BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Each Monday in our City Shapers segment, we introduce you to someone who is part of Buffalo's resurgence. This week, 2 On Your Side's Kelly Dudzik takes us to a restaurant inspired by a grandmother's recipe and one man's love of cooking.
Ru’s Pierogi is on Niagara Street right near the entrance to the 190.
“My friends nicknamed me Ru in high school and it kind of stuck, so we've got Ru's Pierogi,” says co-owner Andy Ruszczyk.
Ruszczyk grew up in Hamburg where he also landed his first job in the kitchen.
"Worked locally at Hoak's on the Lake, Hamburg, NY, where I learned most of my cooking skills. And then as far as the pierogis go, I learned from my grandma Ruszczyk. You know, we'd all go to her house and make pierogi every year for Christmas Eve," says Ruszczyk.
Eventually, Andy started making his own version of his Grandma's recipe for friends and family at home, then he moved his operation.
"We rented the school kitchen that we went to grammar school at, we rented that school kitchen to make them and sell them to like Blue Monk when it was Blue Monk, Bitch Ditch brewery and a couple other restaurants here to see if we had something and we did," says Ruszczyk.
Andy and a childhood friend decided to make it a full-time gig three years ago, but before opening Ru's, they tested out Andy's recipes at festivals. His pierogis were popular. So, the next step was finding the perfect spot to open their restaurant — an old Sarsaparilla bottling facility from the mid-1800s.
"When you first saw this building, what's going through your mind? Because it did not look like this when you first walked through the doors," said Dudzik.
"Well, and if you see it now, it's amazing what Schneider Development did. It's incredible. There's 42 apartments above here, and they were sold out before they were even finished," said Ruszczyk.
Andy also runs a food truck and is getting into catering everything from casual events to weddings.
“It's an incredible team. It's like a big family. So, it went from a family thing, and it's still a family," he says.
"And then you're working with all of the businesses that are coming up together, too," said Dudzik.
"Yeah, perfect example is like our beer list," said Ruszczyk.
"Yeah, it's all local," said Dudzik.
"It's all local. For Flying Bison brewery, I take their Aviator Red, and I do a beer braised pulled pork with their beer. Then we make a BBQ sauce with the beer drippings," said Ruszczyk.
Those collaborations are part of what has made Ru's so successful, and Andy has this advice for anyone planning on getting into the restaurant business.
"It's very hectic and you got to be here a lot. You can't just open up, think you got a great concept, and then open up and have other people do it for you. Everybody involved has to be involved. It's a lot of hard work, and at the end of the day the reward is making people happy, feeding people and just being part of the whole scene," says Ruszczyk.
If you’d like to nominate someone to be a City Shaper, email Kelly Dudzik.