I kid you not when I say there is a struggle going on with the decor at Black Iron Bystro in Blasdell NY. Part steampunk, part old West, the atmosphere inside is a mixture of cast iron innovation meets John Wayne at the saloon.
With meticulous attention to detail, the decor tells a story–Brian Mecozzi’s story. Mecozzi is the owner and chef at Black Iron and spent eight years building up steam to make his idea a reality. The building is owned by Mecozzi’s family and dates back over 40 years. “My grandfather bought this place and its humble beginnings started as a printing press,” Mecozzi says. A tenacious self-taught culinary entrepreneur, Mecozzi gutted and renovated the building himself, along with family friends. What he un-earthed was a treasure trove of cast iron and rustic elements that paved the way for the theme of the restaurant.
“The light fixtures I made myself, and some of the seating are donated from old churches,” Mecozzi states. There is even part of a printing press hanging on one of the walls (owned by his family). Tin roofing and sheet metal line the bar top and walls, and beautiful antique hutches and bookcases sit along the back wall leading to the kitchen. The kitchen is open concept, allowing patrons to see the chef as he cooks.
While the inside details a plethora of fictional and historic scenes that tell an interesting tale, the outside of the building leaves little to be desired. Unassuming, outside of the red paint and the enormous logo with outdoor seating to tell you this is a restaurant, I would have driven right by it. (Update: As of June, this is no longer the case! Mecozzi is reinventing the exterior with some elaborate murals that will really punch up the exterior.)
However, the pathos that is awakened in me upon entering is reminiscent to walking into my grandparents house and being surrounded by memories and keepsakes. This is exactly what Mecozzi wants to achieve, “This building holds significant memories for me, and I wanted to do something with it that not only showcases my creativity and my passion for cooking, but honors the memory of my family.”
This translates to the menu. Gastropub fare is dictated by the season. Utilizing local producers such as Arden Farms, Fat Moon Farms and Nickle City cheeses, Mecozzi wants patrons to know how important sourcing local ingredients is. The menu is fresh with a creative touch–a theme for Mecozzi.
I started with the truffle fries or house frites (not healthy I know). At just $7.00, it is worth getting this flavorful starter. However, be prepared, you get a lot for the buck. Next was a meatball dish worthy of my Italian heritage. A second course, the enormous meatballs come smothered in red sauce. The sauce is sweet with a delicate parsley flavor. A great second course. As I moved onto my main course, salmon, I was nervous and excited at the same time. Knowing how creative Mecozzi can be, I knew the dish would be good, but as someone who loves salmon and eats it often, I worried about the flavor, freshness, and whether it would be wild caught (for me that’s a big deal.)
When the dish came out, I was surprised at how simple it looked. I was expecting something ethereal. With more fries as a side (something for which had I known, I would have not ordered frites), I dove into the dish. The salmon had a wonderful molasses glaze, was juicy not dry, and was not overdone with seasoning. The radish salad that accompanied it added to the sweet flavor of the salmon by giving the dish a splash of spicy earthy flavor. (Radishes have a natural spicy peppery flavor to them–very earthy).
As the menu changes with the season, my salmon dish is not offered currently, but a wonderful Monkfish Tail w Farro Salad & Rosemary Citronette is!
Drinks take the form of exotic cocktails that fit the theme of steampunk and craft beers give a nod to our region’s exceptional craft beer movement.
“I really wanted to draw from our region’s history. With it’s rail transport, engineering, and the Pan-American Exposition which really led the way for Buffalo to be a leader in electric and put Buffalo on the map, I wanted to find a way to highlight all of that,” says Mecozzi. The industrial era is felt in the restaurant, but so too is Mecozzi’s unique spin on design, storytelling and heritage.
Moderately priced, Black Iron Bystro is worth a drive to the southtowns.