By Griffin Jones
I thought popular Buffalo restaurateur Mike Andrzejewski had a calculated plot for re-energizing Buffalo’s urban core. Apparently not?
Andrzejewski said he’d like to say it was all part of a master plan, but it was more a great coincidence of timing. “I just take advantage of it, and do what I can to help it along,”
Andrzejewski grew up in the suburbs but says he has always been drawn to the architecture and the character of the city. He and his wife had decided they wanted to relocate downtown because they liked the excitement and the vibe. They met developer Rocco Termini while catering an event at the lofts on Ellicott Street in 2008 . In short time, they had a place to live and a place to open their hit sushi restaurant, SeaBar.
In 2011, Mike said he benefited from timing once again. He opened the rave Cantina Loco at what he calls the most visible corner in Buffalo, at Allen and Elmwood. In 2012, he opened Mike A’s at the Hotel LaFayette. He’s done so much in such a short time, that I forgot to even ask him about Tappo, his most recent success (this time Italian) that opened on Ellicott Street in June 2013.
Mike says he is very impressed by others in the food community here and with the people’s associated with. “I never thought I would live to see where Buffalo is now. To see what’s happening now, is so thrilling,”
What does he mean, SEE what’s happening? He IS what’s happening, I thought. Then I realized, Mike didn’t open four restaurants in five years because he’s a leader. He’s a leader because he opened four restaurants in five years. Andrzejewski is the perfect example of Buffalo’s second marketing attribute, one person with a few small changes can have a deeply significant impact here.
“People are tired of waiting, so they’re doing it themselves”. Andrzejewski visits Toronto about once a month and Chicago a few times a year for inspiration. He wanted a big city food scene so he made it happen. “Buffalo is a Do It Yourself city. I opened a restaurant,”
I interview people like Mike to find out how people who are less involved can contribute more to the process. How do we get started? Andrzejewski’s simple advice was in line with every single person I’ve talked to.
“Respect the area. Respect each other. ” He agrees that corporate contributions are wonderful, but we have to take it upon ourselves to improve the area. That can be as simple as maintaining a clean city. “Little things help. It’s kind of working,”
So what’s Mike’s vision for Buffalo’s near future?
“Selfishly? I’d love to see a few more skyscrapers. I know it’s not practical at this point, I’d just like to see a skyline that reflects how great this place is,” Well said, Mike. Well done, too.