Here in Western New York, we like to complain about the excessive influence that downstate has on state politics, but The City does have a massive positive influence on our area, and one small, shining example of that influence has manifested as Chick Mex.
The “halal Mexican” restaurant started as a (all together now) Chipotle-style option on the University at Buffalo’s North Campus, and it recently opened a second location on Hertel Avenue in North Buffalo.
Started by a New Yorker who came to WNY for college, Chick Mex combines two beloved and wildly popular NYC street food styles – Tex Mex and Middle Eastern. Owner Zahid Rahimi said his longing for a bit of NYC flavor is what drove him to open Chick Mex.
“I came to Buffalo in 2014 to attend UB, and when I came here, I really started to miss the food culture of New York City, where there’s a lot more options,” he told us in a recent phone interview. “So, I kept looking for the kind of street food that you can find in New York City. In 2016, I found an open location inside UB, and I was like, you know what, I’m going to open up my own place.
“I basically put out the food from New York City that I wanted to eat in Buffalo,” he admitted.
Even though street food in New York is about as down and dirty as it gets, some stalls and carts have a loyal fanbase drawn in by good value and even better seasoning. So, what is the secret to good New York street food? It’s the sauces.
“We make our own sauces in-house,” Rahimi mused. “Our hot sauce and our (savory) white sauce go on top of almost everything that we serve, and our customers love it. At UB: Students, staff, professors and anyone who works here love the sauces.”
Those in-house sauces can be found on both Tex Mex- and Middle eastern-inspired dishes, from tacos to halal chicken rice bowls to combination mashups. The fusion takeout we tried definitely had strong Middle Eastern flavors, but Tex Mex uppercuts of acid, heat and spices punched through. Alongside these multicultural options, the Hertel location of Chick Mex will also serve beer and wine.
Rahimi isn’t a noob who launched a restaurant chain on a dollar and a dream. He spent his formative years hustling at one of the several fried chicken restaurants his father operated in the New York City area. With hospitality and entrepreneurship in his blood, Rahimi has built out the new Chick Mex as a complete vision. The graffiti and street art décor that perfectly complements the food includes nods to both New York City and North Buffalo.
“I love Hertel,” Rahimi told us. “Since I’ve come to Buffalo, I’ve been hanging out there. I know most of the restaurant owners at this point. The reason I moved to Hertel is because of the community. I love the community. I love the feeling there. It’s a beautiful place to be at.”
While the North Buffalo entertainment strip is already humming with great options, Chick Mex brings some much-needed Big City flavor to the mix, thanks to a former New Yorker.
“Our goal and our agenda is to bring flavor into everyone’s life and a smile on to everyone’s face,” Rahimi said. “So hopefully we can keep it up.”
Opening Hours: Monday to Wednesday, 4 p.m. – 11 p.m., Thursday 2 p.m. – 11 p.m., Friday 2 p.m. – 10 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. – 12 a.m., Sunday 12 p.m. – 10 p.m.