Following Andrew Galarneau's preview of the revamped Clinton's Dish, interest swirled around the new food options at Canalside, the bustling summer hub of water activities, lunchtime hangouts and evening concerts.
Would former Merge Restaurant chef Kate Elliott, chosen by venue management specialists Global Spectrum to head food operations, put her own twist on the fare?
The 48-degree Friday -- even chillier next to the Buffalo River -- allowed the four employees (including Elliott) a slow-paced start, but Digital Engagement Editor S.J. Velasquez and I rumbled over to Clinton's Dish for lunch.
Here's a closer glance at the menu, situated to the left of the far-left window in the image above.
Fresh, carefully selected ingredients and abundant color defined Elliott's dishes at Merge, and her Curried Lentil Fritters ($6.50) -- lentil fritters, mint raita, pickled vegetables on flatbread (pictured below) -- offered a burst of color and a slight (and unexpected) sweetness.
While it's unfair to judge their fare on the first day of operation, it's promising that Elliott and her staff did not overdo it with the pickled vegetables -- aggressive vinegar can ruin a dish. The subtly sweet-and-sour combination was certainly a nice change of pace from traditional items like hot dogs or hamburgers.
As someone who can't say "no" to a pretzel roll, I threw myself onto the Mineo & Sapio Bomber ($6) -- Italian sausage and peppers and onions on a pretzel roll (pictured in the header). You may raise an eyebrow at a $6 sausage, but the result was hearty and fairly filling.
Just as Galarneau mentioned in his preview, Clinton's Dish offered us free coffee -- a courtesy that will continue for the first month of business. Breakfast is expected to be served beginning June 9.
As we placed our orders, the finishing touches for Clinton's Dish seating were being completed. Long communal tables stretched out next to the boardwalk, and a few smaller tables lingered nearby. A decorative green space was near completion as well -- a challenging task considering the property had long been a parking lot, we were told.
Here are a few more shots of the seating area:
You can't beat the scenery -- the looming naval ship in the background of the photo above, or the giant grain elevator in the photo below. Plus, Canalside is known for its intense sunsets.
I guess we'll call the ping pong and foosball tables nearby "icing on the cake."