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blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

It only takes a few minutes on both Hertel and Elmwood to appreciate the differences between the two neighborhoods. The former is extremely Italian, carb-addicted (pizza and pasta options everywhere!), big-city in mindset and yet is undergoing a cultural change that could redefine it as a neighborhood.

In contrast, Elmwood Village boasts a colorful, “hip” culture: it’s health-centric with bicyclists maneuvering about in droves, juice bars and organic cafes for quick snacks and people-watching, and bountiful specialty stores—take the Lexington Co-Op, for example—that cater to a very particular type of demographic.

As a result, taking a restaurant that’s wildly successful on Hertel and making it fit on Elmwood isn’t as easy as you’d think, even if the two neighborhoods are both flourishing.

A new cultural fit is the challenge that Joe’s Deli owner Joe Lyons, head chef Chris Salvati and general manager Eliseo Taborda (pictured in that order, right) face in revamping the former Off the Wall restaurant-art store at 534 Elmwood Ave.

Joe’s Deli Elmwood will open June 10 and serve food from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday; and noon until 5 p.m. Sunday.

Unlike Hertel, the Elmwood location has a liquor license, and bar hours will extend to midnight or 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, depending on the crowd. Brunch will be offered in the coming months, Lyons anticipates.

The restaurant seats 50 customers inside and 24 outside on its spacious patio, and immediately as you enter the restaurant, there’s an area to order takeout—Elmwood has a tendency to be on-the-go, too—and a deli case.

For the most part, Joe’s Deli Elmwood will carry the same sandwiches that lure customers to the corner of Hertel and Colvin—the Hangover (fried Capicola, provolone, sauteed onions, cherry peppers with lettuce, tomato, mayo and topped with a fried egg, $7.35), the Muffaletta (Sahlen’s ham, salami, provolone and fresh olive salad on an Italian loaf, $7.35), I Love Lucy (turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayo, $6.99) and “The Body” (spiced pork loin, Sahlen’s ham, pickled carrots, jalapeno slices, topped with fresh cucumber slices, cilantro and spicy mayo, $7.35) all made the short jaunt.

“Our specials menu [at the new restaurant] will be very Elmwood-driven,” Lyons said an hour before Joe’s Deli Elmwood’s first preview dinner. “We’ll have more gluten-free options and plenty of vegetarian choices.”

Digging a little deeper into the differences with Salvati, who will roast and slice the deli’s meat and prepare salads, sauces, soups and baked goods from Buffalo Catering Company, 325 Tacoma Ave., Buffalo, the chef offered quinoa (KEEN-wah) salad—a gluten-free grain with chewy texture—chilled sesame noodles and farro—a barley alternative—as additional health-conscious choices.

“We won’t have heavy mayo-based food at the Elmwood location,” Salvati noted. “I’ll keep the salads as vegan as possible and prepare tofu dishes as well.”

Salvati isn’t a stranger to preparing food that meets dietary needs, as he mentioned that his mother was thought to have celiac disease—forcing him to understand how to accommodate.

Customer creativity is encouraged, too, as there are both “Build Your Own Sandwich” ($5.75 before meat and cheese) and “Build Your Own Salad” (same price) elements to the menu, and choosing three main ingredients from the list of carrots, onion, toasted nuts, mushrooms, croutons, sprouts, cucumbers, tomato, artichokes and broccoli to top romaine lettuce or field greens should at least temporarily placate Elmwood’s lack of a true “salad bar.”

If you’re worried that Joe’s Deli Elmwood has eliminated comfort food from its repertoire, fear not.

Salvati’s dinner specials will delve into relatively unusual cuts of meat—for restaurants, at least. Hanger steaks, veal cheeks, pork shanks, higher-end pork rib-eye, pork flat-iron steaks and pork belly BLTs—with house-made bacon—will be highlighted in the deli’s rotating dinner specials. There’s been no official dinner menu released yet, but expect to see it on Joe’s Deli’s website or Facebook page soon.

The bar snacks aren’t your typical pub fare either—you won’t see mozzarella sticks or plain chicken fingers.

Salvati’s ideas include homemade mozzarella caprese, pulled pork and homemade mac & cheese egg rolls, deep-fried mac & cheese, General Tso’s chicken wings, loaded pierogi, poutine and several more. The bar snack menu will be limited to 10 items.

While Lyons’ intention is to avoid Joe’s Deli Elmwood from turning into a nightclub atmosphere like nearby Thirsty Buffalo and Toro!, he’s still thought out the alcohol options, which include eight drafts—including Flying Bison and Community Beer Works—and mostly New York State-based wines.

Red and white sangrias are slightly more gentle options, and a lemongrass lemonade satisfies those who aren’t craving a buzz—honestly all three of those sound like terrific drinks for the patio.

We’ve compiled a smattering of before-and-after photos from our February visit to the building’s state in the first week of June.

Joe’s Deli Elmwood
534 Elmwood Ave.
Buffalo, New York 14222
Phone: (716) 875-5637

Joe's NY Deli on Urbanspoon

TAGGED: catering, chris salvati, eliseo taborda, elmwood village, joe lyons, joe's deli, joe's deli elmwood, off the wall, restaurants

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