Some people get into the service industry because they are driven by a strong business vision.
Talk to Bilal Husayn, co-owner of the new 716 Cafe in Black Rock, and the second thing you’ll notice is that he’s business-savvy. (The first thing you’ll notice is the Yonkers, New York native’s downstate accent.)
With a background in casual dining and industrial fabrication, Husayn seemingly has business sense in his blood and his bones. Along with his business partner Haier Khadim, Husayn is focused on providing value for dollar at 716 Cafe, something that benefits customers at the new breakfast and lunch spot.
716 Cafe is completely halal, which means the food is prepared in keeping with Islamic law. Husayn told us, however, that there isn’t total consensus on what is, and what is not halal.
“Certain schools of thought in Islam want the food being hand slaughtered, rather than mechanically slaughtered,” he told us. “Our school of thought says as long as it’s raised in accordance with Islamic law, the slaughtering is done properly, the proper recitations are done, an imam is there, everything’s done correct and it’s clean – then it’s fine to mechanically slaughter. Other schools of thought disagree. They’re a little bit more old-fashioned.”
He also told us about “75 to 80 percent” of his customers are non-Muslim, and the Muslim community in the surrounding Black Rock neighborhood is mostly Shia.
“In this area, there’s a lot of Shia,” Husayn said. “There’s Sunni too. But Shia is predominantly what we see around here. We’re Shia Muslims as well.”
The sign above the door may say 716 Cafe, but the vibe and flavors are closer to what you’d find downstate; friendly but real, not fancy just good. Wraps ($6.50 – $7.50), burgers ($3.75 – $6.50), omelettes ($8), and other food is ordered via counter service. On our recent visit, bottled Coca-Cola products were the predominant drink options. Seating options in the modest cafe include a 4-seat table, stools at a countertop and padded chairs in a small lounge-type area. If you’re driving there, parking is available across the street.
We sampled the Philly cheesesteak wrap ($8.50 with fries) on our visit and found it umami packed, with the meat and cheese sauce (not melted cheese!) cut by perfectly cooked peppers and onions, which still had a bit of acidic bite. What tasted like caraway seeds offered an unexpected but delicious rye tang.
Most notably involving a fast from sunrise to sunset, the Muslim holiday of Ramadan is sure to be an issue for any restaurant catering to this community, and Husayn told us he plans to address the religious season by offering prepared meals for ‘iftar’, the evening meal that breaks the daily fast.
“I’ll probably be offering iftar meals, where people can come and buy their stuff,” he said, “so they don’t have to cook at home because they may be tired from fasting and what not.”
Accommodating and affordably priced, 716 Cafe is a great addition to the diverse and developing Black Rock area, whether you’re an observant Muslim or not.
388 Amherst Street, Buffalo, NY 14207
Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.