by Jennifer Mogensen
Meet Maura Crawford, who's bringing a little sun to the Elmwood Village
She’s done everything under the sun.
Maura Crawford, a South Buffalo native, has run the restaurant gamut of all things chic. Her name has been associated with the likes of Left Bank, Le Metro, and Sole, but her story starts well before those restaurant doors opened.
Crawford, a graduate of Cortland University and Buffalo State College, initially aspired to be an English teacher and move beyond Buffalo. And, at the age of 23, Crawford set off on the not-so-conventional European vacation. With a one-way ticket and $100 in her hand, she worked her way through the UK. Bartender, chambermaid, waitress—from London to Austria, she lived her life abroad and expanded her world.
“Keep learning, keep moving, keep doing,” she says are the most important lessons she learned in her travels.
Before she got on the plane, she swore she would never return to Buffalo. However, four years later she was back. Perhaps it was her time abroad that inspired her, but she returned to Buffalo with a renewed passion and a vision.
“I came back to Buffalo and from the beginning I always wanted to give it something it never had. That’s what Vince and I have always done, from bread to bistro and now pan Latino,” she says. She is speaking of Vince McConeghy, her friend and business partner.
She and McConeghy dreamed up and cooked up ideas together in her downtown apartment. They would spend countless hours talking and collaborating and creating. It was from those long, often late-night discussions that the idea for Left Bank was born. They took on a third partner and opened the doors to Left Bank, at 511 Rhode Island Street, in the early 1990s. The restaurant and its concept were a smashing success.
It was her first venture into the world of a restaurateur but not even close to her last. Left Bank’s French-influenced, bistro-style menu and ambience gave way to yet another idea. In 1995 McConeghy and Crawford sold Left Bank to their partner and focused on their second endeavor together, Le Metro.
They initially opened Le Metro as a commissary and sold their freshly baked, Parisian-style bread to area restaurants. The first location in Williamsville (5110 Main Street) was so successful that they moved a location into both the city and the Southtowns.
“We opened them all as coffee shops and then re-opened them as restaurants,” she says.
They once again brought in a partner for Le Metro in the city but sold it, as they had done with Left Bank, after just a few years.
The dynamic duo wasn’t done yet. Crawford was following her mantra of learning, moving, and doing. In 2006 they brought something to Buffalo that the city desperately needed—sun. Sun in the form of food, expressly pan Latino food.
Sole (5110 Main Street) opened next door to their existing Le Metro location and, again, success was theirs. Their concept of “Sun Inspired Cocktails and Cuisine” has been a hit in Williamsville for the last five years.
But it seems like Crawford doesn’t stay in one place for very long.
Unlike her previous restaurant successes, Crawford won’t be leaving this one behind. She is bringing Sole to downtown Buffalo, and this time she’s doing it alone.
“It was time to move on but I didn’t want the concept to go dark,” she says.
With a nod of approval and wishes of good luck from her long-time partner, McConeghy, Crawford is relocating Sole to the city, where it will now bask in the sun of the Elmwood Village.
A city resident for more than two decades, Crawford is thrilled to bring her restaurant to the Elmwood strip. “It’s the most vibrant neighborhood in Western New York, and it’s my home,” she says.
Crawford has leased the restaurant space in the Neighborhood Collective at 810 Elmwood Avenue. The space was already restaurant ready, but she has been making changes necessary to bring her vision to life. The changes include the addition of bi-fold windows to the front of the building to bring the outdoors in, as well as small structural and cosmetic changes inside the building. The new location will feature a casual bar room, a dining room, and a small private room.
Crawford is also making changes to the menu. “I am looking to get a little more adventurous and I am excited to do more authentic food,” she says.
Not to worry—the ever popular tableside guacamole isn’t going anywhere.
The restaurant, slated to open in mid April, when the Williamsville location closes, will be open seven days a week to feed hungry villagers. Lunch and dinner will be served, as well as a pan Latino version of brunch on Sunday.
Crawford’s energetic personality and amazing passion fits perfectly into her new restaurant location.
Watch for more ideas to spring forth. “I have more restaurant concepts on my computer that have yet to be born,” she says.
Off the Menu
Supping with Picasso
A change in menu at the Albright-Knox
It certainly wasn’t a grand opening.
With very little fanfare and a quick stroke of a brush, the eatery located in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (1285 Elmwood Ave.) has switched hands, menus, and names.
In its inception, the perfectly quaint restaurant located in the Art Gallery served a wide variety of hot and cold dishes. Muse, as it was aptly called, was the place to brunch for those in the know. Over time, however, the menu shrank and the clientele faded. Muse closed in January 2010.
A renovation was needed—a restoration of sorts.
The Albright-Knox stepped in and stepped it up. Now Muse has morphed into AK Café.
The AK Café opened in the fall of 2010. The Albright-Knox, under the direction of the restaurant’s general manager, Leigh Papas, runs the café. Chef Scott Kunkel mans the kitchen.
The view of the Sculpture Garden is the perfect backdrop to this simple and smart restaurant. The décor is understated, a blank canvas really. Pale greens and yellows give way to the extraordinary art the envelops this incredibly unique dining destination.
The hours of the café closely mirror those of the gallery, and the menu remains relatively constant throughout the week. A small, yet varied, selection of freshly made soups, salads, sandwiches, and desserts are severed along with coffee, wine, and beer from noon to 3pm.
From 3pm to 5pm., Kunkel pares things down a bit, offering just soups, desserts, and beverages.
On the first Friday of every month, the AK Café creates a unique dinner menu for those who wish to nosh during the M&T First Friday series.
Much like the rotation of art on the walls and the changing of exhibits in the Gallery, the café will always be evolving. Starting in April, the café will debut its new seasonal spring menu. Brunch, one of the most popular of all meals, is also set to begin in mid-spring.
The AK café is open to the public and dining there does not require a paid admission to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. They will validate the parking as well.
Reservations are highly recommended especially for large groups or on opening days of various exhibits. The café is also available to host private functions.
Nosh Café (7900 Transit Road) is expanding their menu beyond their already absolutely delectable deli favorites.
Buffalo’s only 100% Kosher Deli is dipping its toes into the culinary waters and creating some interesting specialties for the diner looking to move beyond a corned beef sandwich and coleslaw.
Owners, Ben and Emilia Kagan, have been busy broadening their horizons and are quite proud of their newest creations. Instead of your traditional pastrami on rye (which is still a deli favorite), they are now also offering a delicate crepe filled with tender chicken and topped with mushroom gravy.
Not adventurous enough? Try their new grilled hangar steak sandwich with chimichuri sauce on freshly baked ciabatta bread. They have also begun experimenting with barbeque and they are not stopping there.
Visit their new website at noshcafebuffalo.com to see just where a Kosher deli can take you.
Delish (802 Elmwood Avenue) is sprucing up for spring.
Debbie Clark, owner of Delish, has been baking and cooking at the Elmwood location for nearly six years. Her spring cooking class curriculum will feature classes on Spring Soups as well as one on Sushi and Summer Rolls. There are also several classes geared to speedy, healthy cooking allowing the chef to spend more time outdoors than in the kitchen.
Delish will also be sweetening up spring with two new flavors of their famous Fairy Cakes. Fairy Cakes are large, meticulously decorated cupcakes and one of their best selling desserts, according to Clark. The new flavors will include a lemon and white chocolate as well as a fudge cake with a salty caramel butter crème.
Information on classes can be found at delishelmwood.com.blog comments powered by Disqus
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