With a comfortable outdoor patio, long bar and extensive dinner specials, O’Daniels Gin Mill & Grill at 1305 Abbott Road is well worth a visit.
Chris Daniels opened the restaurant, which he refers to as a gin mill, in 1990. He shares his thoughts on what a neighborhood tavern should be and the history behind the famous O’Malley burger.
Question: You’re known for both seafood and wings. Which would you say is more popular?
Daniels: Do I need to choose one? I would say we’re known as the kind of place that serves the best food we possibly can. We’re open to everyone. It’s comfortable, a good value and good food.
Q: Why do you describe O’Daniels as a gin mill?
A: I think that the traditional neighborhood tavern or gin mill did provide an ear for people to voice their opinions. People would move into a neighborhood with like-minded individuals. You had your butcher and your baker who shared your own values down the street. Everyone wants to go where someone knows your name.
We’re a neighborhood gin mill. People meet and share opinions and they get a good value. They’re never cheated and they’re treated fairly. O’Malley’s did that before me and taught me to hold people to high standards.
Q: How did you know the owner of O’Malley’s that you bought the bar from?
A: O’Malley’s was here from 1955 to 1990. That was the first bar I ever worked at. I worked here in the '70s as a bartender. Ed (O’Malley) was a well-respected Lackawanna police officer. He built the place in 1950-51 as a pool hall. When he retired, he turned it into a restaurant.
Q: Do you still use his recipes?
A: We feature the O’Malley burger on the menu. He had a small menu of Friday fish fries, club sandwiches, burgers and roast beef. O’Malley’s was famous for their burgers – we still use that recipe today. The recipe has been in this building since 1955.
Q: Your wings are also famous. How did you come up with that recipe?
A: That’s nice to hear. I made that recipe up when I worked at a bar near Babcock and Perry. The bartenders would cook their own food. We’ve used that since we opened here.
People steal the bottles of sauce every day. The label says "stolen from O’Daniels." It’s flattering – it’s good enough to steal.
Q: How do you come up with your dinner specials?
A: My chef will come up with some or I will. Sometimes it depends on what’s on sale. If our fish guy says, "I have beautiful swordfish," I’ll hunt down swordfish recipes just like at home.
We’re always exploring food trends. We have a Pacific Rim influence and a Latin influence. People’s tastes are always changing. We try to make it exciting with a crazy flavor people will go crazy for.
Q: Do you have plans for the future?
A: I’m not interested in opening another place, or conquering the world or stepping on anyone’s toes. I’m interested in taking care of the people here. We get people from all over. Friends bring their friends here. One person tells another.
But still I’m amazed at how many people have lived here 30 years and they’ll say they never knew this was a restaurant. That’s amazing.
Information: O'Daniels Gin Mill and Grill, 1305 Abbott Road. 716-823-1100, Facebook.