The owner of Buffalo Bruce's Mercantile does not know I'm writing this. No one is paying me to do this. I have an agenda and it benefits you and your loved ones. Here's what to do: go to this restaurant. Do not go because it's tasty (it is!), it's in Sylmar (one of the writer's favorite towns), or because the owner is an ardent philanthropist (game theory).
You need to go because its business is slow. The San Fernando Valley needs your money. Its economic and cultural conviviality is dependent on the success of hole-in-the-wall spots. Conversations, ideas, and youth are fundamental to the long-term health of a city. Without the allure of unique eating establishments, we lose the engine of social progress and economic development.
The San Fernando Valley is not Olive Garden, Dave n' Busters, or Jack in the Box. Those are in every major city. The San Fernando Valley is Buffalo Bruce's Mercantile - or any hole-in-the-wall. By extension, each business is the convergence of someone's hopes, dreams, and passions. Keep your hard-earned cash and abstain from the corporations. Instead, someone's barbecue recipe has been passed down multiple generations and it'll delight you.
This isn't a hipster bon vivant plea for designer kale coffee. It could be - if that's what this city wants. But the bigger picture is that every city has an identity. It materializes in many ways. Find them, support them, and the city will reward you. In this case, the Valley will bless you with creative young professionals, budding musicians, dynamic cafes, and job growth.
Go to Buffalo Bruce's Mercantile. Vivian, the owner, is someone's mother. Oh, and I'm sorry for misleading you with the headline. This isn't a restaurant review.
Some Hard Stats
I refuse to sound like an idealist unless I have some statistical evidence. Your local restaurant is a cornerstone of economic progress. "Food has replaced music at the heart of the cultural conversation," writes Eugene Wei, a technologist and writer. The industry is an $800 billion juggernaut. It creates jobs, buoys local farmers, and circulates culture.
For the first time in American history, people spend more money eating out than at home. The "Golden Age of Restaurants" has descended upon the nation, and our San Fernando Valley hasn't received it yet. Do we want this "Golden Age?" The answer is a resounding "heck yes!"
It's no surprise that the nation's leading cities also have the most dynamic culinary scenes. In dense, metropolitan areas, people make more money, tend to not have families, and walk more. The Valley has none of these characteristics - and it certainly makes sense in the grand scheme why our restaurant culture isn't booming.
Nonetheless, all the major metropolitan cities are reflecting the same trend: people love local restaurants. "There has been a tremendous rise in independent restaurants over the last five years," Carl Bialik of the Yelp Data team remarks, "consumers are voting with their dollars and are rewarding those restaurants that provide a resonating point of difference in the overall experience.”
We're seeing these fantastic indicators of economic health in said cities:
For every dollar spent in a restaurant, an additional $2 is generated in sales for other industries, generating even more tax dollars and economic activity.
Every $100,000 spent in a local restaurant creates 2.2 jobs.
Every $1,000,000 in sales generates 13 farm jobs.
Historically, experts monitor the food industry as a reliable indicator of economic health. When times are good, people eat out.
Tips significantly outperform fast casual and fast food restaurants, which is important because 1/3 of teenagers work in the restaurant industry first.
The "Starbucks Effect" and to an extent, the "Whole Foods Effect", are well documented. Zillow reports that 2 years after the establishment of either accelerate appreciation by 10%. These beacons bring opportunities for more creative ventures.
The take-home point is that when faced with a decision between fast food, fast casual, or a hole-in-the-wall, go take a dive and try out that local spot. Take your dollars and splurge on your city. Don't send your money to some corporate venture thousands of miles away. Support your city - the Valley needs you.
This is especially imperative because our city isn't geared toward a dynamic independent restaurant scene. As previously mentioned, dense metropolitan cities naturally prosper for it. Our suburban sprawl encourages us to live life conveniently. It's different from taking the subway, then walking past several local places on your way home.
Buffalo Bruce's Mercantile is a fantastic spot. It was featured on the Food Network and commands a 4.5-rating on Yelp. When it was vandalized in 2015, Danny Trejo restored it. It has a track record of being one of Sylmar's cultural touchstones. The food is stellar.
But day-in and day-out, the Jack in the Box across the street is full, while Buffalo Bruce's stands empty. Is this the right thing to be happening? Save your money and experience someone's entire sense of life for an hour. You won't regret it - and the city will be wealthier and healthier for it.
You choose who receives your money. It's a powerful concept, perhaps moreso than voting. Hopefully this article persuades you to try out that weird restaurant owned by immigrants. Those owners have come a long way to make this food for you, after all.
We also did a video review of this restaurant a while ago. Again, we are not influenced at all to promote this restaurant. We just love local spots and the Valley's wonderful restaurant owners.