Change can be a good thing. When my wife and I moved to Lancaster eight years ago we fell in love with Desiderio's for its exceptional service, buzz-worthy party environment and a menu that kept us coming back for more. As someone who's extremely reluctant to change, I had some trepidation after hearing that Jay and Bob Desiderio were rebranding and remodeling their Broadway location to the Lancaster Ale House. One visit removed all doubt.
The new look, the new specialty beer selection and the Lancaster-centric menu (items are named for Lancaster locales) are an experience on par or even better than their previous success. Over the course of the last 40 years, the Desiderio family has triumphed whether their restaurants were downtown (across from Shea's) or in on the outskirts of Buffalo (at the Ogden Street Concert Hall), whether they were a pizzeria (their original location on William Street in Cheektowaga) or fine dining (Linguini's in Clarence). There's a reason why they've thrived no matter where they've opened their doors: They know what they're doing.
Gone was the gigantic adjoining island bar I'd grown accustomed to when Lindsay and I ushered ourselves into the lounge. We sauntered over to a small, tasteful speckled bar against a far wall facing a trio of bar-height lacquered tables with black vinyl stools. Three flat-screen televisions above the bar aired sports, news and cooking channels.
Wayne (a lovable giant) served us a pitcher of Labatt Blue, a double of Tullamore Dew Irish whiskey and a plain iced tea for $16. After sampling more than my average share of brands, Tullamore Dew continues to be my favorite whiskey for its smooth flavor. It's a shame more businesses don't carry it. Bar conversation crackled with a bustling Saturday turnout while Wayne took the time to get caught up with us.
The soothing, salmon-colored walls and expanded dining area give the room a sense of flow that wasn't present before. An enormous chalkboard to the left of the bar spelled out daily specials. After perusing the new menu (with Lancaster-locale-themed meals like Court Street Chili Fries), Lindsay landed on the Pork Shank Redemption ($13.99), a succulent, tangy trio of pork shanks plated to perfection with cole slaw, fries and a salad and falling off the bone with a mere poke from our forks.
Jay Desiderio schmoozed the front of the house checking on the dine-in crowd to ensure that they enjoyed their meals while brother Bob jockeyed through the kitchen staying on top of the influx of orders. I grabbed a smoke on a scenic gated concrete patio with rope lighting and surveyed the onslaught of Saturday traffic in the village. On the way back in, I admired a mural of Lancaster showcasing historic landmarks, parks and wonders. After studying the impossible row of unique specialty beers, I took a chance on a 10-ounce goblet (also offered in a pint) of 90 Minute Dogfish Head Imperial IPA and found it crisp, sharp and refreshing. Elton John's "Bennie and the Jets" serenaded us from the Internet jukebox while we wrapped up our evening and promised ourselves we'd stop back soon.
Whether you love -- and live in -- Lancaster or not, you owe it to yourself to patronize the Lancaster Ale House, the Desiderio's latest incarnation. Their attention to detail, relentless flair for customer service and fleet of microbrews are the recipe for a unique and engaging evening out.
Lancaster Ale House & Eatery
5827 Broadway, Lancaster 683-7767
Scene: An upscale bar atmosphere with a Lancaster twist.
Drinks: Sixteen draft beers with a major in the microbrewery including IPA, Rusty Chain, Great Lakes and Dogfish Head. Happy hour specials Monday through Friday and a sophisticated selection of hard liquor and wine.
Dress code: Presentable casual with sweaters and slacks or button-down shirts and designer jeans.
Music: Karaoke every Friday with Super Sound Bud and live music includes Cleveland rocker Paul Pope next Friday and May 5.