Often, especially during a renaissance such as we have been experiencing lately in Buffalo, attention tends to focus on the next big thing. “We are doing great, give us more of that. What is the next thing that will put us back on the map?” Major downtown investments, high marks on ‘List-Of’ articles, the next big, high profile restaurant.
That is all fine and good; this city needs a healthy dose of this to keep the momentum going. But it’s also important to remember who we are and what it is to be from Buffalo. Not a recent transplant from downstate (welcome to all of you by the way), but born and bred here. I watched the Bills come so close FOUR times in a row here, and remember a time when our trendy downtown nightlife was a red light district.
I know this doesn’t sound like a restaurant review so far, but please bear with me - it’ll all come together shortly. What I mean to say is, that with everything that is going on and the city being reborn, it’s important to remember our collective roots as a steel town, a hard working town, a no nonsense town. For every Patina 250 that opens to so much fanfare and media coverage, there are places opening around town that remind us of our heritage. Places that operate with a casual grace. Places where third shifters from the GM plant can grab a much-needed breakfast after a long night. Places where neighborhood locals can walk to for an easy pint or meet up with some friends. Places like the Hotel Dalmatia.
Those of you who have been fortunate enough to meet Martin Galindo know that he is a joyous man with an infectious enthusiasm for everything he does. He was behind the bar at the Blue Monk and Mr. Goodbar in years past, ready to meet you with a big smile and an outstretched hand. So, when word got out that Marty had hung out his own shingle in Riverside as the new Owner/Operator of Hotel Dalmatia, I’m sure I wasn’t the only person in town who knew that something brilliant was about to happen. The Hotel Dalmatia is seizing a tremendous opportunity to show us something simultaneously new and old, novel and traditional: the neighborhood corner pub re-imagined with a modern focus on quality food and craft beer.
If you could drive past Hotel Dalmatia without noticing it. You might think that it’s just another of a hundred local spots with the same six or seven guys hanging out at the bar every night, like Tim Horton’s in the morning, but for beer drinkers. In fact, that interior décor of the place gives that very feel, with its drop tile ceiling and wood paneled walls. The difference, however, is palpable once you walk through the door.
As you know from the name of this site, it’s all about the vibe, and the vibe is more than the paint job or the sign out front. There’s excitement and energy in the place. Marty is performing an amazing high wire act, being that corner pub where the neighborhood can feel comfortable AND being the hip new spot that attracts a younger crowd looking for some innovation and electricity. In just one night at the Dalmatia I ran into a Riverside buddy who has lived most of his life two blocks down the street, a couple from Williamsville who heard such good things they just had to come check out the place (and were very pleased with what they found), and the owner of a trendy Elmwood Village establishment that knew Galilndo’s reputation and wanted to see what was cooking in Riverside.
So how is Hotel Dalmatia accomplishing this? Well the secret lies in the offerings. At the bar you will find a great selection of craft beers… at reasonable prices (I know!) Bottled beers tend to land at about $3-5 bucks. “Well, yeah, I can go anywhere in Buffalo and get a Blue Light for $3 bucks.” Yes, but you probably won’t get a Brooklyn Oktoberfest or Southern Tier Pumking for under $7 to $8; here you can. Marty has made a conscious decision to keep the quality up and the prices down. That seems like a no brainer in business, but at Hotel Dalmatia it’s clear and intentional. Pass the savings on to the customer, so they are happy and want to come back. The same goes for the food menu (getting to that shortly), where words like ‘lime aioli’ and ‘hand-made’ don’t automatically equal half your paycheck.
So let’s talk about the food... On my most recent visit I tried the ‘Chorizo Burger’, which delivers on its name and does not disappoint. It consists of a sizable grilled chorizo patty, seasoned subtly but beautifully, and topped with white cheese, the aforementioned lemon aioli and lettuce, served with hand-cut french fries. At the recommendation of the house, one of my dining companions had the Sweet BBQ Chicken Sandwich, another well-portioned grilled chicken cutlet topped with cheese, BBQ sauce, and a fried onion ring. The description just doesn’t do it justice; the whole is far far greater than the sum of its parts in the case of both of these dishes. Another friend ordered the Friday Fish Fry ($10.50) and it hit all the right notes. Buffalo knows a good fish fry, it’s hearty, golden brown, with fries and slaw, every time. Hotel Dalmatia delivers you that and again, probably $3 bucks cheaper than competitors without sacrificing any quality.
Lastly, everybody knows that in Buffalo you have to do wings well or just don’t bother. You know it, I know it, Martin Galindo knows it. The Hotel Dalmatia came roaring out of nowhere last week to break into my Top 5 Favorite Places for Wings List! The Dalmatia Boom Sauce, obviously an in-house concoction, is surprising and fascinating in the best possible ways. Mind you, these are not "Buffalo" wings, as they do not involve a hot sauce/butter coating. Boom Sauce, while baffling in its composition, manages to accomplish something I have not encountered before… an ‘umami’ wing sauce! Umami, the elusive fifth taste category, occurs when there is a perfect balance of salty, sweet, sour, and bitter, that creates a unique taste on the palate, again greater than the sum of it’s parts. The standard Buffalo-style wings are brilliant at Dalmatia as well, but for those of you looking for something original, the Boom Sauce wings will take you to a whole different place on your wing journey (Pro Tip: Ask for the wings ‘crispy’ with the Boom Sauce).
Hotel Dalmatia has a bright future. Marty and his team are doing a fantastic job behind the bar and in the kitchen. You can stop by any time of day and get that Cheers-style nostalgia. A place where you are treated like a long-beloved local, even when only visiting town for the weekend. Grab a great beer and some delicious food, without denting your wallet, and maybe make some new friends.
Who: Hotel Dalmatia
What: American Bar and Grill
Where: 1187 Tonawanda Street Buffalo, NY 14207