Taste the World / Towne Restaurant
Photos by Nancy J. Parisi
186 Allen Street, Buffalo; 884-5128, facebook
Owners: Dino Scouras, Paul Scouras, and Eleni Konstantopoulos
In business since: 1972
Dino Scouras has co-owned and operated Towne Restaurant with siblings Paul Scouras and Eleni Konstantopoulos since 1989. The restaurant, right on the corner of Allen Street and Elmwood Avenue, is a nonstop people-watching parade, inside and outside. "A Buffalo staple since 1972" is printed at the top of every menu.
Please our customers.
Are you from Buffalo?
Yes, I grew up in Kenmore.
When did Towne Restaurant open and what is its back story?
My father George and uncle Peter started Towne Red Hots in 1972, a hotdog stand serving red hots (there are several regional versions of dogs with this name throughout the United States, but the Buffalo version is a grilled hotdog covered with a generous topping of beef chili and a sliver of bright yellow mustard) at this corner here, before we expanded. They began making souvlaki in 1974, and then they had lines out the door. It was the first restaurant in Buffalo to have souvlaki. Souvlaki was strictly beef in the beginning; chicken souvlaki came in the mid-eighties.
How long have you worked here?
I started working here when I was eleven; back then I was farting around in the kitchen, peeling potatoes was one of my jobs. Our whole family got sucked into working at the restaurant in the late seventies and early eighties. There was a third, silent partner who was bought out in 2000 and, after that, we consolidated, selling the other locations—at one point we owned four Towne restaurants. One was where Kenmore Village Restaurant is on Military, one was where Family Tree is in Amherst on Bailey, and the other was in the Lawley Building on Delaware.
What changes have you made to Towne since you became its owner?
Mostly menu changes, in the food specials. We have Sunday brunch, a buffet, that is $12.95—it's all-you-can-eat and comes with a juice or coffee. And we just recently built a bar in the back of the restaurant. I started building it two months ago, and finished it last week. It's a service bar and more for groups. It will be open as late as the restaurant–3 a.m. on weekends. And we changed our closing times: in March of 2016, we had a gang fight in the restaurant at 4:30 a.m. We would like to make a larger patio outside on Allen Street but are waiting to see what changes the city makes to the street and sidewalks; we will be losing one foot of sidewalk on each side of the street. Another big change for us has been the building up of the medical corridor; and then there will be another 8,000 people coming when the University at Buffalo Medical Campus opens.
What is your menu's best seller?
Chicken souvlaki, by far. The next closest thing is beef souvlaki, and after that is pasta. We sell a lot of pasta dishes. The restaurant is not really just a Greek restaurant: it started as a hotdog stand, became a diner, and then through the years we had family members and friends come through and introduce dishes that were added to the menu. Back in 1974, a friend of my father's came up with the beef souvlaki recipe, and then, in 1983, a friend of the family came up with the chicken souvlaki—these are people who came over from Greece.
Can you tell us more about the history of Greek Cuisine?
The Greek dishes on our menu are totally Americanized, but pastisio and moussaka are closest to being authentic; they're made daily in-house by my brother-in-law. Fresh is best. The traditional dishes depend on the region of Greece that you are from, just like barbecue chicken is different if you're in Louisiana or Florida, the difference is in their sauces. Pastisio is actually an Italian dish; it's from the western part of the country, closest to Italy where there's more Italian influence. And on the east coast, you see a lot of influence from the Middle East—hummus is served there. But you cannot find hummus on the western coast of Greece.
What's your favorite dish on your menu?
I don't stop eating, and I don't have a favorite.
Artist-photographer Nancy J. Parisi is a longtime contributor to Spree.