It’s Just Lunch / Power City Eatery
A sleek new breakfast and lunch spot on Third Street in Niagara Falls, NY
Power City Eatery's service counter and deli
Photos by kc kratt
Power City Eatery
444 Third Street, Niagara Falls
299-0124 • powercityeatery.com
Back in the day—say, mid-eighties—Third Street in Niagara Falls USA was lined with down and dirty heavy-drinking bars and sketchy “night clubs” frequented by underage locals, Niagara University students, and Canadians who wanted to stay out later and meet underage locals. I know, because I was one of those underage locals. I moved away for almost twenty years and when I got back, Third Street had become kind of…cool. Thanks to a downtown revitalization initiative, you’ll find a wine bar, public art space and cafe, craft beer pub, and now, a real New York City-style delicatessen.
Power City Eatery, a sleek, modern/industrial breakfast and lunch spot serving scratch-made water bagels and schmears, freshly baked breads, amazing sandwiches, including house cured and smoked pastrami and corned beef, salads, non-kiddie kid’s meals, deli sides, and soups is the latest installment on the revitalized block between Ferry Avenue and Niagara Street. How it came together mirrors how progress is being made all over this Wonder of the World city: through collaboration and a bit of serendipity.
Co-owner Michael Lewis had long wanted to open a coffee shop and thought the up-and-coming area would be the perfect place for an investment. He met with Seth Picarillo, director of Niagara Falls Community Development, to discuss his idea. When they started talking, Picarillo told Lewis that, as luck would have it, he had just met with guy who wanted to open up a sandwich shop somewhere in the same downtown development/entertainment district.
The guy turned out to be Joe Hotchkiss, who had a lot of food experience. Hotchkiss is Power City Eatery’s operations manager; he crafts the menu, does all the meat prep and smoking, and works with the staff directly to come up with offerings.
Kyle Bajor is the third owner and handles much of the business stuff like banking, cost of goods sold management, and scheduling.
“I was sort of the coffee guy and the Third Street guy, and Joe and Kyle were the deli and sandwich guys,” says Lewis. “I have a little bit of influence in the coffee program. I worked for Spot Coffee my last two years of college and loved it. I always had this thought in my mind about wanting to bring that back into my life.” All of PCE’s coffee and espresso beans are locally roasted in Buffalo.
The eatery is gearing up for its first full summer tourist season (it opened August 1, 2016). Part of that is the official opening of the 1,600 square foot patio on June 17. In another stroke of luck, the property next door to PCE, which was in bad shape and long vacant, suddenly came up for sale in the middle of renovating the PCE interior. The decrepit building was purchased and demolished. “What I saw at the time was there was no patio on Third Street that was not on the sidewalk,” says Lewis. “I wanted to offer an opportunity for people to have a patio experience and not be in the middle of foot traffic.”
Power City Eatery's Reuben sandwich
Now, a word about the food.
Believe me when I say that Power City Eatery’s pastrami is ridiculously delicious: tender, ribboned with just enough fat to make it rich but not greasy, and with a subtle smoky character. The PCE Pastrami Melt ($11) features house-cured pastrami, tangy/melty sharp cheddar cheese, sweet caramelized onions, and spicy brown mustard on house-made caraway rye bread. Sandwiches come with a side of homemade potato chips and a crisp dill pickle spear.
“To us, pastrami was the quintessential New York City deli meat, and it’s not very well represented in Western New York,” says Lewis. “I’m from Long Island originally; I’m very used to those New York-style delis. Joe and I were very comfortable with having our centerpiece be house-made pastrami. He spent months perfecting the recipe—what spices, how long to cure it, and how long to smoke it. He even reached out to Jeff Morrow, who has a show on Food Network called The Sandwich King, via Instagram. Morrow actually gave us advice on our pastrami.”
The soup du jour, broccoli cheddar ($4 cup/$6 bowl), was a pleasant departure from the pureed mush you may be used to. This soup featured chunks of broccoli suspended in a sharp and rich cheesy cream base with just a hint of heat. Like almost everything at PCE, the soups are all homemade. The house soup available daily is chicken and dumpling.
A roast beef sandwich ($9.50) featured a heap of tender, not-too-rare sliced meat, cheddar cheese, lettuce, a creamy-spicy homemade horseradish sauce, and the pleasant surprise of sweet, crisp New York State apple slices to counterbalance the richness.
The table favorite was the Reuben ($12). It’s made with the usual Reuben ingredients: corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing on rye. But, the freshness of the ingredients (the star being the corned beef cured and seasoned in house) and care with every component coalesced to make this a most untypical everyday sandwich.
Clockwise from left: house cured smoked pastrami, everything bagel with schmear, a selection of home-baked bread
I can’t end without talking about the bagels ($1.50). PCE makes four varieties: plain, everything, sesame, and multigrain. They are everything a supermarket bagel is not: chewy insides and crisp exteriors, ultra-fresh, and authentic. None of this Wonderbread cut into a circle nonsense. Each one is lovingly formed from fresh homemade dough, boiled, and finished in the oven. Try one with the honey jalapeno schmear.
Aside from the coffee selections, bottled drinks on offer include soft drinks, teas, juices, beer and cider, and a selection of wines by the glass from Leonard Oaks. PCE serves breakfast until 11 a.m. if you can’t wait for lunch.
Wendy Guild Swearingen is senior editor of Spree.