It was just after Thanksgiving, quite coincidentally, when we found something to be truly thankful for: the Sunday brunch at the Tuscarora Inn.
If you haven't tried it yet, make it one of your New Year's resolutions to do so -- and by all means, don't wait for Easter or Mother's Day.
No special occasion is required to enjoy one of the best brunch buffets around; the only requirement is a hearty appetite.
The stately former business and social club celebrates its 100th birthday as a public institution this year and, thanks to the DeFlippo family, puts its best foot forward in opulent fashion. The rich woodwork, high-beamed ceilings, working fireplaces and old-world charm give the place a truly warm and inviting feel.
Look around and you'll see plenty of references to its former glory, including photos of past presidents of the Lockport Wheelmen Club (later the Tuscarora Club), which purchased and converted the former residence of Dr. and Mrs. Albert J. Evans in February 1911.
But enough history. That's for people who haven't yet harbored a healthy hankering for ha-cha-cha! Let's eat!
The brunch fare fluctuates from week to week, but it's safe to say that no one will go away hungry, and the choices are virtually across-the-board delicious. You can have your meal tailor-made at the Belgian waffle and omelette stations, or you can tailor it yourself at the yogurt parfait table.
If you're more of the pick-and-choose persuasion, meander over to the hot table for lean, crispy bacon, Italian sausage with peppers and onions, ham with fruit sauce, chicken Parmesan, herb-roasted potatoes, meatballs, frittatas, Scotch eggs
But be sure to sample the egg strata. It's out of this world (as in "the stratosphere"). A light, fluffy casserole loaded with spinach and cheeses, it is one of the "fan favorites," according to Dom DeFlippo, who says that "everyone raves about it." We can attest to that; it was awesome. Extremely tasty, perfectly prepared.
That sausage, by the way, isn't your run-of-the-mill breakfast buffet patty, but real Italian chopped into thick, bite-sized pieces and simmered in peppers and onions; a taste of summer in the middle of winter.
The omelette station offered a variety of meats, cheeses and other goodies. My wife added ham, Swiss cheese and mushrooms and ended up with a tasty concoction that was hand-delivered to our table.
My daughter and I sampled the raspberry-acai and strawberry sauces with the waffles, which were wonderful. We topped them with rich, thick, real whipped cream. Yummy.
Elsewhere there were bagels and toast (do-it-yourself), with a variety of jams and jellies, vegetable crudites, a salad bar that included a wonderful, tangy Japanese rice noodle salad, nice fresh fruit and other items.
We topped off our visit with a selection of homemade desserts, including a delicious cheesecake and a fruity, mousse concoction atop spongy pastry in a parfait dish. I'm not sure what it was called, but it didn't need a name -- just a spoon.
The brunch is $13.95 per person ($7.95 for ages 5 to 12; free for younger) which, we were a little surprised to learn, didn't include the Mimosa drink ($6) that my wife enjoyed. We were made aware that the hot chocolate my daughter ordered ($2.50) wouldn't be included in the price, but thought the Mimosa might be, since there is a Bloody Mary bar available, as well. Our fault; should have clarified that in advance (she still would have had it, of course, invoking her mother's "wishes.")
Reservations are suggested for groups of six or more, and on busier days such as Mother's Day. Otherwise, we walked in and sat right down. We were the first to arrive, in fact, beating the post-church rush. The service was extremely friendly and attentive, with plates cleared and napkins straightened in our absence each time we returned to the buffet.
Tuscarora Inn also serves a "global, casual fare" a la carte lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays. The menu sounds scrumptious, offering homemade soups, salads and sandwiches, along with fare such as fish and chips, fish tacos, jerk chicken, that Japanese salad, dim sum and fried calamari, among many others. There's even a $5 kids menu.
The place also does banquets and private parties, including a "full-service" wedding package with ceremonies performed in the beautiful, double-fireplaced parlor (seats 40 to 60). There's also a bar/lodge (seats 30 to 50), a library with a fireplace and a main hall (seats 60 to 120). Seems as though they could accommodate just about any occasion.
So, whether you're looking for a fancy place for your next "occasion," or just a classy place to bring Mom (and Dad) for a wonderful afternoon, the Tuscarora Inn has you covered. In fact, make it a New Year's habit. You can resolve to lose the weight next year!
128 Walnut St., Lockport (434-1288)
4 stars (out of four)
Favorite dish: Egg strata
Needs work: Mac 'n cheese
Healthy choice: Fresh fruit
Price range: Brunch $13.95; $7.95 for kids
Service: Excellent, attentive
Noise level: Quiet
Wheelchair access: Stairs
Parking: Connected lot
Kid appeal: No problem
Hours: Brunch, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays; lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. For more info, visit www.thetuscarorainn.com