The door at the Edge of Town restaurant opens into a long bar room, but walk past the bar and turn left and you'll feel like you're going back a decade or more.
Pat, John and I visited on a Saturday and although the dining room was busy enough, with five or six family groups gathered around tables and some couples here and there, we were seated right away in one of the long booths that ring the dining room. Once she determined that we weren't regulars, our friendly server explained the setup to us -- a soup and salad bar on one counter is included with all entrees. There are specials every day, and Saturdays were all-you-could-eat roast beef and chicken.
So we ordered and started with the salad bar. It included a large plastic bowl of iceberg lettuce and just enough sides to cover the bases, including onions, tomatoes, chickpeas, a dish of vibrantly green peas and carrot and celery sticks. Crispy croutons are at the end of the salad bar, next to the fresh slabs of rye bread. (Don't miss them, the way we did!) Between the green salad and the bread were dishes of potato salad, pasta salad and coleslaw. All were cold and nicely prepared; the potato salad made our eyes light up with its redskin potatoes and bits of crunch from celery.
The soup was vegetable with bean, the kind of hearty homemade impromptu concoction that usually turns out better than anything cooked with a recipe. The flavorful broth was full of chopped vegetables and very delicious.
We were close to finishing our salad sampling when our dinners arrived, and we were immediately glad that we had not made a second trip to the salad bar.
The fish dinner ($7.95) was built around a 12-ounce haddock fillet, which could be ordered baked, broiled, breaded or battered. We chose battered and were delighted with the slightly shiny, golden brown, flavorful batter enclosing the fresh, flaky haddock fillet.
A sizable pile of fries accompanied the fish, making this technically just a fish and chips dinner. But with potato and pasta salad and slaw sitting right there on the salad bar, there was no reason not to turn it into a classic fish fry, if the diner were so inclined.
We tried both of the "all-you-can-eat" dinners. The roast beef dinner, our server explained, was made with "a pile" of roast beef, covered with gravy if desired, lacking only the bread base of a hot roast beef sandwich. That was fine with us. Served with mashed potatoes, as ordered, the roast beef had obviously been simmered for a while in gravy, and was very tender and beefy. The gravy was the traditional brown version. One pile of the roast beef was plenty for us.
The initial salvo of "all-you-can-eat" chicken (leg and thigh, available baked, fried or with barbecue sauce) was overwhelming. The leg and thigh portion is large and therefore more flavorful than the segments with thumb-sized legs that are usually served in half-chicken dinners. Not one but two of these chicken quarters came stacked on the first plate, ensuring that there would be no request for more. Under the crispy batter, the chicken was juicy and delicious. Not only did we not ask for more, part of the second quarter went home with us.
Each dinner came with a small dish of canned green beans. To experience the full time-warp effect, we ate them, which reminded us why you so seldom see canned vegetables anymore.
For its comfort food, generous portions and low prices, the Edge of Town is a trip back in time that's well worth taking.
THE EDGE OF TOWN
3.5 pennies (out of four)
WHERE: 2310 Genesee St., Cheektowaga (893-4476)
HOURS: Open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., except Fridays when it is open until 10 p.m. Closed Sundays.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Four or five stairs at the front door.