The business of 24/7: Towne Restaurant
Nancy J. Parisi
There are 8,760 hours in a year.
Businesses that are open all of those 8,760 hours are often regarded as necessary, garishly-lit outposts of services-on-demand. But our lives would be poorer if convenience stores, laudromats, grocery store chains Wegmans and Tops Friendly Markets, and several gas stations throughout Western New York were not always available for our disasters, needs, and whims. Here’s a survey of four iconic WNY businesses that remain always open and ever ready.
Over the course of the next few weeks, we'll reveal a handful of Buffalo's 24/7 businesses, today we will visit Towne.
Although most local nighthawks believe Towne Restaurant to be in the 24/7 pantheon, it’s actually a little bit shy of around-the-clock. The restaurant takes a brief respite Monday through Saturday—from 5:30 to 7 a.m.—in order to clean its grills, and closes at 11 p.m. on Sundays.
Known for Greek classics like souvlaki and pastitsio, Towne also serves classic diner fare like burgers and shakes, steaks, and a truly excellent rice pudding that’s scooped out of large baking pans. Towne is where you see politicians, famed local chefs (Mike Andrzejewski of Sea Bar was spotted there recently, taking a break from working on his new place, Cantina Loco), police, artists, the theater-going crowd, and many others—the bustling room usually contains a cross-section of occupations, including at least one person you know.
I talked with server Ashley Hansen, who’s been hoisting trays at Towne for a year and a half. She was working the takeout area, now housed in the Towne’s smaller, original space. The area is always stocked with coffee, house newspapers, and all things servers need to grab in a flash: jellies, creamers, and takeout containers.
When asked if it’s difficult to work in a place that never closes, she says that it can be challenging: “Human beings are not meant to be nocturnal, but your body adjusts to having less hours of sleep. Coffee definitely becomes important, a big thing—I’m a coffee lover, but I try to keep it at a minimum …
“The clientele we get here varies greatly; in the morning we get older folks, and the business crowd. Lunches are always busy, and then we get the dinner crowd—people who are going to the theater, or a hockey game.”
The late-night crowd can be challenging, Hansen says. “At first if you’re not used to it, it can be stressful and frustrating because you’re dealing with different attitudes. But over time you become stoic with drunken people—you learn to be more patient with them.”
During our interview servers congregate and share tales of the oddest things that they’ve witnessed on the other side of the plate glass windows facing Allen Street: mainly the frenetic activities of the drug-addled and the insane. And, they add, just when they think that they’ve seen it all, someone wanders by and surprises them all.
186 Allen St., Buffalo; 716-884-5128; www.thetowne.net