Denny Soliday is not afraid of firsts — today will be his biggest first yet.
"I'm a trial by fire kind of guy," he said recently as he worked with staff on his next first, the opening of Soliday's bar and restaurant in Wheatfield.
The first time he ever cooked a pizza was the day he opened a pizzeria called Chay's on Buffalo Avenue when he was 19. The first time he ever bartended was the day he opened a restaurant and bar in Kenmore called St. James Place.
At 10 a.m. today, there will be a ribbon-cutting for the biggest bar and restaurant he's owned yet, the newest version of Soliday's, located on Niagara Falls Boulevard and Ward Road in the Town of Wheatfield.
Soliday has owned several restaurants in the region, but his career as a restaurateur has been interrupted twice when his band, Six Pin, got a record deal and he went on tour as lead guitarist.
The first time he came back from the road, Soliday purchased a bar and restaurant in Kenmore called St. James Place, which is now Moonies. The second time he came back from touring, shortly after his daughter Isabela, 7, was born, he opened Soliday's on Lockport Road in Niagara Falls. That restaurant closed on Saturday to make way for the new Soliday's on Niagara Falls Boulevard in Wheatfield.
Soliday has partnered with Jeff McMahon of Lewiston, a chef, and Sean MacKenzie, a local attorney, to open the new Soliday's in a building with a storied history. The former bar and restaurant has had a variety of owners and names, but when it was JT Wheatfields, there was a much publicized drug raid in 2009.
When asked if the building's past worried him at all, Soliday said "a long-storied history doesn't scare me." He said he's looked at more than a hundred restaurants in his life and when he walked into the building at Niagara Falls Boulevard and Ward Road, much like when he walked into the first Soliday's on Lockport Road, he thought, "I can do it here."
He said that the first Soliday's was also in a building that had a history of many owners, lots of failed businesses and some shady business tactics, and that history did not deter his success with specialties like macaroni and cheese, steak and cheese and stuffed peppers.
Soliday and his partners have found the new property to be in very good shape —after some elbow grease and new paint and updates — with impressive kitchen facilities and a variety of spaces for a family restaurant, banquets, live entertainment, outdoor dining and even volleyball courts. There are volleyball leagues starting Aug. 6.
"The possibilities are unbelievable," said McMahon.
McMahon, who said he got the bulk of his kitchen training during 16 years in the kitchen of a high-end restaurant in Northern California, called Soliday's new kitchen a "dream kitchen," and noted he is excited about the menu which includes stuffed peppers in versions of Soliday's most popular items, including peppers stuffed with mac and cheese or steak and cheese. The menu also features pot roast poutine, a 10-inch chicken pot pie and stuffed calamari manicotti.
The partners are planning to offer high-end brunches in the fall, special events for the televised Buffalo Bills game, and are open to a wide variety of private parties.
Soliday's third partner, MacKenzie, an attorney with Magavern Magavern Grim in Niagara Falls, said many of his clients are in the bar and restaurant business and he has often been asked over the years to join in partnerships, but never did until now.
"Everything just lined up," he said, adding he will be more of a silent partner and that, "Once it opens, my job is done."
For more information, visit Soliday's Restaurant on Facebook.