Buffalo in the ’70s: Swiss Chalet downtown

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Buffalo’s love of Swiss Chalet can be seen with a stroll through the parking lot of the Canadian rotisserie chicken chain’s restaurant in Niagara Falls, Ont. At any given moment, half of the license plates in the parking lot read “NEW YORK” across the top.

Buffalo News archives

After great success with three restaurants in Montreal and Toronto, a storefront next door to the Town Casino and across the street from Shea’s Buffalo became the home of the fourth Swiss Chalet Restaurant in 1957.

With all the hustle and bustle of Buffalo’s glitzy theater district and late-night hours for folks leaving shows and clubs hungry, Swiss Chalet, with its charcoal-roasted chicken, became an instant Western New York classic.

By 1965, Western New York’s second Swiss Chalet restaurant had opened on Niagara Falls Boulevard, followed through the years by a handful of other locations serving quarter- and half-chicken dinners with what former Buffalo Mayor Jimmy Griffin called the city’s best French fries in a radio ad in 1996.

One of the new locations was right across the street from the one in the photo. After a 1984 fire at the 643 Main St. building — which for decades has now been the home of the Bijou Grille — Swiss Chalet opened across Main Street into the former Laube’s Old Spain building.

Swiss Chalet left downtown Buffalo after 39 years in 1996; the space eventually became Shea’s Smith Theatre.

The chain’s remaining Western New York stores — including the Niagara Falls Boulevard location — closed to packed seats in 2010, but the lingering taste of 53 years of chalet sauce has made international dinner travelers out of the hundreds of Buffalonians who are seen every week at the Swiss Chalet restaurants closest to the U.S. border.

The Swiss Chalet closest to the Peace Bridge is at 6666 Lundy’s Lane, Niagara Falls, Ont.

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon is a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. The operator of Buffalo Stories Tours writes about the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo special at blog.buffalostories.com and daily at buffalonews.com/history. The storyteller and historian has written six books, worn bow ties since the 80s, and spent 20 years working in Buffalo radio and TV, climbing his way to news director at WBEN Radio. Since then, he's been an adjunct professor and produced PBS documentaries. Steve's Buffalo roots run deep: all eight of his great-grandparents called Buffalo home, with his first ancestors arriving here in 1827.