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Hopefully, you’re aware of the fact that recent waves of immigrants moving into the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood have been transforming the area; breathing new life into it and gradually remaking the feel of the old Polish neighborhood. But still, when you come down here, it’s always surprising to see just how much progress has been made.
Over the past decades, I’ve been trained to expect empty, disused buildings and storefronts that look like they were pulled out of post-Katrina footage. But every visit in the past few months feels like a revelation. Yes, the Chua Tu Huey Buddhist Center and Adam Mickiewicz Library and Dramatic Circle have become established points of interest on Fillmore Avenue. But new businesses keep opening and many of them are restaurants offering foods we haven’t seen in a restaurant before.
New York Fuska and Coffee Shop is one of those new restaurants. Serving Bangladeshi food, the café is located on the ground floor of the recently refurbished Cigar Factory apartment building. It’s a brand new space and the fresh digs provide a great setting for owner Mahadi Hasin and his staff to show off their versions of Bangladeshi street food.
On my recent visit, I was offered Manga Vharta ($5), a spicy mango dish that deftly balanced sweet and heat with a touch of earthiness. I also tried the Chopoti ($6), a spicy vegetarian dish of chickpeas and vegetables that was tied together with the bright taste of lemon zest. With a low price point and complex flavor profile, it was definitely of the more satisfying vegetarian dishes I’ve tried in a while.
Upon talking to Mahadi about the menu, he said I had to come back for the café’s namesake dish. Fuska ($5) is a deep-fried fritter stuffed with eggy bits, green onions, cabbage and cilantro served with a tamarind sauce. It’s a popular street food in Bangladesh, Mahadi says, and it sure sounds like it.
In addition to street food, the café also has yogurt-based smoothies called lacchi ($3), which come in a variety of tropical flavors. Those looking to satisfy their sweet tooth can look through a wide range of prepackaged kulfi, which is like ice cream but made with milk and condensed milk instead of heavy cream. Naturally, the café also has coffee and tea options.
For those of us who have never been to the bustling back streets and alleyways of Dhaka, these dishes can only offer a hint of the flavors available in the Bangladeshi capital city. Decades of war and genocide forced many people out of modern-day Bangladesh, and many people who left the country ended up here in Western New York. Sadly, this story isn’t much different from the stories of many people who’ve settled into the Broadway-Fillmore area over the years, from the Polish immigrants of the early 20th century to today’s settlers from the Middle East, Africa and Asia. However, each wave of immigrants has brought something new. And while it’s okay to lament the fading of Polish influence over the neighborhood, we can also appreciate that our new neighbors are bringing their own cultural treasures.
At New York Fuska and Coffee Shop, those treasures take the form of full-flavored dishes you can enjoy at wallet friendly prices. Getting over to the East Side is a minor trek for me, but I’m happy to do it again for a taste of the fuska. And, what the heck, maybe I’ll throw in a lacci smoothie too.
Hours at time of publishing (Subject to change): Daily 12 p.m. – 10 p.m., except Friday 2 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Cafe / Coffee Shop
New York Fuska and Coffee Shop
595 Fillmore Ave Buffalo, NY 14212 • $$$$$
Serving Bangladeshi food, the café is located on the ground floor of the recently refurbished Cigar Factory apartment building. It’s a brand new space …
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