Left of Center with Joshua Maloni
Alan Hastings has one simple goal for his Water Street eatery: He wants The Silo to be the best fast food restaurant in the world.
The Silo offers high-grade buffalo burgers, premium chicken sandwiches and a large assortment of ice creams. It is, of course, known for its signature sandwich, "The Haystack," a mouth-watering mix of shaved steak, mozzarella cheese and crispy potato straws served in a fresh hoagie roll.
Last year, Rand McNally/USA Today "Best of the Road" "Best for Food" judges Mike Shubic and Brian Cox visited the restaurant. The Silo was featured three years ago on the Travel Channel's "Man V. Food."
This season, "We put a carving station on the cook line," Hastings said. "Our roast beef is cooked from scratch. We've got our own rub. It's going to be cooked perfectly; it'll be pink - it'll be melt-in-your-mouth roast beef, carved to order. I even bought a new kind of oven for the kimmelweck rolls. So, you're going to see a big improvement on everything. My goal is to have the best beef-on-weck in Western New York. I know there's a lot of stiff competition out there, but I'm determined to get there, and I won't stop until I do."
Hastings has revamped other parts of his menu, too.
"We're going to have smelt on the menu full time," he said. "I'm taking a couple of things off the menu that don't really meet my quality standards. Looking to replace it with homemade crab - crab cake sandwich. I'm looking into some new equipment for a broiled fish. We're thinking about putting a marinated tuna sandwich on the menu."
Hastings has also set out to improve some of his most popular items.
"We've got some great recipes for new burgers," he said. "Just taking what we've got and making it even better. We'll still be using a fresh sourdough roll - no preservatives. The roast beef we're using for our beef-on-weck is steroid-hormone-free, grass-fed, humanely raised, foraging cows. It's good - a difference you can taste, I think. We've got some beautiful whole-grain rolls we're adding to the menu.
"We even got some improvements in ice cream. Our smoothies are going to be all-fruit. All-fruit smoothies. You're going to see a big improvement there. And then we've got some of the upgrades - like the protein upgrade and the energy boosts, all the boosts you can put in a smoothie."
Hastings is looking for the perfect sauce to accompany his grilled hot dogs.
"I've hired three chefs - people with real culinary skills," he said. "They're all battling for the recipe. They want the title of the best Silo sauce. We've haven't nailed it down yet. It's something that we're going to put together this year. If it works out - if the customers love it - you know, it'll be here forever."
The Silo is branching out into the catering business this summer, too.
"We have built a catering kitchen in the cave, and we have expanded our catering menu," Hastings said. "I also have a catering manager and I've got three chefs working at The Silo. These are real culinary guys. We're going to do catering with on-site carving, carving stations, and grills brought to your catering job, as well as some pretty incredible drop-off buffet items very competitively priced."
Of course, it's not unusual to see The Silo filled with diners munching on some of those "pretty incredible items." Until the warm weather officially breaks for the season, Hastings has upgraded his patio to make those guests more comfortable.
"The most noticeable (change) for people is the expanded, temporary enclosure and the thermostat heat control on the patio," he said. "We put three gas heaters out there, and they're all on a thermostat, so there's going to be plenty of comfort for those cold nights.
"No more polar bear dining at The Silo!"
The entirety of the changes at The Silo reflect Hastings' overall goal.
"I think we have the most unique restaurant in the world," he said. "It's historically significant. It's the most beautiful location. It's architecturally cool - I mean, it's a coal silo on the waterfront. It's really cool. Our menu has been recognized by ("Man V. Food" host) Adam Richman.
"I just love food, and I love really good food. And I think that, you know, it's possible to be the best fast food restaurant in the world. And I think we can get there one item at a time.
"I've never walked backwards on an item. I've only made it better. The chef that was visiting me today was working with me to help me improve our menu, and we're going to continue to do that."
As Hastings sees it: "Keep the quality high, keep the food fresh and cooked to order, and it will be worth coming back for."
The Silo Restaurant is now open. It is located at 115 N. Water St., Lewiston. Click here to visit its website.