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Buffalo restaurateur nearing debut of a new seafood spot

Restored frescoes inside Oshun.
Restored frescoes inside Oshun.

Chef-entrepreneur Jim Guarino is a step closer to more than doubling his Buffalo restaurant holdings. True, when he opens his oyster and seafood bar Oshun next month it will be only his second restaurant, but the new venture is more than double the size of his current operation, the Shango Bistro.

Guarino told local media on Tuesday that some delays in plumbing work have been overcome, so Oshun seems back on pace for a mid-July debut at 5 East Huron Street, an Art Deco-style building. In fact, he began hiring staff two weeks ago to work the space he desribes as looking like "a space from the ’40s that has just been updated over time.” The 130-seat Oshun is nearly twice the size of Shango Bistro, located in University Heights. Guarino says he will oversee Oshun’s food operation, but sous chef Brett Brennan will handle the day-to-day operation.

Guarino told the Buffalo News, “Our food is going to be a contemporary take on a seafood house. It’s doing to be a distinct restaurant from Shango,” noting that the culinary influences will come from a far wider range of places, transcending the American South to draw from the Caribbean, Africa and Italy, among other cuisines. Shango specializes in New Orleans and Cajun cuisine.

When Oshun opens, it will return the building to its historic roots. It was built in 1946 as a restaurant named the Waldorf Lunch, part of a popular lunch counter chain founded in 1904. In later years, it was occupied by Howard Shoes. Iskalo Development of suburban Williamsville then took ownership of the building and did a full restoration according to the original style that included terrazzo floors and ornate frescos. Guarino leased the restaurant space last year before embarking on creation of his restaurant on the premises.