If somebody told you about two taquerias set to open in Buffalo over coming months, you would be forgiven for thinking, “Really?”
With Grandma Mora’s, Cantina Loco, Don Tequilas, Agave, Salsarita’s, countless Might Taco locations, and soon to be five places to get Lloyd tacos, it might seem like there isn’t any more room for the two upcoming Deep South Taco locations: one downtown on Ellicott Street and one in North Buffalo on Hertel Avenue.
However, Deep South Taco owner Richard Hamilton thinks the idea there isn’t enough room for another taco restaurant is just as ridiculous as the idea Buffalo is at peak capacity for new development.
“If I had a pet peeve, I guess it would be the willingness of some people to say, ‘Buffalo doesn’t need anymore. We’ve already got too many things – it’s saturated’, when it really isn’t,” he said. “I think there are areas of the culinary world that are underrepresented. Stylistically, restaurants could be a lot different.”
Indeed, the first Deep South Taco location is very different and unlike anything we’ve seen so far in Buffalo. Both the menu and the décor are decidedly modern, but both include nods to tradition and vintage culture.
The Tex-Mex menu features house-made tortillas filled with charred and braised meats, fresh vegetables and spicy sauces. The ingredients are decidedly steeped in the traditional flavors found along Donald Trump’s favorite border, but in modern preparations that might not be found at local Mexican-owned restaurants.
With lights tucked into every nook and cranny, the décor at Deep South Taco seems like the perfect prescription for the Seasonal Affected Disorder that blows across Buffalo every winter. The restaurant also features a vintage stereo system built around playing vinyl records, a touch that will no doubt be appreciated by the touring musicians stopping in from Mohawk Place across the street.
Ellicott Street’s Deep South Taco is also built to host guests outside, even during Buffalo’s least hospitable months. A patio heated from both below and above is expected to keep patrons warm, while a large outside projector will be showing anything from live sports to classic films. A rooftop patio will feature both seating and an outdoor bar.
With a long hospitality background that stretches to both Nashville and Las Vegas, Hamilton clearly has a well-honed eye for detail. In fact, he recently told me he sees a lot of similarities between Nashville’s recent rebirth and the current trajectory Buffalo is on.
“Back in 1992 when I first moved (to Nashville), downtown was very depressed and very rundown,” he said. “A few investors, much like Buffalo, picked up a few properties and started revitalizing it. Now, you go to Nashville and it’s just the absolute place you want to be.”
If Buffalo developers stop being bullish on downtown, Hamilton added, “you’re going lose a lot of evolution, you’re going lose a lot of talent and you’re going to lose a lot of brain trust and you’re going to sell Buffalo very, very short.”
“Vegas was the same way. I remember when I was at the Bellagio, before the Wynn casino was built – there was a whole thing where all the hotels came together and said, ‘We don’t need anymore. We can’t take anymore. It’s saturation. We’re going to sit here and these things are going to be empty.’”
“Now look at Vegas, they’re building more and more and more. Because when you finally have something where people want to be, more people come. People will find a way to fill it. And if your restaurant is good, if your business is good, if your clothes are good – people are going to search you out and they’re going to come to your restaurant.
“So it really doesn’t have anything to do with how many restaurants we have. The questions is: How good are we at what we do?”
Deep South Tacos is officially open for lunch and dinner as of Thursday, November 12, 2015. For more information on Deep South Tacos, visit their website and follow them on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Plus, check out their food & drink menus here.
Pro tip: Deep South Taco takes cash only! But don’t worry, they have an ATM inside.
Editors note: I went for lunch today (opening day) and had some of the best tacos I’ve ever had. They’re different for Buffalo, but they’re delicious. – TBR
Deep South Taco
291 Ellicott Street, Buffalo, NY 14201
Hours: Sunday to Thursday 11a – 11pm (Bar until midnight)
Friday and Saturday 11am – 12 am (Bar until 1 am)