister restaurant Buffalo Street Grill. Buffalo Sports Grill, another sister restaurant, can be found on Southwestern Boulevard.

“I call it ‘fine dining in flip flops,’ because you can go in and have a great meal, but if you’re comfortable in jeans and sandals, enjoy,” Dan Sullivan said, referencing Buffalo Street Grill. He added that Bistro in the Square is an expansion on that concept.

VINO — Prohibition-style cocktails and various wines and beer are served at Bistro in the Square.
The team of owners combined ideas from places visited across the nation, to develop their food and drink menus. They said that a major inspiration for the bistro came from a restaurant Lisa and Dan Sullivan visited, during a trip to Lake Placid, which served high-end breakfasts, while also featuring a full bar before noon.

“I think all of us, at one time or another, in our house growing up, had breakfast food for dinner,” Sullivan said. “So that’s what we do. There’s something about breakfast that is a meeting place. We have people coming in for breakfast in the morning and the afternoon, and it’s a gathering spot.”

Appetizers range from deviled eggs topped with pulled pork to stuffed poblano peppers. An array of sandwiches are available, in addition to six signature salads. The breakfast selection, which is served all day, offers house eggs Benedict, cinnamon crunch french toast, customized omelets and more.

The kitchen closes at 8 p.m. each night, but a carving station will be available behind the bar for late-night snackers.

The cocktail menu is Prohibition-style, which can be found in many large cities. Bistro in the Square uses Bulleit® Rye and Bootlegger 21 New York Vodka exclusively, mixed with fresh juices, simple syrup instead of sugar, and high-quality bitters.

“The drink is really built in front of you,” Sardinia said, noting that Vera Pizzeria, located at 220 Lexington Ave. in Buffalo, has become critically acclaimed for its gearing toward a mixologist atmosphere. “The [Prohibition concept] started to move and transcend itself into different cities. Vera brought it to Buffalo, which is great.”

In addition to its cocktails, the restaurant also offers an extensive beer and wine selection. Bottled beers range from craft brews to local favorites such as Labatts©. Among the restaurant’s four draft lines, a featured beer from Hamburg Brewing Company is on tap.

“The Hamburg brewery has allowed us to do a lot of rotation, just within their own brand, because there’s a lot of things they change up, and it gives us a chance to try,” Sullivan said.

The staff additionally supports local businesses by purchasing ingredients close to home, from places such as Braymiller Market and Great Harvest Bread Company.

Prior to the recent development, Bistro in the Square “was nothing. It was bare space,” according to Lisa Sullivan. Dan Sullivan, a self-acclaimed “wannabe ‘American Picker,’” helped to envelop the restaurant with decor that he said brings an old-time feel, while still maintaining a current liveliness.

Old milk crates from the area store the wine on the walls. The kegerator, Sullivan said, comes from an early ‘50s gin mill that was located in Lackawanna “during the heyday of Bethlehem Steel.

“We pulled it out, restored it, fixed it up and saved it from the scrap heap,” he added. “Now it’s a signature piece behind our bar.”

The front wall of the restaurant is made up of a window with a bar, which allows customers to sit, eat and watch the village life pass them by. The area behind the bar is a large chalkboard wall, which displays wine selections, what’s on tap and the daily specials.

Sullivan, Sardinia and McKee all graduated from Hamburg High School and Lisa Sullivan graduated from Eden. The hired staff is entirely local; Brooks Dimpfil holds the position as chef, with Nick Garra as kitchen manager and Heather Williams as restaurant manager.

Sardinia said he feels “really lucky” to have Tony Staub as the business’s landlord. Dan Sullivan said that he thinks a restaurant was a piece of Staub’s vision, as part of Staub Square.

In addition to the three locations, another will soon be revealed, once the weather breaks.

“We actually have a fourth restaurant ... on wheels,” Sardinia said, with a laugh. A trailer has been purchased and is currently undergoing a redesign.

“We’ll incorporate different things from all three places on our food trailer. So we might have a beef on weck from one place, and our Sully Cristo [sandwich] from here,” Sullivan said. “We’ll change it up according to events, depending on where we are.”

The owners of the business triad agreed that their motive is about building community and customizing for the happiness of the patrons.

Bistro in the Square will hold “Sauce Sundays” in March; the night will be dedicated to one person’s or family’s tradition. The chalkboard will note whose night it is and the evening will be fine-tuned to that person, from the menu to the music.

“Hamburg is becoming one of those little destination restaurant places, and we got a lot of creative, foodie people who come in here with a lot of ideas,” Sardinia said. “We’re not the guys who look at it and say ‘Appreciate it, but this is our menu.’ We say, ‘Let’s try it.’”

Bistro in the Square is located at 1 Buffalo St. It opens at 11:30 a.m. Monday – Friday and 8 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The kitchen closes at 8 p.m. each night, but the bar will remain open later. The restaurant can be reached at 648-3200.

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