‘White Buffalo’ Bar and Restaurant in Downtown New Canaan an Early Hit

White Buffalo, a bar and restaurant that three town men opened last month down “the alley” at the top of Elm Street, is developing a strong following among locals during its early-going. Approved by the Planning & Zoning Commission last fall for its new restaurant use of a commercial space that had been used in the past for retail and music lessons, White Buffalo includes a 13-stool bar and rows of two-person tables that bring the total seating to about 40 people. 

With a straightforward American sports bar-type decor that includes a prominent white buffalo head and large painted American flag that substitutes white buffalo heads for stars, the eatery’s menu includes traditional pub fare such as nachos, chicken nuggets, wings, hot pretzel and pizza, and is built mainly around hot dogs. “We source our weiners from a Hungarian butcher in Fairfield who started in the business in the 1950s,” said Dave Tonkovich, a 1993 graduate of New Canaan High School who opened ‘White Buff’ with classmate Dom Valente and Doug Harris. “We pick up fresh hot dogs from him every few days.”

Hot dog options include “Dog Day Afternoon” (jalapeños, bacon, cheese sauce and Cholula sauce) and “The Poochie” (guacamole, salsa, crema, bacon). Tonkovich added: “Also a side note, we don’t call it a ‘menu’—we call it ‘legislative requirements.’ ”

“We’re interested in adding a few custom hot dogs to our offering,” he said.

Owners: ’White Buffalo’ Restaurant and Bar To Open Next Week on Elm Street

The New Canaan owners of a hot dog-themed restaurant downtown say they’re gearing up for official opening next week. 

With final town approvals, White Buffalo, to be located down the “alley” at the top of Elm Street, will open March 15 following a soft-launch, according to Dom Valente, who co-owns the new business with New Canaanites Doug Harris and Dave Tonkovich. “We are excited about it,” Valente told NewCanaanite.com. “We have people coming in all the time, popping their heads in and they’re psyched about the whole atmosphere of it.”

Asked about menu and beer items planned for White Buffalo, Harris said that in addition to fresh-made, low-fat hot dogs from an area butcher, the eatery will offer a short list of sandwiches and bar snacks such as wings, quesadillas, chili and hot German pretzels. “We don’t want to do too many things, we want to do a small number of things well,” Harris said. White Buffalo additionally will offer eight beers on tap, including Coors Light, Stella Artois and six microbrews that are local to New England, he said.

P&Z Approves ‘White Buffalo’ Hot-Dog-and-Brats Restaurant and Bar for Downtown New Canaan

Despite some concerns regarding outdoor lighting, members of the Planning & Zoning Commission on Tuesday night voted unanimously to allow a hot dog-themed restaurant to open in a commercial space in downtown New Canaan. To be located down the “alley” at the top of Elm Street—formerly occupied by New Canaan Music (now on Main Street), near the former Chef Luis restaurant—the new establishment, “White Buffalo,” will include a 13-stool bar and rows of two-person tables that bring the total seating to about 35 to 40 people, according to New Canaan resident Dave Tonkovich, one of three local men who is launching the business. A 1993 New Canaan High School graduate along with business partner Dom Valente—town resident Doug Harris is also an owner—Tonkovich described White Buffalo as a “place where New Canaan as a community can gather and support each other, whether that is having our teams over after a game, hosting a fundraiser for the lacrosse or hockey team, or honoring our local Police Department or Fire Department.”

“We feel like this is something the town needs,” Tonkovich said during a public hearing at Town Hall. “You might say it is built by New Canaan, for New Canaan.”

Tonkovich reviewed some national hot dog consumption data and said that White Buffalo is designed to “fit the bill” for locals meeting after a game or with a friend or client “or when you are coming off the train.”

“Our goal is not to be all things to all people,” he said. Under the New Canaan Zoning Regulations, restaurants are permitted in the Retail A zone with site plan approval. After some discussion, P&Z approved White Buffalo’s site plan 7-0.