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Developer plans Hertel, Elmwood, Ellicott restaurants

A restaurant consultant and former chef is quietly lining up new restaurants in three of Buffalo’s hottest restaurant zones.

Richard Hamilton has plans for properties he hopes to open by this summer, offering authentic Mexican tacos built on housemade corn and flour tortillas, Central American tapas, and more. “We want to focus on heritage meat, great ingredients, meticulously done, like you would get in Mexico itself,” he said.

They include:

  • 1725 Hertel Ave., the site of an oil-change business, which is under contract, he said. It’s across Starin Avenue from BOSS. Remediation will begin shortly, and its design under way for a taco-centric menu, Hamilton said. “It’ll be cantina-esque, with garage doors, the whole place is going to open up, more of a bar than a restaurant, with 100 seats outside.”
  • 291 Ellicott St. is also under contract, with its design under way, Hamilton said. The plan is much like Hertel’s, with a smaller patio. He’s aiming to open the pair of taco places by July.
  • 492 Elmwood Ave., currently Toro, is under contract, Hamilton said. Owner Nick Kotrides confirmed that he has a buyer for the property, but declined to confirm his identity. Hamilton said that menu would be deeper, but still Latin American, with lots of seafood and tapas. He plans to open that restaurant in May.

None of the sites are legally owned by Hamilton’s company yet. Contracts have been signed, fixtures have been purchased, and people have been hired, Hamilton said. He said he is optimistic, but this is the restaurant business. Plans could still fizzle.

Three restaurants in four months is an ambitious timetable for any developer. This isn’t Richard Hamilton’s first rodeo, though.

Hamilton was Delaware North Sportservice’s vice president of food and beverage until December, when he struck out on his own. He said he has a wealthy partner, who he declined to identify.

Raised in Oklahoma, Hamilton got his initial culinary training in France after high school. His resume includes stints in fine-dining kitchens in France and the United States. In Nashville, he catered for rock bands like Pink Floyd and Red Hot Chili Peppers, country-western stars and NASCAR teams. He has extensive restaurant development experience in Las Vegas, Toronto, and many other cities.

Developer Richard Hamilton has ambitious plans to start three new restaurants.

Developer Richard Hamilton has ambitious plans to start at least three new restaurants.

In 1998, he opened Magnolias in Nashville, a fine-dining restaurant with Shania Twain and Barbara Mandrell as partners.

In 2005, he cooked for President George Bush at the White House, and was reportedly considered for White House chef.

In Newport, Rhode Island he helped develop the Chanler Hotel, becoming its food and beverage director and executive chef of its Spiced Pear restaurant. A burger he developed at Spiced Pear – of chopped Kobe beef stuffed with barbecued Kobe brisket – was included in GQ’s “The 20 Hamburgers You Must Eat Before You Die” in 2006.

He left the kitchen for restaurant consulting, working for Blau & Associates out of Las Vegas, and later on his own, before being hired by Delaware North in 2013.

So after helping open restaurants all over the country, why did Richard Hamilton choose Buffalo? A blend of personal and business reasons, he said.

His son, a freshman at Canisius High School, “loves it here,” said Hamilton. “He said, ‘I don’t want to leave.’ ”

When he started his catering company in Nashville in 1992, the town’s restaurant scene was just starting to heat up, he said. Now Nashville is a national dining destination.

“Since I’ve been living here, I’ve seen the city start to change dramatically. It’s got a great restaurant community. I remember seeing this in Nashville when I moved there in 1992. It was just starting to blossom. Now Nashville is one of the best culinary towns in this country, and one of the best places in the country to live. I sense Buffalo is about there.”

He can open three or four restaurants in Buffalo for the price of one in Nashville, he said. “I felt the opportunity for me to get in on the ground floor of a budding restaurant community was now.”

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