WELL-PREPARED home-style food -- stick-to-the-ribs, fresh ingredients, gentle spicing. What more can you ask for? You can't beat this combination for culinary satisfaction. And it's precisely the kind of food that takes center stage at the Brick Alley Bistro on Delaware Avenue near Gates Circle. It's a comfortable place with an open kitchen and a minimum of decoration. Cozy.
And there's something for every degree of hunger here.
You can, if you wish, order solely from the appetizer section and come away satisfied. The Companion, on a recent visit, ordered Pan Fried Crab Cakes ($8) and it was enough for a meal.
The light-textured, mild-flavored, good-size cakes were presented on a nest of julienne vegetables with mustard sauce. The fresh Italian bread was a fine accompaniment to the dish.
I ordered a bowl of Mushroom Barley Soup, which turned out to be just full of goodies. Lots of mushrooms, barley and carrots added good texture to the broth. It could have been warmer, I suppose -- I like to see steam rising. But it was good soup.
And the Caesar Salad that came after the soup was even better. Fresh dark romaine, each leaf coated with rich garlicky dressing, plenty of anchovies -- this may be one of the best Caesars in town.
The House Salad, too, is worthy, and you are given a choice with your dinner. Salads are served on nicely chilled plates.
Osso Buco -- veal shanks cooked until the meat just sl-i-i-ps from the bone -- is one of my favorite entrees and not often found in this neck of the woods, but it is on the menu here for $16. The meat was so tender, you could cut it with a fork.
Lots of marrow in those bones, too -- does anyone make marrow spoons anymore? -- and lots of crisply cooked herbs and gentle sauce.
An evening special, Sea Scallops over Angel Hair Pasta, was the Companion's choice and very tasty. Portions here are more than generous and we ended up taking doggie bags.
And after draining our glasses of Beaujolais Nouveau (Beringer, interestingly -- and you thought the French Georges DeBoeuf had the field all to himself), I blush to tell you we shared an order of pretty good Coconut Chocolate Pie.
What else could we have ordered for a main dish? Well, if we were in a pizza mood, we could have opted for Grilled Shrimp, Leek and Feta Cheese pie ($9). And if we were in a sandwich mood we could have gone for Grilled Beef Tenderloin, Roasted Peppers and Provolone.
There is an interesting-sounding Sesame Chicken Salad with a Pine Nut Vinaigrette.
Baked Chicken Breast with Artichoke Stuffing and Saffron Sauce ($14) sounds like a good entree; so does Grilled Norwegian Salmon with Bacon and Balsamic Vinegar Sauce ($18). Or grilled Lamb Chops with "homemade" Mint Jelly ($20.)
Good winter food -- nice place.
Biac's World Bistro **** * (Nov. 27)
Biac's World Bistro, 581 Delaware Ave. (884-6595.) Much Mediterranean food here, with the emphasis on Italian. Old house, sleekly decorated, broad menu.
Allen House ** * (Nov. 20)
Allen House, 16 Allen St. (881-0586). Under new ownership, this attractively redecorated Victorian house offers a broad menu of popular favorites.
Cafe Jordan **** * (Nov. 13)
Cafe Jordan, 166 Franklin St. (854-1955). Creative food served in sophisticated surroundings. Open for lunch Monday through Friday. Pix fixe dinner is served Friday evenings only.
Jerry's Seafood Restaurant **** * (Nov. 6)
Jerry's Seafood Restaurant, 1224 Hertel Ave. (876-4138). Upscale seafood house that has changed ownership and chefs. But it still offers innovative, well-prepared meals.
Hooligans ** (Oct. 30)
Hooligans, 5185 Transit Road, Williamsville (633-6683). Neighborhood tavern with a very large menu that stretches from wings to complete dinners. Charbroiled meats a specialty.
Grille 91 (October 23)
Grille 91, 91 Niagara St. (856-8373). Situated in an old house on Niagara Square, the restaurant is comfortable and offers a very creative menu.
Spina's Red Carpet (Oct. 16)
Spina's Red Carpet, 5507 Main St., Williamsville (634-1968). Creative cuisine with contemporary touches. An especially strong appetizer selection here.
Pierce's 1894 (Oct. 9)
Pierce's 1894, 228 Oakwood Ave., Elmira Heights (607-734-2022). National guides give this restaurant the highest rating of any restaurant in the state outside Manhattan. It is large and comfortable, with good service and better-than-average food.
* Restaurant is so new that this is a provisional rating.
** Based on Early Bird menu.
BRICK ALLEY BISTRO
1375 Delaware Ave. (881-1151). Everything a bistro should be. Comfortable restaurant near Gates Circle offers fresh food cooked in hearty style. Everything from full-course dinners to interesting pastas, pizzas and sandwiches. All major credit cards.
BEST DISH: Caesar Salad.
NEEDS WORK: Food generally of good quality.
PRICE RANGE: Dinners from about $15 include salad and vegetables. Pizza from $6. Sandwiches from $5.
SERVICE: Casual and friendly.
HOURS: Dinner only, Mon. through Sat. Until midnight weeknights, 1 a.m. weekends.
HEALTH CONSCIOUS CHOICES: Many. Including Paella; Grilled Yellow Fin Tuna, Piperade Sauce; Spinach Fettucine, Artichokes and Julienne Vegetables with Tomato Basil Sauce.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes.
PARKING: On the street.
KEY: *FAIR, **GOOD, ***VERY GOOD, ****EXCELLENT, *****EXTRAORDINARY. Stars are awarded for the quality of the food only.