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Starters: New dining option lands on Grand Island at 773 North

On a mission to bring a new dining experience to Grand Island, Christy and Jason Zippier opened their new restaurant 773 North, serving trendy but humble dishes with an atmosphere to match.

Packed to the gills on a snowy Thursday night just a few days into their opening, it’s clear the Zippiers are breathing some life into Grand Island’s antiquated culinary scene.

Classy but comfortable, the interior provides a quiet and cozy dining atmosphere. A full bar runs the length of the front and is separated by a half-wall from the open dining area. Take the time to check out the men’s room. I’ll leave it at that.

For lunch 773 North offers a standard salad selection (with fried or grilled chicken for a $3 upcharge) and a few home-made soups. The bulk of menu is comprised of gourmet sandwiches and panini ranging from $9 to $11 with some enticing options like Thanksgiving turkey with cranberry spread and baby arugula on rosemary bread (add $1.50 for applewood smoked bacon).

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An expansive offering in a variety of styles, the small-plate starters selection packs the most punch of 773 North’s food in the way of culinary creativity.

Appetizers like the Irish egg rolls ($7), Thai lettuce wraps ($8), and Tuscan steamed mussels ($14) provide an array of flavors and price points to satisfy diverse appetites.

The stuffed banana pepper pie is a new format for a Buffalo classic. (Phil Wagner/Special to The News)

The stuffed banana pepper pie (one for $5 or two for $9) is similar to the Jamaican patty, empanada or the Puerto Rican pastelillo. It's a deep-fried dough shell filled with the Buffalo staple dish’s key ingredients. Italian sausage, ricotta and asiago cheese, and pickled banana peppers are packed in and deep fried, served alongside a cup of pomodoro sauce. It's a fun spin on a city staple that I’d thought I’d had every which way.

The fry flight including pickle, sweet potato, and traditional varieties with three dipping sauces. (Phil Wagner/Special to The News)

The fry flight pairs pickle, sweet potato and traditional fries with herbed buttermilk dip, Calabrian honey butter and malt vinegar aioli. For anyone who likes fries (which, last I checked, included everyone), this is a must-try.

If you want to live on the edge, mix and match to your preference. I don’t like sweet potatoes and preferred the pickle fries with the malt vinegar aioli best. It's a classic salt and vinegar pairing.

773 North wings tossed in house sauce. (Phil Wagner/Special to The News)

If you order wings (five for $6), avoid the 773 house sauce. They’re apparently dunked in malt vinegar aioli and served alongside more of the same for dipping. Crunchy and juicy no doubt, but the mayo coating does it no favors.

The dinner menu boasts all the casual-dining usual suspects. Steak, chicken, pork, fish and pasta options are represented, buffered by hearty fare like the shepherd's pie and a corned beef and cabbage dinner.

The chicken riggies, apparently a Utica classic, is a rigatoni bowl packed with sautéed chicken breast, sweet bell and hot cherry peppers in a spicy tomato crème sauce sprinkled with Romano cheese. Grilled mushrooms are available on request.

It’s a rustic pasta dish with an abundance of flavor. The chicken is tender, the sauce is rich and the cherry peppers provide a pleasant kick of heat to keep each bite fresh.

Pot roast Shepherd's Pie with smoked gouda, whipped potatoes and maple bourbon carrots. (Phil Wagner/Special to The News)

The pot roast Shepherd’s Pie came topped with smoked Gouda whipped potatoes, a fried onion nest and maple bourbon carrots. Though not exactly a traditional Shepherd’s Pie, the flaky braised beef that had clearly simmered for hours was noteworthy, though it could have done with some stronger supporting flavors and textures.

Info: 773 North, 2749 Grand Island Blvd., Grand Island. Phone: 773-6678. Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday; 4 to 10 p.m. Saturday; and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. Closed Tuesday.

The outside of 773 North in Grand Island. (Phil Wagner/Special to The News)

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