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Daniel’s Restaurant reopens with new ownership, traditional themes remain

BACK AT IT — Returning to work as Daniel’s Restaurant servers are, from left: Mark Bonney, John Andolina, Kim Catalano-Pike and Richelle Dube. Photo courtesy of Daniel’s Restaurant.
HAMBURG — Avid consumers, near and far, of a dining staple of the Southtowns will soon be able to return to Daniel’s Restaurant, which will reopen on Friday, Dec. 7 under new management at its longtime site, 174 Buffalo St. in the village of Hamburg.

Nearly three months after the restaurant closed – following 23 years of service under former owner Daniel Johengen – Daniel’s will reopen its doors under the local, tri-partnership of longtime area restaurant owner Henry Matuszewski, insurance agent and entrepreneur Annette Winder and Chef Scott Donhauser.

The trio has stressed that Daniel’s traditional dishes and favorites will remain on the menu, with a few additions. The interior and decor of the dining layout have also received a few tweaks. The grand opening of the restaurant – which had closed on Sept. 14 – has seen the first night’s reservations already booked and the second night’s slate nearly filled.

On Saturday afternoon, Daniel’s office telephone was ringing off the hook from customers’ seeking reservations and inquiring about the restaurant’s reopening.

“It’s so exciting to be getting great feedback like this,” remarked Winder, a resident of Eden who, along with Matuszewski and Donhauser, said he came to love and appreciate Daniel’s food and service, many years ago. He said that the restaurant’s former serving staff – Kim Catalano-Pike, Richelle Dube, John Andolina and Mark Bonney – are returning to their positions at Daniel’s. Donhauser will serve as the head chef, while Stephanie Viles is the sous chef.

A conversation held a few months ago between Matuszewski, Winder and Donhauser, during a gathering in Toronto, led to the trio’s stated realization about how much Daniel’s meant to the local community, and that reopening the restaurant was a must.

“We just said, ‘We can’t let this restaurant be closed,’” Matuszewski explained. “I had retired in 2004 [after selling the former Daffodils Restaurant in Amherst] and said that I’d never [own and operate a restaurant] again, but I knew how important this restaurant is to the people in this area. It’s got quite the reputation.”

Matuszewski moved to Eden eight years ago and became friends with Johengen, upon dining at Daniel’s. In 2004, he sold Daffodils to a group of investors who subsequently bankrupted the restaurant, which closed its doors in 2006.

A New Year’s Eve food and wine pairing is already scheduled for 7 p.m., with approximately seven courses and a “chef’s creation.” In addition to a wide array of meal and dessert options, a new Sommelier wine list is available to patrons, described as featuring well-balanced options. The restaurant also provides tableside French press coffee. The dining room’s interior now includes new carpeting and plush seating, to go along with the restaurant’s refinished bathrooms.

Winder owns Allstate Insurance on Camp Road and also serves as the co-owner of Interstate Battery. Matuszewski was one of the original owners of Daffodils, where he served as proprietor for 30 years. That restaurant had been frequented by area athletes, politicians and other community members and served as a destination for both national and international tourists.

Daffodils’ rack of lamb dish concept is being brought to Daniel’s; Matuszewski described this entree as being mouth-watering in taste and representing a great new addition to the Daniel’s menu. He added that he was amazed at how far people were willing to travel, to try Daffodils’ lamb.

The duck, lobster and veal dishes are longtime Daniel’s entrees, while traditional Daniel’s appetizers include escargot and scallops, all of which will remain on the menu. Foie gras ravioli and steak tartar are new additions. Winder added that a chicken dish with dried tomatoes should be a hit among customers. Angel hair pasta and vanilla butter sauce are other menu items.

Some of the dessert delicacies include chocolate timbale with ganache and ice cream, white and dark chocolate mousse over raspberry sauce and almond cookies with vanilla ice cream over raspberry sauce. A farm-to-table approach is largely being utilized by the cooks, who will purchase vegetables locally. Additionally, all pastas and breads are homemade and every dish is made to order.

Donhauser served as the head chef at Daffodils for several years and was most recently at Butterwood Sweet & Savory. A graduate of the Tampa Culinary Institute, he first became a head chef at age 24 and was later recognized by the duchess of York, among 30 national chefs.

He said that Johengen has been helpful in offering various tips and advice in moving forward at Daniel’s. “[Johengen] has been more than gracious, and we’re mindful that he’s a chef,” said Donhauser, a former soccer player. “We’ve got our own profile going. It’s a challenge, but I like a challenge.”

Catalano-Pike said that the servers have rapport with approximately 90 percent of clients/customers, adding, “Richelle [Dube] knows everyone’s favorite cocktail.” Dube is the longest-tenured server, with nearly 16 years’ experience at Daniel’s, followed by Catalano-Pike and Bonney with about eight years each, and Andolina, with roughly seven years.

Business/smart-casual attire is requested at the restaurant, but Winder stressed the inclusive, appreciative approach that management has for customers. The team said that maintaining the standard built by the nearly quarter-century of service – Daniel’s was ranked in the top 10 of WNY restaurants in each year of its existence – is important.

“It’s not like you’re coming to the restaurant just to dine with us,” Catalano-Pike said. “You’re spending time with us. We know your cocktail and your wine. We’re your personal sever. We appreciate our regulars, as well as those who are trying [Daniel’s] for the first time. You can come in after work and have drinks, or order your favorite dinner.”

Winder added, “It’s a uniquely personal experience. There’s a new ambience inside. It’s the same dining experience and it won’t miss a beat.”

Daniel’s is fully accessible and provides on-site parking. The management said that the restaurant may take late-night reservations.

For more information, call 648-6554. The restaurant’s regular dining hours are 4 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday – Saturday. Sundays and Mondays are now available for those interested in booking private parties and events.

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