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CHEAP EATS

Supermarkets have been inching into the "eat-in" restaurant business for a while now, adding dining areas where people can sit down with their store-bought meals.

Wegmans has heavily advertised its $6 meals, and they are so popular that a small rope line has been set up at the Sheridan Drive Wegmans (5275 Sheridan Drive, Amherst) to organize the folks looking over the choices.

On the Sunday when John and I met Paula and Tom at the store for lunch, we found six entrees, heavy on the chicken: lemon-garlic skinless grilled chicken breast, fried chicken, breaded chicken parm with red sauce on the side, chicken French in a lemon-butter sauce, chicken pot pie and meatloaf in gravy. We've also seen pulled pork and breaded pork cutlets offered, and Friday fish fries have been added.

The side choices were plentiful and included mac and cheese, roasted potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, stuffing, roasted red potatoes, garlic smashed potatoes and more. Vegetables, all prepared in some interesting way, included cauliflower spinach gratin, broccoli in basting oil, squash with craisins, asparagus with mushrooms and roasted Brussels sprouts with walnuts.

Each entree is said to weigh 6 ounces and each set of sides is around 8 ounces, though there seemed to be some natural size variation in the chicken pieces.

We told the server that we planned to eat upstairs, and were directed to two microwaves there. One of the microwaves was in use, and the second one, without a carousel, unevenly heated the boxed meals.

Other than the temperature, we found the food very good. The chicken parm was crispy and tasty and the chicken French was juicy even without the cup of sauce offered. The chicken pot pie had sizable chunks of white meat and a fresh biscuit top. We found the stuffing bland, but anyone used to homemade would probably miss their own special ingredients. The vegetables were top-notch, especially the corn spiced with cilantro and lime, the just-tender, bright green asparagus and the cider-glazed carrots.

One brave soul in our party chose the fresh-made waffle, served with home fries and a fruit salad. It was a great buy at $6.99, but he waited 15 minutes for the single waffle iron to serve those in front of him.

The price is right, the quality is good, and except for a few glitches, perhaps caused by the unexpected popularity of the $6 meals, we were won over.

e-mail: aneville@buffnews.com

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Wegmans

3 pennies (out of 4)

5275 Sheridan Drive

Amherst

631-4300

Great food, price