New Joe’s Deli to invade old Off the Wall on Elmwood - PHOTOS
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • February 06, 2013 @ 11:24am
Joe’s Deli is set to open a second location in May at the old location of Off the Wall, Vicky’s and Blue Moon Cafe—534 Elmwood Ave.—a large, bright, angular building that’s laid vacant since 2007.
Approved by the city to open the second Joe’s Deli on Feb. 1, Lyons mentioned that he’d been searching for a second restaurant location for a year. He’d honed in the Off the Wall spot—a building constructed in the 1890s—in October, then closed on the contract for the space on Christmas Eve.
“I flirted with the idea of the Northtowns for a while,” admitted Lyons, “but my heart was in the city. Plus, I really wanted to purchase and not lease.”
Owner Joe Lyons took me on a brief tour of the space—which will more than likely also be called Joe’s Deli—Tuesday, a fascinating opportunity to see how far the quirky blue house had fallen into disrepair and to reveal Lyons’ renovation plans. It’s easier to grapple with the purpose of the new location if you understand Lyons’ mission first.
When Lyons explained his business concept—a three-pronged attack that centers head chef Chris Salvati’s food production at the Buffalo Catering Company, branches to Hertel for deli-style fare, catering and a smorgasbord of sandwiches, and now Elmwood for a bar, full-lunch and dinner service, and deli-style hub—it’s clear that the brand of Joe’s Deli is both increasing its reach and flexibility through thought-out expansion.
Asked how he planned to take advantage of a building with several markedly different rooms—bear in mind the Joe’s on Hertel is essentially a large eating area with a deli case and prep stations in one giant room—Lyons said the divided nature of the old Off the Wall space supports his concept.
“It’s not so chopped up that you don’t know what to do with the rooms.” stated Lyons, who plans to hand management duties for the new location to Nate Mucka, who currently works at the Hertel restaurant. “People can easily enjoy more than one facet—they can even rent out one side while business can carry on as usual on the other.”
Let’s go through a quick visual tour:
Here’s the building’s exterior, which Lyons mentioned will be repainted—he’s not sure what color yet, though. He may follow the white, green and red theme of the Hertel restaurant, but he’s working with Michael Poczkalski from room Buffalo to design the interior and a North Buffalo technology company to modernize the outdated building.
The Joe’s Deli owner admits that design, renovation and layout aren’t his specialty, so he’s sought the advice and skills of nearby local businesses—first and foremost, though, Lyons wants to preserve much of the building’s architectural integrity (see random stained glass window at bottom)..
This is the area where customers can sit down at tables and eat full lunches and dinners. Lyons mentioned the possibility of removing the existing windows in favor of sliding patio windows to make the dining area open-air, a cool concept. In addition to the lunch menu available now on Hertel, an additional slate of entrees and specials will be offered at the new space.
Set behind the gazebo-like dining area is a long bar that stretches almost entirely across the room. As the above photo suggests, plenty of work needs to be done to patch up this part, but Lyons envisions TVs to show Sabres games and a slew of local beers available. The area in front of the bar is spacious enough to accommodate 20 to 30 patrons without clogging up the space between the kitchen and the dining room.
Facing the restaurant again, the right side will be dedicated to deli-style takeout, where customers can “pick up a pound of pastrami or a quart of soup,” Lyons says. He’ll put in a cash register and a deli case not far from the entrance, but he’ll also add a few tables to the middle room—currently painted with orange borders (two photos below)—for customers that want to nosh on a quick sandwich instead of taking the time for a full sit-down meal.
Above is the back room behind the small cafe eating area—expansive and currently the victim of graffiti—that Lyons hasn’t decided on its use. Bartending classes, painting workshops and small banquets are possibilities, he noted.
Because Buffalonians adore patios—that’s one of those claims that doesn’t need factual support—there will be seating for 24 customers at street-level, too. Judging from the popularity of other Elmwood patios like Cecelia’s, Mezza and Pano’s, Joe’s Patio should thrive even though there’s a little less foot traffic than the aforementioned spots.
Still, Lyons made clear that he’s not trying to thieve the clientele of Thirsty Buffalo, a popular bar geared toward 20-somethings across Elmwood. While he intends on being open seven days per week, he expects to close around 9 or 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. or midnight on weekends. He’s particularly pumped about brunch service on Sundays, too.
“I’ve always envisioned my business being a place where you could get something good to eat in a casual atmosphere,” Lyons remarked. “I’m 34 with four kids, and I want a place where I could feel comfortable meeting a buddy out.”
May is definitely an aggressive start date for the Elmwood version of Joe’s Deli—especially considering how long it can take to secure a liquor license. Surprisingly—even though the building hasn’t been used in five years—the renovation project seems reasonable, especially compared to the work it took to restore the old Mastman’s and the Buffalo Catering Company building on Tacoma.
“The last two projects began with no kitchen, no lights and no bathroom,” Lyons recalled. The fact that there’s a full kitchen that’s not in tatters is a giant plus, too.
As a whole, this expansion is welcome news to Buffalo foodies—you can see the positive comments from the sometimes ornery Buffalo Rising audience.
“I’m confident in our product and that we’re a good fit for this [new location],” said Lyons, who is cognizant of the space’s rather spotty history. “The space, location and concept are a perfect blend, I think.”