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From hot sauce entrepreneur to hot sauce restaurateur in Buffalo

Well, we know the name is a hoot. Now, it will be up to Buffalo restaurant-goers to decide if what it offers is something they want to support in a bricks-and-mortar venue.

The official hot sauce logo.

Hot Mama's Canteen, a kitchen and bar, opened its doors on Saturday in the Black Rock neighborhood on the city's West Side, taking advantage of the crowds gathered there for the annual Discover Amherst Street Festival. The venue is serving food and drinks featuring its signature HeadStone Heat hot sauces, something the owners have been making and selling for four years as itinerant vendors before turning restaurateurs.

Hot Mama's is co-owned by well-known Allentown neighborhood bartender Valeri Meli and Glen Plato. Jeff Davis heads the culinary team. Meli in particular has proselytized their hot sauce creations at local markets, charity events and the like.

"We are a kitchen and bar featuring menu items ranging from classic pub food to some Buffalo and American favorites all with a HeadStone Heat twist," Meli says.

Meli said she began dabbling with her hot sauces in 2003 when her Allentown landlord tilled a piece of backyard so she could try plantings a variety pf vegetables that included two habañero pepper plants. "Well," she says, "the yield was fantastic; I didn’t know what to do with them all. My friends were willing to take everything I had grown save my two gorgeous habañero plants. One day, while food shopping, I realized I was out of hot sauce. ... It hits me. I can do better with all my fresh new ingredients straight from my garden. I utilized the food strainer, a tool I grew up using while making the freshest tomato sauce ever, and I created my first hot sauce: Mexican Aftershock."

And that eventually led to the current portfolio of hot sauces that includes her Mexican Aftershock, tequila lime and sweet mango orange as well as hotter versions of each. They come in five-fluid ounce containers for $7.49. Each is available for purchase online.

Hot Mama's Canteen will serve a limited menu until mid-July, then begin offering a full menu of home-style comfort food. The kitchen will be open 5 to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, to midnight Fridays and Saturdays, and from noon to 10 p.m. Sundays. A frequent live music schedule is planned. The address is 12 Military Road. Phone: ((716) 783-8222.

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