During my days as a newspaper reporter and editor, my coworkers and I often packed into one of our ramshackle cars and headed for one of the best lunch spots in the area: Wok & Roll.
There, we would enjoy a savory, hot, sit-down lunch for less than $7. Not many places in the area offer that kind of value for your lunch buck.
Tucked in the Williamsville Place Plaza, Wok & Roll, which is nearly six years old, features an extensive selection of Cantonese food. Diners can either eat in the clean and modern, yet cozy, interior, where there are both tables and booths, or order takeout.
On a recent Saturday afternoon, I set out to revisit my old haunt with the hope it would be as pleasing as I remembered. The restaurant was warm inside, a welcome respite from the blustery outdoors, and the five in our party settled comfortably at one of the tables.
As we perused the menu, our server brought us a steaming pot of Jasmine tea and basket brimming with wonton strips, along with duck sauce for dipping. (Neither the tea nor the won-tons will set you back anything on the bill.) She also brought taro-flavored bubble tea ($3.95) for our resident bubble tea aficionado.
I judge a Chinese restaurant, in part, by the crispness of the wontons and freshness of the fortune cookies. If either is stale, I’m disappointed. A murmur of delight moved through our table as we plunged into the wontons. They’re so fresh they crackle.
The lunch combo, the stuff of Cheap Eats’ dreams, is $6.25. You start with soup or an egg roll, followed by an entrée, of which there are 20 options. Each comes with white, brown or fried rice.
The fried rice is just as I remembered. Unlike some fried rice in the area — sad, yellow, with limp vegetables — Wok & Roll’s stands out. Crisp vegetables stud a deep caramel brown rice with a slight smoky flavor from the wok. It’s the best I’ve had in Buffalo.
For our entrees, we order the following: chicken and eggplant, General Tso’s chicken, Kung Po chicken, chicken and mixed vegetables and chicken with garlic sauce.
Before they arrive, we enjoyed soup. For everyone, it’s a highlight. Hearty dumplings marinate in a savory broth. We don’t say much as we inhale the broth. As soon as the bowls get cleared, the food comes out steaming from the kitchen.
My eggplant chicken dish featured bright eggplant with strips of chicken in a sweet brown sauce with hints of ginger. General Tso’s chicken is fried until crispy and coated in sweet garlicky sauce, and Kung Po chicken has a nice kick to it.
The menu also features a variety of dim sum and appetizers ($3.50-$6.95) and noodle soup and stir fried noodles ($6.95-$15.95). The main course dishes ($9.25-$15.95) offer many options, including fresh squid ($12.95) and Peking duck ($18.95 half or $35.95, whole).
Before we left, we enjoyed the fortune cookies our server sprinkled on the table.
I unwrapped the cookie, removed the fortune and bit. Like the wontons, it was so crispy it crackled. Wok & Roll, I concluded, has still got its mojo.
5467 Sheridan Drive (thewokandroll.com, 631-8880)
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon to 9:30 p.m. Sunday
Wheelchair accessible: yes
Gluten-free options: yes, nine dishes are available.