Elmwood intimacy: Savoy offers upscale option - INTERVIEW
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • March 12, 2013 @ 7:30am
Sutton Development owner Noel Sutton is new to the restaurant business, and when he spent the better part of a year renovating the former Claiborne Liquor store at 149 Elmwood Ave., he had no initial urge to plant his own business.
“I actually bought the building for my portfolio,” said Sutton, a rising developer specializing in preserving the historical integrity of Buffalo homes. “My goal was to lease it out, but when I tried to lease, I didn’t really like any of the business plans that were brought in front of me.”
Willing to take a risk—he’d already invested enough money in thorough renovations—Sutton went in front of the Buffalo Common Council on May 22, 2012, receiving permission to create an American-European fusion restaurant called Savoy, named after a region connecting France, Switzerland and Italy.
The Allentown restaurant—immediately adjacent to now-defunct Cozumel—launched a soft opening on Jan. 18 before its official grand opening March 1.
The space itself is cozy and narrow—Sutton mentioned that capacity is 78, and general manager Shannon Callahan said there’s room for 34 eaters—but that’s exactly the atmosphere that Sutton desired.
“We’re very happy with how [Savoy] is right now,” Sutton said late last week. “It’s an ode to the American-style bar in Europe [named Savoy]—we wanted something small and simple, and intimacy is very important.”
Recognizing the buzz that Vera Pizzeria earned by dedicating its drink menu to “modern takes on pre-Prohibition cocktails,” Sutton called upon Vera co-owner Cameron Rector to train his bartending staff, and Rector suggested that Savoy’s approach to cocktails mimic Vera’s—largely so Rector and his staff could have a place to drink aside from their own restaurant.
Sutton considered the Rector’s idea, but decided to alter the course slightly.
“[Vera bartender] Jon [Karel] is such a bad-ass,” gushed Sutton,“but we can’t imitate him. They’re more edgy—we want to be like the gentleman-commoner.”
You can see Savoy’s drink list here, as cocktails like “the Commodore,” “French 75” and “the Aurora” headline an intriguing list. Sutton noted that, at least in the first 10 days, Duvel Belgian Golden Ale has been a quick sell—most likely because it’s rarely found in Buffalo.
The “boutique” menu is light, focusing on salads, upscale appetizers and panini ranging from $6 to $17. Popular choices thus far have been the tunatini (tuna tar-tar with sesame soy, wakame salad and crispy wontons with wasabi foam served in a martini glass, $12) and the beet salad (beets, baby arugula, goat cheese, candied walnuts with balsamic vinaigrette, $10).
Almost every menu option is extremely health conscious—aside from maybe the steak baguette special—and the portions aren’t intended to be large.
For those unnerved by the idea of raw tuna in a martini glass, many of the salads are inviting for the conservative palate—as are the panini. (See the chicken Caesar salad pictured).
Palame’s specialty is a little unorthodox for Buffalo—he’s introduced a “deviled egg du jour” where he selects one take on the deviled egg and offers it for three days before adopting a new approach. Callahan noted that Palame hadn’t repeated one deviled egg variety since the soft opening Jan. 18—last Thursday’s offering was “chipotle corn deviled egg” (pictured).
Worth noting that ingredients prepared on the menu are purchased from a local distributor, but not necessarily local farms. Savoy does offer local brews, however, as Flying Bison and newcomer Ringside Brewing Company appear on the drink list.
Eating at the bar is welcomed, too, as one big TV lines Savoy’s wall above the bar. The layout lends a level of cohesiveness—the seating along the left wall is one long, cushioned bench, connecting diners and encouraging community.
The restaurant is open Wednesday and Thursday from 5 p.m. to midnight; Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 4 a.m.; and Sunday from 5 p.m. to midnight, though Sutton mentioned that he expects to offer lunch hours as the weather continues to improve.
When you’re checking out Savoy as the warm weather improves, take a minute to appreciate how much went into the renovation of a dilapidated liquor store with over a foot of standing water in the basement, rotting i-beams, a tacky exterior and barely functioning electricity and plumbing.
The “high level of scrutiny” taken by Sutton—his specialty as a developer—has made this place as much a work of art as it is a restaurant.
See photos of Savoy’s grand opening at its Facebook page. Here’s a photo of Sutton, right, and Callahan, left.