The holidays may be over, but the Holiday Showcase Restaurant soldiers on.
Opened in 1965, much of its history is recounted in words and great pictures on the website, including a photo of the sign for the 1963 groundbreaking at its current location on Union Road in Cheektowaga. The land looks like an empty field. In another picture, the new building sits on what looks like a desolate road.
Could Alvin Wright, great uncle to today’s owner Steve Valentine, have envisioned what the area looks like today?
For those unfamiliar, that stretch of Union Road sits behind Walden Galleria. Some might remember the Holiday 1 & 2 movie theaters and earlier, the Aero Drive-In that once stood there. Now it’s plaza-rama.
The original restaurant included a curbside carhop. (We want that cowgirl-looking uniform worn by the carhop gal in the picture.) Manager James Bogold laughs, as he always thought the Holiday Showcase should bring the carhop service back, “But now it’s too late with Sonic just down the street. Sadly, we don’t have the dining counter anymore either.”
Why? Well in 1987, the restaurant was hit by a tornado.
“The manager back then heard about the tornado warning and got all of the customers and workers into the basement,” said Bogold. The roof was torn off. A picture of the damage (the cover of The Buffalo News Metro edition) hangs along with other great retro photos at the entrance.
Bogold said when the restaurant was open 24 hours, folks would come in after the show for a Hy-Boy burger ($7.75). Still on the menu, it was one of the items we tried on our visit.
The double-decker burger includes two thinner patties on a toasted sesame roll with cheese, lettuce, pickle and secret sauce that reminded us of Big Mac sauce, but better.
Under Holiday Showcase Classics, the Reuben ($9.49), noted as "Dad’s favorite," also uses the secret sauce. Corned beef was thin-sliced, with just enough sauerkraut and Swiss cheese on grilled rye bread.
Other classics include a roast beef and Swiss melt ($9.95) and a Monte Cristo ($8.85). The Holiday Showcase version is a tuna salad and American cheese sandwich that’s dipped in a crumb mix then deep fried.
Under American Classics find a Philly cheese steak ($9.55), turkey melt ($9.25), grilled ham and cheese ($7.99) and Buffalo beef and wing combo ($11.65); the latter a roast beef on weck served with wings.
The bacon chicken ranch wrap (all wraps are $9.45) was filled with chicken strips, bacon, cheddar and ranch dressing. Half came home, as did half the Reuben.
In true diner fashion, the turkey club ($8.55) and country club ($8.95) made with ham and turkey make the menu. Sandwiches and burgers come with good, hot and perfectly seasoned fries.
Breakfast is served all day with three egg omelets around $9.50, served with choice of three pancakes or home fries and toast. Our anytime breakfast ($5.95) was served as ordered, two eggs over easy, strips of bacon and thick slices of raisin toast. Coffee was good and hot.
A battered, breaded or baked Friday fish fry ($12.95) includes potato, coleslaw, macaroni salad, dinner roll or garlic sticks. Beer and wine is available.
By now Holiday’s holiday décor may be down, but we hope they leave the giant blow up Olaf the Snowman throughout the winter. He’s warm and friendly, just like our server. So when the cold winds blow, head for some comfort food at a place that shows it can long outlast the area's weather, no matter what it may be.
Holiday Showcase Restaurant
765 Union Road, Cheektowaga (684-3382; holidayshowcase.com)
Hours: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday
Scene: Historic diner with a quirky history.
Price range: Breakfasts start at $4.15. Lunch type items $7-$9. Entrée salads start at $9.25. Dinners start at $9.95.
Parking: Large lot
Gluten-free options: No special menu.