We were, frankly, surprised at our recent dinner at the Gate House Grill. Agreeably surprised, that is. Subliminally, I guess I no longer expect very much from a restaurant in a strip plaza. (Well, OK -- it is right across Main Street from the Mercedes dealer, but still.)
My mistake. I hereby admit I jumped to conclusions. This is a pleasant, cozy-looking place with two dining rooms and a handsome, copper-topped bar that gets pretty busy at times. And the food can be imaginative and is carefully prepared. Also, there's plenty to eat.
Another plus: This is a neighborhood restaurant that actually has the courage to serve parsnips with the dinner entrees. Now what do you think of that?
Right off the bat, our first courses were delicious. Southwest Egg Rolls ($6.95) were filled with chicken, black beans, corn and cheese with just-spicy-enough salsa on the side.
And the special Squash Soup was perfectly suited to the crisp evening. It was thick but seasoned in a balanced fashion. No overwhelming spicing here. The harvest flavor of the vegetable actually came through.
The meatloaf dinner ($12.95) presented a little more of a problem. The meat was so covered with mashed potatoes, crisply fried onions and thick mushroom gravy that the Companion could barely find it. And when he did finally strike gold (or meat), it seemed to have been fractured into many pieces. The meatloaf was certainly tasty enough, but we would have appreciated less, well, stuff on the plate.
No complaints -- or even quibbles -- about the Chicken Rockefeller, however ($13.95). And others have appreciated the dish, too, it turned out. After we cleaned our plates, we discovered that it had won an award at a recent Taste of Williamsville. Deservedly. Just like the oysters of the same name, these white meat roulades were filled with spinach (also bacon and Swiss cheese). The rolls were topped with a light cheese sauce.
Even dessert was a surprise. We shared a Pumpkin Roll. Spicy pumpkin and cranberries turned up in the cake itself; cool ice cream filling was the perfect foil.
Some of the other items on the Gate House dinner menu are perhaps a little less surprising. There are plenty of standard favorites such as Barbecue Baby Backs (half rack $16.95) and N.Y. Strip. Flat-iron Steak with crisp onions goes for $17.95.
But you can also get your Sea Scallops nut crusted or with jerk sauce and your fettucine served Jambalaya style -- that is with shrimp and chorizo.
And there is a prosciutto-wrapped shrimp appetizer and a grilled vegetable with crumbly blue cheese as well.
GATE HOUSE GRILL
3 1/2 stars (Out of 4)
WHERE: 8220 Main St., Williamsville (565-0338). Comfortable neighborhood restaurant with a sophisticated bar and good food. Credit Cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa.
FAVORITE DISH: Chicken Rockefeller
NEEDS WORK: Meatloaf
PRICE RANGE: Dinner entrees from $12.95 include soup or salad, potato or vegetable.
HOURS: Lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday. Dinner until 10 p.m.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes
PARKING: In the plaza.
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.