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Room to fly The Eagle House patio is appealing, but dishes need work

No doubt about it. The Eagle House has one terrific-looking patio, way up on the list of appealing outdoor dining spaces in the area. And, especially now, in the midst of our search for the best outdoor eating, especially in the midst of what's turning out to be a great summer, it's a pretty impressive place.

There's an interesting contrast here. Attached to one of the oldest structures in the area -- the building was functioning as a tavern way back in 1832 -- is a tiered setup consisting of a covered deck as well as an umbrella-adorned patio.

It's secluded from busy Main Street, prettily adorned with flower pots and furnished in a very substantial way. By this I mean the tables and chairs are both sturdy and good looking -- no cheap plastic knockoffs -- and the floor beneath is paved and steady. Perfect for a wheelchair, but hard to reach, unfortunately. The setup is at the top of a tall staircase that starts in the back parking lot or reached by a circuitous route through the restaurant itself. (Enter by the front door.)

The menu is just plain huge here, so there is plenty to choose from: seafood, meat and chicken. Of our two appetizers, we felt that the Coconut Fried Shrimp ($10.95) was the better. Although the four large crustaceans were heavily breaded and pretty dark in color, apricot sauce added a brighter note.

Chef Tom's Artichokes Gratinee ($8.95) were pan-fried with egg and cheese breading -- at least according to the menu. Again, the coating was very thick. And the artichokes? Let's put it this way: Breading is supposed to enhance food flavors, not mask them. Accompanying Lemon and Herb Garlic Butter Sauce fought the good fight, too. And lost.

Salads, scattered mixes of lettuce, looked tired. The crumbled blue cheese atop the balsamic dressing -- even though it cost us 90 cents extra per salad -- was a case of too little, too late.

Chicken Pot Pie ($16.95) is a house specialty. It's an attractively served entree -- vegetables and chunks of chicken in a medium white sauce topped with puff pastry.

But our Chesapeake Bay Crab Cakes did not look half as nice. Didn't taste as nice, either. Dark brown and dry on the surface, the patties just didn't beckon. The interiors were moist but very mild. In contrast, the accompanying fries looked as if they and the fat they cooked in had only briefly met.

In retrospect, this may be a better choice at midday. The setting is delightful, and a large number of sandwiches and salads are offered. There's an Eagle Burger, a Rachel, a Reuben, a Gorgonzola Steak sandwich ($11.95) and even a Buffalonian Sampler (beef on weck and three chicken wings for $8.95).

e-mail: jokun@buffnews.com

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EAGLE HOUSE

1 1/2 stars (Out of 4)

WHERE: 5578 Main St., Williamsville (632-7669). A large menu and one of the most impressive patios in the area. Credit Cards: American Express, Master Card, Visa.

FAVORITE DISH: Food is mediocre.

NEEDS WORK: Crab Cakes

PRICE RANGE: Dinner entrees from $16 include salad and vegetable. Early Bird Specials, $12.95, 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 12 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

SERVICE: Very good.

HOURS: Lunch and dinner seven days. Until 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; until 9 p.m. Sunday.

WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Difficult. (One step to the ramp at the front entrance.)

PARKING: On the street or in the lot behind.

RATINGS: Stars reflect the overall dining experience at the time of The News' visit -- including service, ambience, innovation and cost -- with greatest weight given to quality of the food.

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