Who among us does not know the wonder of Wegmans’ legendary $6 meal? Who hasn’t taken a trip through the hot food bar after buying groceries, discovering they’re too tired from braving the crowds at the store to actually cook the food?
Thanks to The Pub by Wegmans, a sit-down restaurant and full bar attached to the Transit Road store in Williamsville, hungry shoppers can satisfy their stomachs in a more relaxed atmosphere with all the convenience of a meal that comes in a plastic clamshell.
The Pub features a broad menu, including snacks and small plates, sandwiches, wraps and full entrees.
The bar is equally extensive, with a solid selection of beers, wines and a handful of specialty cocktails.
Many of its beers are local, including an oatmeal cookie beer brewed on-site, in cooperation with Big Ditch Brewing Company [read more about this endeavor in a recent Beer Matters].
We started with the Buffalo Shrimp ($9), a generous tower of small shrimp served over crunchy slaw with a smattering of celery hearts and drizzled with bleu cheese dressing. The shrimp were not quite hot when they arrived, but the taste was right, with a mild Frank’s hot sauce flavor.
The slaw consisted of matchsticks of cabbage and carrots with enough creamy dressing to keep it moist, and along with those celery slivers, added a nice crunch.
The cheese and charcuterie plate ($9) came with some of what our party agreed was the best cheese we’ve had anywhere in quite awhile. The Beemster 18-month Gouda was sharper than grandma’s tongue after a few sangrias, and it paired wonderfully with the hot soppressata sausage and shatteringly crisp crostini. A healthy helping of giardiniera, pickled vegetable relish, and Tuscan herb ham rounded out the platter, which was big enough to share two or three ways.
Our waitress tipped us off to the Thai-inspired Chicken Salad ($12), a heaping pile of spring greens, rice noodles, crumbled spicy chicken, carrot, cabbage, cilantro, chopped peanuts, edamame and crispy noodles with lime wedges for squeezing. She told us she also works at a Japanese restaurant, and the salad was her favorite.
We could see why. The peanut dressing was lightly spicy and richly umami, barely coating the noodles and lettuce, with the peanuts and two kinds of noodles creating an satisfying textural contrast. Some of the spring mix was a bit wilted, but the taste was addictive. Even with our table full of plates, we kept going back for “one more forkful.”
Next came the Gyro Turkey Burger ($11), an 8-ounce patty with caramelized onions and spices, topped with cucumber chunks, tzatziki sauce and sprigs of parsley. Tzatziki can be a garlic bomb, but don’t be afraid to order this one before that big meeting. It was fresh and tangy without overpowering the delicate sesame element, and the burger was well-done but not dry. The roll tasted like a Wegmans egg bun (and it probably was) but that’s not a criticism. The bread-to-burger ratio was perfect, even though it could have used some lettuce for contrast.
All sandwiches come with Tuscan fries, which are fresh cut and dusted with Italian herbs and garlic. We found a few roasted garlic cloves in the bottom of the cone, a welcome taste treat.
Ordering scallops at a restaurant can be risky business. The delicate little guys can be overcooked in seconds, and no one likes a gummy scallop. Seared Scallops with Bouillabaisse Sauce ($24) came out perfectly, with a caramel brown char on each side and pillowy insides.
Our order came with four, and the waitress explained that each portion is constructed by weight, so some may come with up to eight smaller scallops, depending on the catch. It was the most expensive item on the menu, but we were not disappointed with our portion.
These were served with a lemon-scented bulgur wheat salad and steamed green beans, which were al dente, if slightly cold. The tomato-based sauce was too thin to make much impression on the scallops, but it went well with the sides and a few errant Tuscan fries.
Overall, The Pub is a delicious stop for hungry shoppers, with all the trappings of a “real” restaurant. While our first appetizers took more than half an hour to arrive, both managers and our waitress checked on us, so we knew we weren’t forgotten.
Aside from a few growing pains, our experience and food were both top-notch and we would happily try it again. Not a bad step up from a $6 meal and the microwave, whether you’re shopping that day or not.
The Pub by Wegmans, 8270 Transit Road, Williamsville; 210-8154;.
Lizz Schumer is the content manager at Resurgence Brewing Company. The author of Buffalo Steel, she writes about food and whimsy for a variety of local publications. She can be found online @eschumer,and .