Chef Tano Williams recently carved out a slice of Hamilton’s restaurant market and is already hungry for more.
Williams, who opened the first location of Tano Bistro in Loveland in 2009 before opening its Hamilton counterpart last month, said he is experimenting with the idea of opening more restaurant concepts in the city ahead of the planned 2021 debut of $144 million indoor sports complex Spooky Nook at Champion Mill.
“We’re working on identifying areas of opportunity in order to respond to the dining needs that Spooky Nook is going to generate,” he told this news outlet.
Williams said he was sold on Hamilton’s vision three years ago before Spooky Nook became a done deal as revitalization efforts resuscitated the city’s once-decaying downtown.
Also holding great appeal to Williams was locating the restaurant at The Marcum, a newly constructed mixed-use project that features high-end apartments and first-floor retail. The Casual Pint and Revive Salon already are its neighbors with two more storefronts set to be filled by Bones Brothers Wings and a yet-to-be-named tenant.
But the planned opening of Spooky Nook Sports’ second location was the main impetus for expanding Tano Bistro to 150 Riverfront Plaza in Hamilton. Spooky Nook, he said, is “an economic nuclear explosion that’s going to happen.”
“I feel like what that brings to the table is incredible, especially after going to Pennsylvania with the (Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce) to see it for myself,” Williams said. “I was seriously just blown away by what’s coming.”
He envisions a point where Tano Bistro and the other restaurants dotting Hamilton’s dining landscape downtown won’t be enough to meet the increased demand generated by Spooky Nook.
“There’s just not enough options,” he said. “There’s plenty of fast food all around us, but these traveling teens and their families don’t necessarily want to eat that. They’d prefer to have a better alternative.”
The journey to open Tano Bistro in Hamilton started years ago as Williams noticed Hamilton’s revitalization efforts as he passed through the city each January on his way to Hueston Woods State Park for a couple of days of rest and relaxation.
“Every time I drove through there, something was tugging at me because I felt this is really such a cool, old town with a lot of architectural building and that kind of thing, (but) it’s a shame nothing’s going on,” he said. “I really felt that … it would be a great little area to open up in.”
Still, opening the new Hamilton restaurant wasn’t always an easy decision. In May 2017, a fire damaged the Loveland location, giving Williams two options: Skip a rebuild and instead just ink the deal for the Hamilton location or work for months to repair and remodel the Loveland restaurant before launching any Hamilton-based efforts.
Tano Bistro is open from 4 p.m. until 9 p.m. daily but with the option of staying open later if business warrants, Williams said. The restaurant will add weekend brunch from 9 to 3 p.m. Sept. 15 with Saturday/Sunday brunch to follow every weekend thereafter. Lunch will be added by the end of September.
The new restaurant adds an upscale casual dining option to Hamilton, something Williams said has been missing from the city.
Its eclectic seasonal menu includes, for the time being, everything from fish tacos, pulled pork and filet mignon to a water buffalo burger, shrimp & grits, stuffed salmon and eggplant linguine.
Mofongo, a Puerto Rican dish, includes crispy octopus with smoked pork belly, plantain, chicken bone broth and spicy Haitian cuisine condiment pikliz. Skuna Bay Stuffed Salmon features sweet crab, smoked bacon, brie, whipped potatoes, asparagus, lemon beurre blanc and chives.
“To my delight, I’m seeing an adventurous palate in Hamilton,” he said. “That just makes me feel even better about being there.”