Chef and restaurant consultant Richard Hamilton is a bit busy these days. He’s working on opening three city restaurants in coming months and that may not be the end of it. Richard says he wants to open “four or more” taquerias and has ambitions to open other restaurants focusing on other concepts.
First up for Hamilton will be Deep South Tacos at 297 Ellicott Street downtown. He will be bringing plans to renovate the two-story, 2,800 sq.ft. building to the Planning Board next Tuesday. The first level will feature the kitchen, a bar, and seating for 67 patrons. Glass garage doors will open to a patio/courtyard that will feature a bar and seating for 65 to 70 people. Offices and storage will be located on the second floor. If the City permits, a rooftop patio with seating for 40 will be added to the building.
“It will be fun, very whimsical, but simple,” says Hamilton. “We’ll have great lighting, a lot of color, and an industrial look to it.”
Hamilton is leasing the building from developer Roger Trettel. Interior demolition work is underway and if the Planning Board approves the project next week, Deep South Tacos is expected to debut the last week of July. The restaurant will be open from 11 am until 11:30 pm and later on weekends. Hamilton stresses this will be a restaurant and it will not turn into a club on weekends. It will employ 30.
“It is going to be really cool,” he promises. “It’ll be one of a kind.”
It will join Tappo and Big Ditch Brewery in bringing new energy to a short stretch of Ellicott Street.
The second Deep South Tacos is planned for 1725 Hertel Avenue at Starin. $50,000 worth of environmental remedial work has been completed at the former oil change site. Hamilton is expecting to seek Planning Board approvals for this location in late June. If all goes according to plan, the restaurant will open in late August.
Asked how he’s managing opening two restaurants at once, Hamilton says he compartmentalizes.
“We are able to pick up some synergies,” he says. “For instance, I’m training two teams together and buying two kitchens at a savings.”
The Hertel location will have a different feel than the Ellicott location. While Ellicott will be “edgy,” Hertel will be “neighborly.” There will be no outside bar but there will be a patio area. Hamilton says he is working to get approvals to have a patio area set-aside for patrons with dogs, currently now allowed under Health Department rules.
Since Deep South Tacos is not a Mexican restaurant, you will have to find your burrito fix elsewhere. Both restaurants will feature authentic taqueria cooking utilizing traditional methods.
“We’ll be using artisan ingredients, everything will be made from scratch,” says Hamilton.
Hamilton is also working on plans to open a restaurant in the old Toro space at 492 Elmwood Avenue. Toro Cocina is a little ways off and will feature Spanish/Latin American cuisine.
He is not done there. Hamilton envisions having “four or more” additional Deep South Taco locations. He’s also working on two more concepts- one with chicken and the second for burgers.
“These will be unlike anything currently in the market,” he says. “There are a lot of different things I love and things I want to share.”
Born in Oklahoma, Hamilton got his culinary training in France, worked in and opened several restaurants, and later did restaurant development consulting worldwide. He moved to Buffalo in 2013 after being recruited by Delaware North where he became Sportservice’s vice president of food and beverage. After leaving Delaware North in December, Hamilton considered returning to the consulting field and could have moved away. His son convinced him to stay.
Hamilton is excited about Buffalo and the restaurants he’s planning. He wants his restaurants to be fun for both diners and employees.
“As a chef, I come to work and have fun. I love what I do. I want my employees to have the same experience. In the restaurant business you don’t always get that.”