Chef Bobby Anderson and City of Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino are pictured at the opening of the Cataract House Restaurant & Academy. (Photo courtesy of Insight International USA)
Mon February 21, 2022 12:00 PM
Space pays homage to historic hotel, heroic waiters who helped freedom seekers escape to Canada
The grand opening of the new Cataract House Restaurant & Academy, at 310 Rainbow Blvd., Niagara Falls, took place Friday evening. Attendees enjoyed culinary delights that were modern twists on dishes served at the historic Cataract House, learned about local art, and learned about the history and partnerships that led to the continuation of the legacy of the Cataract House.
The new restaurant is a partnership between Chef Bobby Anderson of Hell’s Kitchen fame and the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area (NFNHA). Anderson operates the new restaurant through his F-Bites organization, and the new Cataract House connects visitors to the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center.
“It’s great to be part of history,” said Saladin Allah, experience center specialist and community liaison with the Heritage Center. “The simple idea of bringing the Cataract House back to life is something a lot of people have talked about over time. Being here right now is a great opportunity.
A press release noted: “The historic Cataract House was a world-renowned luxury hotel that became one of the nation’s most important Underground Railroad locations. Its African-American waiters led a double life as secret agents of the Underground Railroad, helping countless freedom-seekers escape to safety in Canada.
Anderson said, “Telling this story in a historic restaurant is amazing to me.”
The Cataract House Restaurant & Academy will also serve as a micro-gallery, and its first featured artist is Tyshaun Tyson, whose works were on display Friday night.
“Before time was cold and just another art exhibit; but the closer we got and the number of people interested in this event and the things that happened behind the scenes, I got more and more excited,” Tyson said.
Event attendees could drop into the new restaurant and its connected neighbor, Cantina Falls Restaurant, which is also operated by Anderson and F-Bites.
This event was part of the Heritage Center’s Black History Month, supported by M&T Bank with special support from the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center.
The mission of the NFNHA is to uncover authentic stories of freedom seekers and Underground Railroad abolitionists in Niagara Falls, to inspire visitors to recognize the modern injustices that stem from slavery, and to take action for a fair society. The NFNHA is an experiential museum open Thursday through Sunday during the winter season. It offers self-guided tours, facilitated guided tours, school trips, and many public programs throughout the year.
Founded in 2009 by Anderson, F-Bites is an organization that began as an after-school program in the Niagara Falls City School District. It has since expanded to more than 60 institutions in Erie, Niagara and Monroe counties – including schools, community centers, municipal programs, detention centers and the Niagara County Jail. F-Bites’ mission is to empower youth and adults to become contributing members of society, inspiring them to plan a prosperous future through execution and workforce skills development. work, soft skills, technical skills and exposure to culinary arts training. The long-term goal of the organization is to have a tangible change in employment rates, job opportunities and youth poverty rates.