The area around Hertel Avenue in North Buffalo boasts many casual restaurants and classic dining experiences, but a hip, modern night out is in short supply.
That changed a bit recently with the opening of SZND, located at 1448 Hertel Ave., but with an entrance on Norwalk Avenue, around the corner of the building.
Serving New American dishes and featuring a full bar, SZND (pronounced “seasoned”) grew out of the Niagara Falls-based Everyday Gourmet catering company. Co-owner Andrew Gill told us that the new restaurant is aiming to meet the needs of sophisticated eaters from North Buffalo and beyond.
“In this area, people are very intelligent when it comes to food and the overall culinary experience going on around here,” he said. “I feel like a lot of people are looking for and seeking out the kind of place that we have here. Not a dive bar, not pizza-and-wings places, not huge restaurants, people are looking for an intimate, more New York City type of place.”
Cheryl Gill, Andrew’s mother and co-owner at SZND, is also the owner of Everyday Gourmet. Despite the family’s successful culinary history, the Gills have turned creative control of the SZND kitchen over to two chefs: Ian McDonnell and Mark Fitzgerald.
“I wanted to run the business side and the front of the house, and I wanted them to be in control of the kitchen,” Andrew Gill said. “They came up with the menu and executed the menu. The idea is for them to have their own kitchen and be able to do what they wanted, more or less.”
The menu developed by McDonnell and Fitzgerald features a lot of familiar-sounding dishes, but with modern twists. Pasta carbonara comes with peas and pork belly ($20). Fried wontons are stuffed with Southern ‘hot chicken’ and kimchi ($12). Pizza is available ‘Cajun-style’, with andouille sausage, artichokes and olives ($16).
Those dishes may sound like fine dining, but as you saw, prices are set at points comparable to what you’d find at casual chain restaurants, where dinners typically cost between $15 and $25.
“We’re off Hertel and I wanted to have this be an environment where people could come two or three times a week to have nice dinner or a casual experience. I think if I did a high-end menu, we would not get a lot of the local support that we’re looking for.”
Craft cocktails are the focus of the beverage program, with 10 different options available. Guests can also choose from 30 different wine options and 12 different kinds of bottled beers, including local and national craft brews.
The restaurant seats about 40 inside and there is seating for another 24 on the sidewalk patio.
Without any vowels to grab on to, the name SZND might take a bit of getting used to, but if the food and vibe are any indication, the restaurant itself will have an immediate, positive impact on North Buffalo and beyond.
1448 Hertel Avenue, Buffalo, NY, 14216
Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 4 p.m. – 10 p.m.