UPDATE: Since the posting of this article, Ashker’s has decided to close their Main Street location. Read more on BuffaloRising.com.
If you haven’t been to one of Ashker’s four locations in Buffalo, you should know – the company has a bigger mission that just slinging good coffee and fresh-pressed juices. Each location is meant to be a part of the community that it’s in, with different foods and regular events that held to connect neighbors.
At the new Ashker’s on Main, this raison d’être is front and center. On a recent visit, owner Angelo Ashker said his newest location puts a massive spotlight on plant-based (read: vegan) cuisine. Customers will be able to sit down and eat plant-based food, grab prepared foods to take with them or even pick up groceries to make their own meals at home.
“We’re really honing in on the nutritional density of food, as well as different presentations and cooking techniques,” he told me. “It’s fun eating, and it’s not limiting.”
“(Food) should taste good, it should feel good, but most importantly and above all – it should be doing something for you,” he added.
On one side of the new restaurant, there’s a café area where you can get espresso-based drinks, a standard cup of coffee, smoothies and cold-pressed juices. Next to that, there’s also a grab-and-go area where you can get hot porridge, breakfast sandwiches, and overnight oats.
Next to the grab-and-go space is a mini-market stocked with products to help people cook at home, such as in-season produce or prepared foods like tabbouleh and pesto. Takeaway recipe cards positioned in the market will tie all the products together for a full meal solution.
Next to the mini-market is a classroom space, with books, shop benches, and seating. Ashker said he plans on holding regular classes with a focus on healthy living, plant-based eating, and sustainability.
So there’s a lot going on culinary-wise, but don’t worry – you don’t have to dive into the deep end, at least not right away.
“You can interact (with the new location) at any level that you want,” Ashker said. “You can take just raw ingredients and start from scratch, or you can use something like a prepped fajita mix that we might have.”
On the other side of the large space, there’s a big seating area with a broad, raised stage where Ashker’s plans to host a range of musical acts and dance classes. Angelo Ashker said this space will be the beating heart of his newest location. In addition to hosting the kinds of music you might expect in a café, the space is also available for kids’ parties or business meetings.
He also said he plans to host culinary events in the event space that are put on by either professional chefs or aspiring amateur home cooks. In keeping with company mission, culinary events in the space must serve plant-based food and be alcohol-free.
Let’s be honest: Plant-based, or vegan, food is a tough sell for most non-vegans. In fact, veganism has been so tied to a certain set of political ideas that some people actually get irritated at the idea.
However, Ashker isn’t preaching any values or trying to “trick” anyone by serving faux hamburgers or fake pork products.
“If you’re trying to make bacon, make bacon,” Ashker said. “When we do the menu, we’re not going to say here’s a plate that’s supposed to taste like something else. We’re just going to highlight what an ingredient actually is.
“The goal is that, a customer walks in here and doesn’t have any idea that it’s any different than any other restaurant you’ve been to. You’re not looking at the plate saying, ‘Hey there’s no oil on this, or there’s no meat or cheese.’ We hope that it’s just delicious, filling and it makes you feel good.”
There are a lot of famous chefs promoting the idea of going vegan at least one day a week, arguing a regular break from animal fat is actually pretty good for you. So, if you’re going to make Meatless Mondays or Meatless Tuesdays part of your weekly routine, Ashker’s on Main can make that change a lot easier.
“(A plant-based diet) won’t satisfy every meal for every person, but I think each person could find comfort, feel good about the food and think about the principles behind it,” Ashker told me. “Or they could not care about it. They could just come in and eat.”
Ashker’s on Main
1526 Main St Buffalo, NY 14209
(716) 886 -2233
Hours: Monday to Friday 9am – 3pm