Tonawanda News

March 18, 2014

At The Shack, size matters not

The Shack on Delaware aims to pack healthy dining options into small space

By Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Rick Tartick believes that good things can come in small packages. So can healthy things — and tasty things.

And sometimes, it’s all the same package.

Tartick, a resident of the City of Tonawanda, is the owner of the Shack on Delaware, which opened in November in a tiny former storefront at 3753 Delaware Ave. in the Town of Tonawanda, near Sweet Beginnings Bakery and Ken-Ton Presbyterian Village. His aim with the small, mostly take-out restaurant is simple: To provide quick, healthy food options that aren’t the usual fast-food fare.

“The whole point of the Shack is good food, fast. Quality food with healthy options,” he said, adding that, as a busy single father, he’d resorted to stops at chain fast-food restaurants many times over the years. “I’ve been forced many times to get out fast food and never felt good about it. I think there’s a lot of people like myself.”

He brings 33 years experience in local restaurants to the endeavor, although not all of them in the kitchen. For 21 years, he worked at Buffalo’s famous Rue Franklin as a server, maitre d’ and manager, as well as years at Park Country Club and other local restaurants. For three recent summers, he owned and operated the Shack on the Island on North Tonawanda’s Tonawanda Island, but the short summer seasons eventually put an end to that.

Looking for a location for a new incarnation of the Shack, Tartick found the small building on Delaware Avenue, liked the location, completely refurbished it with the assistance of his sons, Christopher, 14, and Ricky, 15, and opened for business Nov. 12.

“Right in the middle of three holidays, two blizzards and a lot of 0-degree temperatures ... but it’s been a great way to get organized,” he said.

Inside the 18-by-19-foot space, every inch is maximized. The paint job is in reds and greens, artwork hangs on the walls and a small counter with a cluster of stools waits for patrons. He said he’s building a clientele of regulars, and hopes for more once more temperate weather arrives. A small seating area is also planned for outside.

The menu includes the WNY-favorite Sahlens hot dogs and beef on weck, sandwiches, tacos, a Greek plate featuring grape leaves and hummus, salads, desserts and snack foods such as nachos and hot pretzels — but also surprises such as the melon-and-prosciutto appetizer, shrimp cocktail, Shack shrimp (with curry and pineapple) and smoked salmon. Each day, there are also specials that are posted on the business’ Facebook page.

“The smoked salmon is a big hit,” Tartick said. “You do have some fine dining options in such a little place.”

Deedee Lippes, who was Tartick’s boss for years at Rue Franklin, has ordered from his newest venture and said that he’s offering “a decent product at a very fair price.”

“He’s very hard-working and he has a very lovely, lovely, lovely personality,” she said, “so those two factors alone should guarantee him success.”

After a 12-day vacation closure in mid-April (reopening April 24), Tartick plans a grand-opening event for the business.

And sometime down the road, he’d like to open more incarnations of the Shack with the same diminutive profile and food philosophy.

“I’ve done a lot of different things, but they’ve all been in the restaurant business,” he said. “I think this is something that’s needed.”