If memory serves, the WaterStone Grill occupies what was once a Bob Evans (or was it a Cracker Barrel?) along with a couple other things before finally settling down to become a local restaurant that serves Hamburg residents along with folks staying at the multiple hotels off the I-90 at Exit 57.
The combination gives the place a unique mix of customers. Meet up for drinks with a friend from Angola and you might be hanging alongside a Massachusetts couple staying at the Holiday Inn Express.
WaterStone’s interior is surprisingly warm and friendly, with only a hint of the former chain lingering in the design. The décor is muted with a tile floor and darker tones. The smaller bar is a copper top rich wood affair.
Two TVs tuned to ESPN and news are silent. Music (we think “The Bridge” mellow classic rock on Sirius) adds just enough background noise.
The focal point is a beautiful stacked stone fireplace with three bar tables and chairs set in front. Grab a seat here if you can. Bartenders will happily serve you anything from drinks and one of the special appetizers of the day to a full course dinner at the bar without missing a beat.
The menu trends to the classics. For picking, we like a spinach and artichoke dip, chicken quesadilla, steak flatbread or seared crab cakes. And when it comes to rocking it old school, a jumbo shrimp cocktail.
The WaterStone’s draft list is impressive for the small size of the bar. Twelve taps with selections including Ithaca Beer Co., Flying Bison, Ommegang, Great Lakes, Goose Island and Otter Creek along with Blue Moon and Sam Adams. Of course there are domestic bottles, too.
Cocktail drinkers will find plenty. While drinks aren’t discounted, it’s nice to know they are there, like a Buffalo Stampede made with Buffalo Trace Bourbon and Bacardi Rum.
Need a little vitamin C? The Salty Chihuahua is made with 1800 Silver Tequila, lemonade and lime juice. The WaterStone Breeze mixes vodka, pineapple and grapefruit juices.
In addition to the regular martinis on the menu (like a Golden Cosmo), WaterStone features a slew of seasonal choices for $9 each. February specials run through mid-March, including a Chocolate Berry Martini. An extensive wine list with nice glass choices rounds out the drinks.
For those who want to extend the cozy season, the menu includes four coffee drinks. Sip a Jack Daniel’s Tiramisu or Raspberry Truffle coffee in front of the fire and pretend you’re in Vail.
If only for a few hours WaterStone will make you feel worlds away, instead of right along the New York State Thruway.
3679 Commerce Place (at Camp Road), Hamburg (646-4400; waterstonegrill.net)
Kitchen hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Sunday brunch is 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Bar is open later.
Specials: Happy Hour is 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday with $1 off house wine, well drinks and domestic beer. Thursday Ladies Night has two-for-one drinks at the bar (house wine, well drinks and domestic beer). $5 appetizers at the bar. Tuesday has $3 craft beers, Wednesday is half-off bottles of wine. Daily special from noon to 3 p.m. daily, $1 off well drinks and domestic bottles.
Scene: Upscale look, totally relaxed atmosphere and a great fireplace with a mature crowd.
Say “hi” to: Glen at the door, who is the quintessential maître d’.
Extra: Fish fry on Fridays.