Tonawanda News

June 30, 2013

Richert's newest eatery adds fuel to BBQ

By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — KENMORE — Nickel City Chef JJ Richert is at it again with a new local restaurant — but this time, he’s cooking out of a car. 

The Garage Deli on Kenmore Avenue is the third joint venture between Richert and his brother, Kevin. The pair runs the deli’s fine dining neighbor, Torches, and Tonawanda’s barbecue joint, Smoke on the Water.

But The Garage Deli has an eyepiece the others don’t — a barbecuer in a 1962 Chevy Corvair. 

“I bought it from a junkyard,” Richert, who was trained at The Culinary Institute of America, said. “And then I came across a guy at Denler Stainless in Buffalo who has built a lot of barbecues, and I came to him with my idea.”

Three months later, the project was done, and the deli, which opened Thursday, now has its crown jewel. The meat is cooked in the charcoal smoker engine and the trailer is also equipped with flat top griddles. 

“The smoke is produced from underneath and comes up through,” Richert said while showing off the former engine’s smoker. “I always wanted a barbecue trailer, and I was able to do it on a hot rod.”

Richert is hoping to make The Garage Deli a popular lunch destination, and he said he’s focusing on keeping the food simple —sandwiches, salads, soup and sides. 

“I’m just making sandwiches the way I like to eat them,” he said. 

The options include a hand carved smoked turkey BLT with applewood bacon mayonnaise and red onion jam, the turducken — a turkey, chicken and duck sandwich — as well as the classic pit ham and cheese.

“We’re just doing simple stuff in the best way,” Cyndi, Richert’s wife, said. “We don’t cut corners, and it’s all family oriented.” 

The salads and sides are all family recipes, and are named after Richert’s loved ones, including Grandma Rosemary, whose salad features diced spinach and warm applewood bacon, and Cyndi’s popular pasta salad is also up for grabs. 

Cyndi, who is managing the deli and is a pastry chef at Torches next door, is also crafting up delicious desserts for the new spot, including a banana cake with cream cheese frosting and a layered fudge brownie.

The deli is now open from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, but Richert said he will eventually open up a patio behind the restaurant for nighttime eating and private parties. 

“I’m hoping to make it very laid back,” he said. “The kind of place where you come, have some micro beers, and we’ll offer a more limited menu with wine and cheese specials.”

He’s also got more plans in the works for that 1962 barbecuer, which will be available for private parties, too. 

“How awesome will that be, to see that roll up to your backyard?” Richert said. 

He will also use the trailer to cook Sunday brunch, with menu items that have their own flair. There’s K-Rock’s Homeboys, potatoes that were “formerly available only to friends and family,” and The College Kid, which features polish sausage, sauerkraut, Wheaties and a Blue Moon side car “to pour on your cereal, stupid.” 

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000 ext. 4150, or follow her on Twitter @JessicaLBagley.