For the last two years, DJ Cook has been the Sous Chef underneath Chef Adam Goetz at Sample Restaurant in Allentown. With Sample closing in March and Crave opening in the coming weeks on Hertel, I figured he’d have some time to answer some foodie questions for the site. DJ appeared on Episode 46 of Eat It Up last year and was the runner up to last year’s Nickel City Firing Line competition, since then DJ and I have had a good time hanging out and grabbing the occasional “soda”. DJ has some serious skills, he’s worked in several really good kitchens in New York City before coming back to Buffalo. I asked him our usual foodie questions about his favorite places to eat right now, where he likes to relax and grab a drink and what he’d like to see in Buffalo’s restaurant scene.
Right now, where are your favorite places to eat in Buffalo?
DJ: Unfortunately I don’t get to eat out often with my schedule. But when I can, my girlfriend Diana and I will head to Kunis more often than not. We really enjoy the menu there and the large zeppelin cans of Sapporo are great. I recommend the pork shumai or the Japanese fish fry they offer. Shango is another favorite to get a good dinner or brunch and I’ve really come to enjoy Black Rock Kitchen and Bar. The atmosphere at Black Rock reminds me of some of my favorite restaurants in Brooklyn. Di and I will have breakfast on Sundays either at Sweetness 7 on Grant St. or Sophia’s in Kenmore.
Where do you like to grab a drink after your shift or on the weekends?
DJ: After service on Saturdays you will usually catch me at Acropolis on Elmwood. My friend Brian makes a great drink and pours a proper pint. It is a great spot to wind down with some friends. On most weekends I will be enjoying a English Premier League match, usually involving Manchester United at Mes Que on Hertel. It is a great place to watch a game and enjoy a pint. I think it is one of the best and smartest beer lists in town. Offering many beers from across the pond that you can’t find elsewhere. On any given day Mes Que offers a genuine “pub” atmosphere. Recently I have been visiting Vera more often and I really enjoy the vibe of the place and greatly appreciate the craft of the bartenders. The cocktails are excellent and I recently had a Tecate “dirty” recommended by Jon Karel, brilliant.
What are some food memories you have from growing up in WNY?
DJ: Growing up I did not go out to each very much. Nights out were stops at Burger King after a baseball or soccer game with my mom, and that was great. Exactly what a kid wants. My mother worked very hard but she always had dinner on the table for at 5:30 everyday. The meals may not have been culinary masterpieces but I will always appreciate her cooking for me. I was very lucky to have dinner with her every night.
If you had a friend visiting from out of town, where would you take them for a good “Buffalo” time?
DJ: First and foremost any visitor should experience wings. This is a hot topic amongst many locals on the place to go for the best wing. I have always been loyal to Duffs, the original on Sheridan only. A certain food blogger and friend has mentioned Nine-Eleven Tavern. Bistro Europa and Carmelo’s is a must for any visitor. The menus prepared at each of the restaurants highlights the best of what local food Buffalo has to offer. Working with local farms and purveyors have been very important in the progression of the local food scene. With Diana being a vegetarian, visitors from out of town would be a great reason to visit Mike A’s at the Lafayette. The food being cooked there has elevated Buffalo cuisine to a new level. Its great to see Chefs Mike Andrzejewski and Ed Forster doing Michelin caliber food. Visiting one of the many Buffalo food trucks would be on the list, especially Lloyd Taco Truck. Yes I am biased being friends with Chris, Pete, and Teddy; but what the guys are doing for the food scene is tremendous. They are serving great “street food” and have paved the way for other trucks. Also Black Market Food Truck and Frank Gourmet Hot Dogs have been a great addition to the late night scene. Black Market’s Pork Belly Banh Mi and Frank’s Violet Beauregard are outstanding.
What do you think Buffalo’s restaurant scene is lacking?
DJ: I get asked a lot what I miss from New York City. One big thing is Ramen. More specifically late night Ramen. I’m almost sure that Momofuku or Noodle Town will not be opening in Buffalo anytime soon but I would love a great late night Ramen shop. The food trucks have been great for late night dining. But what Buffalo is lacking is some places to sit down with friends and enjoy some solid food after a few pints at the pub. Perhaps Buffalo is ready for a yakitori joint like on St. Marks in New York or maybe a late night hot dogs and freshly made pies joint (Don edit: I think that’s a great idea).
We’d like to thank DJ for answering our questions and we encourage everyone to try out Crave as soon as they open on Hertel Ave. You can follow the restaurant on facebook or twitter to keep up with the latest updates.