Last year, Alli and I visited Bertha’s Diner after I helped the Buffalo Spree come up with some of their 2011 Best Of winners. Before that meeting I had no idea the place existed, but after hearing the other panelists talk about how fantastic their breakfast specials were, we had to visit. On that visit, Alli took a picture of their Backwoods Benedict which became our favorite Food Porn picture from 2011 (as well as our favorite breakfast meal). We then met Ken and Liz at the Artvoice Awards at Town Ballroom last month and decided that we definitely needed to reach out. In a couple week’s Ken will be appearing on our Eat It Up podcast, so keep an eye out for that. Today however, Ken and Liz answered a couple of our normal questions about their favorite places in Buffalo, along with why they are looking to sell Bertha’s. Here’s what they had to say…
When you aren’t working, where do you like to go to eat?
K&L: We like to stay in the city and prefer to eat at the bar . Our favorite places all have great bars and bartenders....Ristorante Lombardo has it all …Left Bank cant be beat…Hutch’s bar is always fun and when we don’t mind close company we pull a stool up at Bistro Europa or The Wellington Pub. Mes Que and Cantina Loco have been nice new additions to our list.
Where do you like to go to relax after work or on the weekend to grab a drink?
K&L: We get up pretty early so at the end of the day, whenever that comes, we usually spend a few quiet moments out on the deck listening to some nice music and enjoying a delicious cold beer. Since we don’t have to get up until 7am on Tuesday, Monday night is our big night out, and is probably the only night we hit the town. So we combine a few drinks with a nice meal and some great company at the places mentioned above. If you notice all of the places are places that are open on Mondays. Even when we are closed if we are in town we are working. So we try to leave town when we can. Italy, usually Venice, is our favorite retreat. It is know as la Serenissima for a reason.
If you had friends or family visiting from out of town, where would you take them for a good “Buffalo” time?
K&L: Everyone should get to spend at least three hours of their life in the lounge at E.B. Green’s being entertained by Jackie Jocko. Wings are obligatory but you can go to a ton of places for some decent wings. What’s crazy is that for out-of-towners wings are the big deal when I think our local pizza is the show. A tour of Buffalo City Hall and other downtown architecture should not be missed. Whatever festival is happening in town is always a great place to drink and see a great band or two.
What are some food memories you have from your childhood?
K&L: Both of us were introduced to the kitchen at an early age. Liz had to help prepare meals for the family while her parents worked and I just loved to eat everything put in in front of me and my mother and grandmother were great cooks and didn’t mind the help. Home cooked food was a big part of all the family gatherings when we were kids and the kitchen was always the place where there was action that a kid could be a part of. Growing up where food prep is not a mystery is a luxury these days.
What would you like to see more of in Buffalo’s restaurant scene?
K&L: There is already a lot out there. Buffalo has so much to offer we are not going to ask for something new until we hit everything out there. Some people clamor for everything under the sun but you can only have what the people are willing to support at a level that is profitable. We get asked for fringe items all the time as if we are supposed to stock the world in case someone sees something new on the Food Network. Woolworth used to say that a merchant makes his money on the last 2 of every dozen.
Why are you selling Bertha’s?
Ken: I have been trying to balance the needs of the business with my personal need to get healthy for some time now. A while back it became apparent that while the approach we take to our work life was growing our diner it was not going to magically also lead to better health. And that sucked. I recognized that it is silly to think what would the business be like if it wasn’t for my health..absurd really..when all along it should have been what would my health would be like if it wasn’t for the business. Liz and I discussed our options and decided that we should give someone else the opportunity to have their dream come true. And if all goes well that dream should be coming true for a nice North Buffalo resident in the next week or two.
Would you consider working in the restaurant industry afterwards or are you done for the foreseeable future?
K&L: Cooking is in our blood. We met as students in the Culinary program at ECC almost 20 years ago and have had some of our best times working together in kitchens all over the area. I am pretty sure it wont be long before someone spots one of us in an apron somewhere…perhaps still at Bertha’s!
We’d like to thank Ken and Liz for finding some time in their very busy schedules to answer our questions. If you haven’t visited Bertha’s already (on Hertel, next to the North Park Movie Theatre) then do it, their breakfast specials are second to none! Check out their menu online or follow them on twitter or facebook for the latest on their specials.