The Delaware brings new life to the suburban restaurant scene
Several years ago, a chef friend of mine told me he was converting an old Carvel Ice Cream shop on Delaware Avenue into a gastropub. At the time, the term" gastropub" had not yet hit mainstream, and I questioned how well such an undertaking would manage in a neighborhood better known for run-down office buildings and car lots.
Flash forward a few years and I find myself in the dining room of an attractive restaurant, augmented by a raised ceiling, exposed duct work, finished concrete floors and a menu to die for. My chef friend, Louis Zanghi—in cahoots with restaurateur Jon DiBernardo—has managed a complete overhaul of the building, providing adequate seating and a large bar downstairs, a private dining room upstairs and the makings of a sunny weather patio out front. Ample parking is a bonus.
"Fine Diner-ing" is the way Chef describes the menu to me. And it's an adequate summation of the menu, which offers a full range of housemade comfort foods at prices that could soothe the soul of any cash-strapped foodie. On my initial visit, The Delaware was still in "soft opening" mode, meaning that the menu was not being offered in its entirety, and the staff was still getting their feet wet. Although our service was not swift, it was friendly, competent and perfectly acceptable. In the coming weeks when the restaurant officially opens, I imagine the service will improve easily.
The menu is the easy sell here. What makes it special is not just the abundance of mouth-watering offerings at great prices, but also the knowledge that Chef Zanghi has worked to deliver a menu where quality is not compromised. The Choice burger is made of beef brisket and chuck, which is ground in-house and then hand-formed into moist, delicate burgers with fabulous flavor. The reuben is crafted with a slow-cooked pastrami, also made in-house. Other menu items have been handled with equal care.
Our table enjoyed the crisp calamari, served with a bright citrus-enhanced tomato sauce. The asparagus fries were good, as were the handcut potato chips, served with srirachi onion dip. My meatloaf was divine—so tender that the individual slice had to be wrapped with strips of bacon to keep it intact. Flavorful and juicy, it was perfectly prepared and went well with the tobacco onions and mashed potatoes accompanying it. On my next visit, the fish and chips will be on my 'to do' list, as will the Mac en Chevre, which combines a comfort classic with a goat cheese sauce and spice-rubbed chicken breast. Most of the desserts weren't available due to the minimized pre-opening menu, but the fresh housemade mini doughnuts with dipping sauces and the chocolate and bourbon pecan pie sound wonderful.
The Delaware will officially open sometime in the next few weeks and will be open for lunch and dinner seven days a week with Sunday brunch to follow. The decor is casual and denim-friendly, while the menu is quirky and fresh, without expecting too much from its guests.
3410 Delaware Avenue
Tonawanda, NY 14217
**It is important to note that the menu and chef at The Delaware have changed since this post was written in 2010.