By Neale Gulley
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Folks anxious to spend the summer recreating on the Erie Canal in North Tonawanda will have yet another lunch option this year, as the city’s menu continues to grow in consecutive years.
A property at 369 Sweeney St. is undergoing renovations and will open later this month as a joint venture featuring well-known custard by Hibbard’s as well as Lumber Jake’s Burgers and Shakes, a new business run by NT native Jacob Wankasky.
In a joint venture between Wankasky and Jim Hibbard of Hibbard’s Original Frozen Custard of Lewiston, the restaurant is aimed at visitors to the city’s bike path, and before long, to boaters in the Canal.
The property housing the new restaurant is adjacent to the historic Richardson Boat Company — just one of the elements of waterfront history Wankasky hopes to showcase as an aside.
“We’re doing a lumberjack theme with one whole wall that will be used to show the history of North Tonawanda,” Wankasky said.
Plans are also in the works to repair several nearby docks to serve boaters and to offer bait and tackle as well as boat rentals, he said.
“We’re hoping for a destination spot where people can bring their family and get out on the water,” he added.
An outdoor patio will include seating for diners as well as what will be the restaurant’s signature outdoor grill, serving up hand-pressed burgers and other unique offerings, including one inspired by Wankasky’s time working in Hawaii. The “puka dog,” a Hawaiian speciality made by toasting a hoagie roll from the inside using a heated stake, then filling it with the desired meat and condiments, is just one such offering.
“I’m putting my own Buffalo twist on it,” he said, adding that not just the traditional Hawaiian flavors will be available for what will be called a “loggie doggie” or informally, the dog in a log.
Other adapted dishes will be offered with local flavor, like the Oliver Street Shuffle, beer-battered bratwurst with sauerkraut and German mustard.
On the subject of custard, Hibbard is known for the business begun in Lewiston in the 1930s, featuring a custard made using trough machinery that results in a denser-than-usual ice creamtreat.
The company will have two freezer-bikes (bicycles mounted with a custard freezer on the front) to sell the famous delicacy at downtown events like Taste of the Tonawandas.
“It’s just another piece of the puzzle here on the water to bring people into the community,” Wankasky said.
The property, owned by Mike Wachowicz, is located next door to the relatively new Templeton’s Landing banquet hall, as well as the newly renovated Remington Lofts residential/business complex.Contact City Editor Neale Gulley at 693-1000, ext. 4114.