A couple of months ago, Deep South Taco did its part to help liven up an area of Downtown Buffalo that has not seen a lot of activity until just recently. Chef Richard Hamilton took a dormant, obscure building and transitioned it into a bright and lively destination that appears to be filled to the brim with customers whenever the doors are open.
Now Hamilton is taking the successful recipe to Hertel. Similar to the conversion on Ellicott, he is in the midst of re-envisioning a former Quick Lube station at the corner of Hertel and Starin. Already Hamilton has been busy in the preparation stages of the project, which includes an environmental cleanup. Like his Downtown operation, the building on Hertel will be 100% reused. “Hertel was supposed to be our first Deep South Taco to open,” Hamilton told me. “I first looked at the building in December of 2014, and made an offer on January of ’15. It was a bigger project than we anticipated, so I turned my eyes to Ellicott Street to get that project off the ground first.”
When the Hertel location opens, it will be a distinctive beacon, similar to the vibe that the Downtown restaurant puts out. Instead of the rooftop cabana (operational downtown this spring), Hamilton has opted to go the shipping container route. “We’re installing three containers on the site, in addition to the existing building,” said Hamilton. “One of the containers will be attached to the building, while the other two will serve as utilitarian patio barriers that will help with noise abatement. Instead of a Florida room, we decided that we needed something that was a bit more funky… or vibey. The containers help to shape the patio. Inside we will have flat screen TVs, colorful lighting, and possibly hanging chairs.”
Unlike the Ellicott spot, Hamilton owns the Hertel restaurant. There will be a lot of similarities between the two locations, but Hertel will be larger in scale. Hamilton is also fully aware that the two businesses might serve different clienteles, since North Buffalo is a lot more family oriented. Not to say that the menu, or the dynamic will be drastically altered, instead the mission is to accommodate families in ways that relate to flexible menu dynamics.
In the meantime, Hamilton has been taking what he has learned at the original Deep South Taco and will be applying the lessons to his second restaurant. From kitchen flow, to bar speed, to table arrangements and service standards, the initial 60 days has proven to be an ongoing lesson in perfecting the practice. The Hertel Deep South Taco will have many similar aesthetic and decor elements, including a large projector TV screen (larger and free standing) and radiant heated patio (permanent fixtures). More than anything else, Hamilton says that he will continue to accommodate his customers by simply listening to what they have to say.
“I feel that we’re very blessed, being received like we have,” Hamilton told me. “We’re constantly improving, and trying to offer a positive experience. I’m grateful to be in Buffalo. We’re a Buffalo company – we chose Buffalo. This is where my family and I are going to live. Our corporate office and company will always be centered in Buffalo. Although I was not born here, this is my home. That’s why I want to create places that I’m proud of – places that might be a little bit different. I want people to walk away with the feeling that they were treated to something special. We’re constantly evolving. Next up, we’re going to be offering specials according to different days of the week – Mondays we will have carne asada, Tuesday is all you can eat tacos, Wednesday is an offering of enchiladas, and Thursday is fajita specials. We care about our food and we care about our employees. The staff is offered benefits on day one. There’s profit sharing for full time employees, and we paid 2016 wage requirements in 2015. When the Hertel location opens, we will have 200 employees.”
The new North Buffalo location will have a bar that overlooks the action on Hertel. There will be a takeout window for customers who want to place an order without walking inside. The corner will offer parking for 22 cars. The inside will have higher ceilings, featuring products made from scratch (marinades, sauces, rubs, and tortillas with no binders or fillers). As with the Ellicott location, the signature yellow garage doors will open when the weather allows. “It’s going to be funky and edgy,” said Hamilton.
Most importantly, the corner will come alive with a free standing restaurant, adding to the vibrancy of the street – taking a dead corner and bringing it to life. There’s nothing worse than seeing street corners such as this not living up to their potential. In this particular case, the corner will far exceed its potential, which will be a welcome addition to the steadily burgeoning neighborhood.
Deep South Taco | 1707 Hertel Avenue | Buffalo NY
Architect: Dean Architect PLLC