Ellicott Street is priming up for what appears to be a sensational new restaurant, in all meanings of the word. Michelin star chef Richard Hamilton is on his way towards creating a taco joint that he has dreamed of since his youth. The Deep South Taco experience will be unlike anything that Buffalo has seen to date, primarily because the sensory stimulation is anticipated to be on par with the high quality of the food.
The large street-level patio will boast planters with giant LED-lit metal cactuses rising into the air. The perimeter of the patio will be covered with metal roofing, which will offer shade to customers as well as an indoor-outdoor feel year round. You heard me right. Hamilton hopes to accomplish what many thought was impossible. He’s rigging the stationary and free-standing radiant heat fixtures to optimize patio seating when it’s cold out. Barring heavy snow, rain and zero degree weather, Hamilton feels that he can configure the heating to offer enough warmth throughout the year, essentially capitalizing on a four-season patio vibe that almost seems too good to be true.
Along with the forward thinking heating concept, Hamilton plans on showing outdoor TV broadcasts and specials, by projecting onto a giant screen that will be affixed to a north-facing wall. The surrounding walls will also help to protect the outdoor seating area from the elements. “When Buffalo sports teams aren’t playing live, we will be running epic surfer films, which will jibe with the theme,” Hamilton explained.
Additional LED lighting elements will serve to electrify the interior and exterior of the restaurant. A vintage arrow sign, with theatrical bulbs will point to the destination. String lighting overhead will serve to illuminate the stamped concrete patio. A large, spinning sign (with giant luchador masks from the logo) will add some motion to the vibrant eye-catching display.
From the patio, visitors will find a series of garage doors, painted in Lamborghini yellow. When the doors are closed (which will be a rarity), a set of bar rail attachments can be lifted into place, creating additional seating areas inside the eatery. Booths and tables, inside and out, are being constructed to be configurable to the space as the seasons change, or for events. “We can make the place appear to be expansive or cozier depending on what we’re doing and when,” Hamilton told me. “We’re big on communal and flexible seating so that we can maximize the potential of the space.”
Hamilton has over-thought every aspect of the operation. The first floor will be filled with dining and cocktail tables. Diners will be able to see into the kitchen through a large pick-up window. The wait staff will be outfitted with mini iPads, in order to expedite the orders – chef feels that half of the reason that orders are delivered late is the time that it takes a server to get to and from the kitchen. The device will signal the server at the exact moment the food is ready.
Over the last few weeks, Hamilton has been busy scouring the US for a full tower of retro McIntosh stereo components, which will play only vinyl. “I’ve got 350 records that will be played,” he pointed out to me. “Then there will be times when people will be able to bring their own vinyl. If we decide to play someone’s album, they will get a free taco.” Aside from the tunes, Hamilton is a stickler for lighting, as we have already seen. The first floor ceiling of Deep South Taco will be illuminated with an LED light system that he can control from his smart phone.
The second floor of Deep South Taco is where coolers and a gravity feed beer system will be situated. The beer (and the house margarita) will flow down one level to the bar. The second floor will also house the operation where the tortilla shells are made – organic corn and organic gluten-free corn shells. Guests will be able to view the shells as they are being made, through a window. “I want to show people what’s going on behind the scenes,” Hamilton told me. “These types of experiences add to the ambiance of the restaurant, along with the music and lighting of course.”
From the second floor, patrons will be able to access the rooftop cabana bar. “It’s going to be more edgy up there,” said Hamilton. “We will have built-in couches and cabanas for people – it’s going to be for drinking and socializing. The first floor patio will be more like a cantina, and the rooftop will have a completely different vibe. There will be something for everyone, and plenty of places to catch some sun, relax, eat, and party.”
As for the style of “deep south” food, Hamilton told me that he is concentrating on serving up artisan authentic cuisine. This is the food that I cook for my friends and family. I’ve been eating it (and loving it) my entire life. I used to ask for jars of salsa for my birthday (along with chips) when I was little. This is who I am. We will feature [rattling off] eight versions of tacos, grilled Mexican street corn and salt and lime jalapeños, adult popsicles, horchada, fresh squeezed juices for our mixers, six salsas, two guacs, no sugar in our margaritas (agave nectar instead), homemade specially seasoned chips, chicharones, two fish tacos, veggies en escabeche, carnitas, a chipotle-based house salad, short ribs tacos, chicken pibil tacos, chorizo tacos, frijoles charros, and two kinds of queso – fundido con chorizo and four cheese blanco.”
Listening to the litany of culinary offerings, I’m ready to dive into Deep South Taco right now. Unfortunately I’m going to have to wait until the end of September when it opens. Hamilton tells me that he is also working on his Hertel location, which he says will be oriented a bit more towards families, but will still be a great place to hang for food and drinks. He has a number of design and concept surprises in store that will appeal to just about everyone. It’s almost time to sink our collective teeth into some forward-thinking design standards that lightheartedly play off the driven vision behind the food.
Deep South Taco | 291 Ellicott Street | Buffalo, New York | (716) 262-2510 | Facebook
*Interior Design done by Brooke Pelc and Jonathan Casey with Nest Interiors.