The new Park Avenue Grille in Hamburg takes time-tested food ideas and, well, tweaks them a little. That's what makes the menu so interesting.
Just about every restaurant in town offers ravioli, but the Grille stuffs the pasta with portobello mushrooms and serves it with fresh basil in a tomato vodka cream sauce ($10). Plenty of restaurants offer shrimp salad but how many team the shrimp with green beans, tomatoes, onions and crumbled blue cheese ($11)?
The restaurant serves up that old beans and greens standby differently, too, by teaming it up with pancetta (Italian non-smoked bacon) and a white wine garlic sauce ($11). And it also offers the Lasagna of the Week, in our case a Southwestern lasagna with chiles and the other usual suspects (and I'll be the first to admit I wasn't too crazy about that particular idea). But all this makes eating in this newly opened eating place a lot of fun.
Talk about fun! We began our meal with Crab and Artichoke Three Cheese Fondue ($8). It was served in a good-looking steel fondue dish over a burner, along with forks for dipping, bread cubes and vegetables. The fondue had a tangy flavor and we loved it. A lot more intriguing, we thought, than the usual melted cheese stuff. My only quibble was that I wished the veggies had been served raw rather than lightly steamed.
A Classic French Three Onion Soup Gratinee ($3) was more conventional. Although it would hardly cause diners to drop their spoons in amazement, it was pleasant enough.
I really enjoyed my main course. One big Lamb Shank ($13), perfectly braised, was tender and juicy. It was carefully seasoned with fresh herbs as well, a hint of garlic, a little rosemary, rested on orzo pasta with carrots on the side. Just about a perfect example of the genre, I'd say.
And the Companion's Meatloaf ($10) was no slouch, either. It was served generously with little roasted red potatoes and brown gravy. How wholesome can you get?
Well, if wholesomeness is what you're looking for, you could try the restaurant's Roasted Half Chicken with fresh sage stuffing for $11. Or that same chicken with white beans, greens, sundried tomatoes over penne with olive oil and roasted garlic for $12. And, yes you can get a steak here. The Certified Angus strip can be ordered with potato, creamed spinach, frizzled red onions and Gorgonzola and cabernet sauce if you want it to be ($17). Or, much more boringly, with a twice-baked potato and vegetable (same price).
You may also order a pizza with spinach and calamata olives, or grilled eggplant and caramelized onions, or andouille sausage with cheddar cheese or fresh mozzarella and tomatoes if you prefer.
The restaurant - attractively decorated in a restful, subdued fashion - is located on Clark Street at the corner of McKinley Parkway. The wine list offers many selections.
PARK AVENUE GRILLE *** *
WHERE: 4572 Clark St., Hamburg (649-2900). An attractive new restaurant with a broad menu of standard favorites, many with unusual touches. There's also an extensive selection of wine by the glass. Credit cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa
FAVORITE DISH: Lamb Shank
NEEDS WORK: Most food is of good quality
PRICE RANGE: Entrees with vegetable from $11; Focaccia (Pizza) $8; Pastas from $10
SERVICE: Very good
HOURS: Dinner only, Tuesday through Thursday until 10, Friday and Saturday until 11, Sunday until 9
HEALTHY CHOICES: Roasted Half Chicken, Grilled Jumbo Scallops, Shrimp/Green Bean Salad
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: No
PARKING: In the lot
KID APPEAL: Older children will like