Every Southtowns commuter probably wishes he or she had a dollar for every time he or she passed the Woodlawn Diner on Route 5.
The history of the American diner is legendary. These iconic, prefabricated stainless steel buildings dotted cities everywhere. The food was never flashy, but it was good. The same can be said for the Woodlawn Diner.
The diner originated at Bailey Avenue and William Street in Buffalo and moved to its present location in the 1930s. An addition was built in 1952.
We visited for dinner on a Friday, the only day it’s open later. The interior is homey, with the tell-tale stainless steel walls, a counter with stools and an interesting display of antique food containers. Parents or grandparents can explain to youngsters the really cool (but not working) tabletop jukeboxes with big buttons. It’s only a dime a song.
Woodlawn serves breakfast all day. One egg and toast is $2.15. Two eggs with ham, bacon or sausage, home fries or grits, and toast is $5.25. Corned beef hash with two eggs and toast runs $5.25. Three-egg omelets start at $4.39 up to $6.25 for meatier options. All come with toast; add $1.25 for home fries. Three pancakes (or pieces of French toast) are $3.95; add a meat and it’s $5.25.
The menu features plenty of sandwiches and burgers, including a quarter-pound burger ($2.80), grilled cheese ($2.75) and tuna melt ($4.80). Club sandwiches run $6.50 for turkey to $6.95 for steak. Subs run $4.39 to $6.75. Hot sandwiches range from a grilled Reuben at $5.75 to $6.50 for steak. A Monte Cristo is $5.95. Daily specials include a beer-battered fish fry on Fridays.
Our quartet started with a tasty New England Clam Chowder ($2.50) that wasn’t overly thick and floury. The chicken noodle ($2.25) was lightly flavored. More vegetables would have been nice, but since we were there late, it might have been the end of the pot.
A julienne salad runs $6.50. The cold plate ($6.50) includes scoops of tuna fish and potato salad, coleslaw, sliced tomato, American cheese, hard-boiled egg and iceburg lettuce with a side of buttered seedless rye bread. No surprises here, the tuna was good and basic. Ham or turkey are other options.
A fish fry ($8.19) was a nicely deep-fried portion of fish (but not a behemoth hanging over the edge) with coleslaw, noodle salad, fries and a side of rye bread. The potato salad was good, the coleslaw very good, but the noodle salad too “mayonnaise-y.”
The cheeseburger ($3.15) was standard. Despite the note on the menu, “made with fresh ground beef,” it looked like a premade patty. Yet it was tasty enough on a hearty roll.
The meatloaf did taste homemade. Two decent-sized, tender slices came with gravy and mashed potatoes. The mashed were satisfactory, but heading toward gummy. Again, it was day’s end, so perhaps they weren’t as fresh as when first made. A vegetable would have perked up the plate, too.
Other dinners include classics like single ($6.95) or double ($8.75) pork chops, ham steak with peaches ($7.75), roast beef ($7.75), chopped sirloin ($7.25) and a strip loin steak with onion and mushroom ($7.75).
We ended the meal on a sweet note with two slices of homemade pie – banana cream ($2.45) and a cherry cream cheese concoction ($2.85). Both were fulfilling and not overly sweet.
Our grand total came to $44 with soft drinks (tip not included). Cheap, satisfying and on the way for hungry travelers along Route 5.
Where: 3200 Lake Shore Road, Blasdell (822-8449)
Hours: Open daily at 5 a.m. Monday through Thursday until 3 p.m.; Friday until 7 p.m.; Saturday until 2 p.m. Closed Sunday.
Extras: Cash only. ATM on site. Wheelchair accessible.