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CHEAP EATS

We checked out Metzger's Pub in West Seneca after reading that it had won the Winterfest Chili Cookoff. When we visited this friendly, busy bar and restaurant on a Friday night, we found much to praise besides the prize-winning chili. The bar was full when Ruth, Dan, John and I arrived on the late side of dinner hour, so we stood off to the side near the big-game hunting video game and waited a few minutes. We were seated on the now-permanent porch off the main dining room, which was a tiny bit cool, but they were warming it with a couple of portable heaters, and hey, we're tough.

I started with the chili (menu prices were $2.95 for a cup, 50 cents extra for cheese, although the bill listed them as $3.25 for a cup, 60 cents for cheese), and it was excellent. It was a thick, meat-filled concoction, with subtle spices that defied definition. I can see why it won. Dan had a bowl of French onion soup ($3.25), which was also great, dark brown and complexly flavored.

The fish fries were not the cheapest we've seen, but they may have been the biggest, and offered excellent value. They were $9.95 each and filled the large oval platters on which they arrived. Dan and John ordered them with different sides, and found themselves in fish fry nirvana. "I give this fish an A-plus," Dan said.

"It's also a really thick piece of fish - many of them are this size but thin," John observed.

The french fries were fresh, perfectly fried and tasty, and the coleslaw featured the fresh kick of pineapple. The tuna mac salad was rich enough to be a meal in itself.

Ruth chose the baked fish done Jamaican jerk style ($9.95) and was happy with both the fresh, nicely seasoned fish and the warm German potato salad that was a side.

I tried the beef on weck ($6.50) and was astonished at the size of the sandwich and the taste of the tender, juicy beef falling out of the sides. The scoop of mac and cheese I ordered on the side was perfectly done. And, a minor but important point to those of us who enjoy horseradish: It was fresh and powerful. It impaired my ability to talk.

John and Dan tried hard but couldn't finish their delicious fries. That is a testament to the quality of the platter-filling fish fry here.

- Anne Neville

Metzger's Pub is open 11 a.m. until 2 am. daily except for Sundays, when it opens at noon. The dining room is down a few steps.

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Metzger's Pub

4135 Seneca St., West Seneca

674-9897

pennies (out of four)

"Worthy winner."

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