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Cheap eats

The Garden Park Cafe, a Cheektowaga institution perhaps best-known for its karaoke, fronts on Genesee but has a big sign on Union Road.

A too-extensive menu in a neighborhood restaurant is sometimes a bit frightening, but besides its sandwiches, burgers, salads, appetizers and sides, the Garden Park Cafe has a manageable dinner selection. Besides what we ordered, there's lasagna ($8.99) and spaghetti ($7.99) and chicken florentine and chicken parmesan, each at $9.99. There's a hot roast beef or turkey sandwich ($7.99), meatloaf ($8.99) and kielbasa and sauerkraut ($8.99). Dinners include a salad or soup.

Ruth, Dan and I started with cups of the chicken wing soup ($2.29 if ordered separately), and enjoyed its delicious creamy base, which had a zesty tang and plenty of chopped chicken breast in each cup. We also found celery and carrot bits. John's plain lettuce and tomato salad was cool and crisp.

Dan's fish fry ($7.99) was a generous meal, and although the fish rated only "medium-size," it was flaky and moist. The french fries and macaroni salad were good, and Dan called the coleslaw exceptional.

Ruth's chicken provolone ($9.99) was two thin chicken breast fillets, nicely broiled and topped with barbecue sauce, melted provolone cheese and bacon. Plenty of bacon. The chicken was a tiny bit dry, a hazard of thin fillets, but the bacon helped out. She took half of it home.

John ordered the cod florentine ($9.99) at the server's suggestion. "It's a pretty good size hunk of cod," he said of the mild fish, accented by cooked spinach. He gave the french fries a grade of A.

My spaghetti parm ($8.99) was a platter-full of spaghetti, lightly red-sauced and covered with a molten topping of browned, bubbling cheese. The red sauce was not as complex as some -- in fact, it could have been right from a can -- but it was medium-thick and nicely balanced. The cheese added a delicious touch. I added two meatballs ($2), and they were good-sized but a bit rubbery. The somewhat sweet flavor was not my favorite, but both John and Dan liked them.

Overall, a nice place to stop. Next time we'll come later to see the karaoke.

-- Anne Neville

***

Garden Park Cafe

3525 Genesee St., Cheektowaga

635-0837

Review: 2 1/2 pennies (Out of 4)

"Cozy neighborhood spot."

The Garden Park Cafe serves dinner from 4 p.m. to closing time, seven days a week. It is handicapped-accessible.

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