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Cheap eats

We have breakfast once in a while at the Sheridan Family Restaurant, a low brick building tucked so far back from Sheridan near Harlem that it's easy to miss. And every time we eat there, I wonder about the dinner specials posted on the board -- lamb shank for $9.95, roast turkey for $8.50, spaghetti for $5.75. Good prices -- but were they good meals?

A few booths were occupied on the Saturday evening John and I met Ruth and Dan for dinner, and we eyed what other people were having when we walked by. The spaghetti looked good -- or was that the veal or chicken parm ($8.25)?

Our appetites whetted, we ordered. John's meatloaf dinner ($7.95) and my pot roast ($9.95) came with soup or salad. I chose the Greek avgolemeno, which is a chicken-rice soup enriched with lemon and egg, and found that it was so thick that the spoon stood up in it. The flavors, most of all the lemon, were subtle. It made a nice starter on a cold night.

John's salad was a satisfactory bagged iceberg mix. Ruth's small Greek salad ($3.95) featured onions, green peppers, carrots and a large pepperoncini, though as she went along, she picked out several tough ends of the lettuce leaves.

My pot roast was the best dish served. The plentiful beef was sliced about a quarter-inch thick and was still so tender that a large piece picked up by fork fell off in chunks. The mashed potatoes on the side were fine; the corn tasted as though it had been heating for a while. John's meatloaf, which had the same side dishes, was also plentiful and tasty, though he found it a bit bland. "This is very average meatloaf," he said.

Blandness was also a problem for Dan's footlong hot dog with meat sauce ($5.05, with curly fries). The footlong was actually two shorter dogs, and in the land of Sahlens and Wardy's, these seemed to be generics. The sauce was neither very meaty nor spicy -- perhaps toned down for a family restaurant clientele. His curly fries were delicious -- as good as you'd get anywhere.

Ruth tried the BLT, and at first I thought the thickness of the sandwich was simply an enthusiastically applied layer of lettuce, but no. "There's a ton of bacon on here," she said. "In fact, there's more bacon on here than we put on BLTs at home!" And it was perfectly cooked, too.

We shouldn't have, but we had to sample the rice pudding. It was more ricey than custardy, which was nice; it was studded with raisins and tasted of cinnamon. A big pile of whipped cream on top was nice, but it would have been better warmed.

-- Anne Neville

Sheridan Family Restaurant

3901 Sheridan Drive, Amherst

839-3011

Review: 2 1/2 pennies (Out of 4)

"Some great choices."

The Sheridan Family Restaurant opens at 6 a.m. daily. It closes at 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and at 11 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. It is handicapped-accessible.

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