Like many mobile eateries that find success on the road, a North Tonawanda-based food truck has expanded its operation into a permanent venue.
This past week, Dragon Babies Diner and Grill cut a ribbon outside of its new restaurant on Oliver Street to signify the official shift in their business model from food truck to eat-in restaurant. The food truck isn’t going anywhere, but the new neighborhood eatery offers a full menu of breakfast, lunch and dinner items in setting that Shawn Edin, who owns the restaurant with business partner Jeremy Hardy, says he wants to resemble a traditional diner.
“We’re trying to bring back that diner feel,” said Edin, a lifelong Lumber City resident and long-time chef. “That’s the kind of thing that North Tonawanda’s always been known for is their good food and their ability to have good food, and then somewhere along the way that disappeared. Now, what we’re trying to do is bring that feeling back and (provide) a place to hang out.”
Edin says the food truck was already renting space next door to their new location, 452 Oliver St., and he said that if they’re already paying rent, they might as well make the most of it, and thus their new venture was born. Their mission is to sell fresh, organic, locally sourced dishes whenever possible, even their fountain drinks are Johnnie Ryan brand, which are made in Niagara Falls.
While the dishes that made the food truck a hit will be available at the restaurant, existing patrons will have a wide selection of new items to choose from, which will soon include a complete vegan and vegetarian menu. Edin says that while he’s a fan of other local restaurants, he says those in North Tonawanda looking for restaurants that offer fresh, organic food are currently underserved.
“There’s a huge hippie (community) around here and a lot of them want vegan stuff,” Edin said. “When we do festivals in our truck, a huge portion of our menu is changed and adapted to vegan and vegetarian people.”
The ribbon cutting was attended by the restaurant’s staff, as well as city officials and representatives from the Chamber of Commerce of the Tonawandas and the Oliver Street Merchants Association.
The aim of the merchants association is to revitalize Oliver Street in an effort to make it more attractive to new business and provide a more colorful community for those who already live and work there. With the addition of Dragon Babies, the association now has 20 active members. Amy Sileo, association president, says the street’s newest business is a good fit for the community they’d like to achieve.
“We want to stay eclectic and fun and diverse,” Sileo said. “Our street is this little pop culture kind of area that we want to try to start building up and bring in one-of-a-kind businesses.”
In addition to providing homemade, organic meals, Dragon Babies also plans to host community events and hopes to serve as a gathering place for the community. Edin says he also wants to work with local artists by displaying their work for sale on the restaurant’s walls.
North Tonawanda Mayor Arthur Pappas offered words of praise for the new business during a brief speech at Tuesday’s ribbon cutting ceremony. He was joined by several other city officials, including Alderman-at-Large Robert Pecoraro and Second Ward Alderwoman Donna Braun.
“It’s always great to see a new business open up,” Pappas said, addressing a crowd and also the restaurant staff. “It fits right in to the Oliver Street revitalization program, it’s got the decor, it’s got the location and I think you’re going to be successful.”