I actually donated to a Kickstarter project recently: Mercado Revolution, a new venture in Buffalo that will...well, here's how Mercado's visionaries describe it:
Mercado will kickstart the Buffalo/Niagara region by assembling 15 different, excellent restaurants under one "market" roof - a centralized hub where anyone can sample products from Western New York's top food artisans, watching from counter seating as dishes are made. The market will also serve as an incubator and lab for the next generation of Buffalo culinary success stories. Thanks to culinary director Scott Kollig, Mercado will bring the latest techniques and world-class ingredients to WNY from Washington, D.C., where Scott has worked for celebrity chefs as a chef de partie and sommelier. Working together, we will create an incredible culinary bazaar - a one-stop shop to experience the future of food and drinking.
When it comes to food, I've always felt of two minds in this region. I've never been down on the food that's here, but at the same time, it's impossible to not realize that there's a great deal of exciting things happening in the food world that just don't make their way here for years and years and years. The Buffalo Niagara region tends to be oddly resistant to new things, but the time just may be right for something like this, as a lot of small and independently-driven projects are underway in this region that seem to signify a terminal frustration with business-as-usual. I suspect a lot of it is the younger generation, which has had the chance to go elsewhere and see different things and come back with new ideas.
So what is Mercado? I was a bit fuzzy at first as to how this project will be different from, say, the wonderful St. Lawrence Market in Toronto (one of my favorite places on Earth). The Mercado people have been releasing little bits of information here and small tidbits of their vision there since they announced their project, and it seems that Mercado will be something halfway between a market and a restaurant, with the best features of both. Their focus will be on locally-sourced (as much as possible) and locally-prepared foods, as well as (I believe) foods that have never been seen here before. They are also pledging to be as affordable as possible (a major consideration for my family and I, as we aren't generally in a position to spend more than $100 on meal very often). My general sense is of a hybrid between a restaurant and a fine public market. Either way, it's exciting stuff, and I look forward to visiting once they're up and running. There will be many options under one roof, with -- it is to be hoped -- the kind of vitality that the best such places in the world offer.
I don't consider myself a "foodie", but I am curious about food and while I enjoy a cheap meal from Mighty Taco or a pizza from Imperial as much as anyone, I do also want more variety and international flavor to choose from in this region. There's room here for a lot of different approaches to food, after all, and a locally funded business like this seems to me an idea so obviously good that I'm not sure why more people aren't rushing to fund it.
Heck, I'm looking forward to the coffee.
Follow Mercado on Twitter, if you're so inclined. They're not backing off their ideas of community engagement.