Main Street in Williamsville has been called lots of things, especially at rush hour. “Casually cool” isn’t in the Top 10.
But those are the words that came to mind as I worked through the polished menu offerings at Share Kitchen. When I recalled the place’s history, decoding its DNA, it started to make sense.
This is a restaurant opened by Joel Schreck, an industry veteran honed and polished in the service of the restaurant group led by Henry Gorino, Chuck Mauro and others, which begat Siena, and Rocco’s, and 800 Maple.
Schreck was the bar manager at the latter for seven years before he found a space he liked near his Williamsville home, a place of his own. The day he opened Share Kitchen was a good day for Williamsvillians hungry for cosmopolitan, better-than-tavern fare served with style.
A spacious patio lets diners take in the view along East Spring Street, calmed by its recent conversion to a one-way road.
Inside, families and groups of friends occupied a smattering of regular tables in the narrow dining room, which has a bar on the east side. Evening sunlight flooded the front of the room, where we sat at one of the high-top tables. Conversation was difficult at times amid the hubbub of a mostly full restaurant.
Executive chef Sean Warzel’s menu was brief, one side of a card listing salads, seafood, comfort food, tacos, sliders, complements and sweets.
The complements included four vegetable dishes, including salt and vinegar cauliflower and green bean salad (both $8), plus the intriguing “roasted honey garlic bread with ricotta” ($6), which turned out to be a terrific boundary-busting snack. Turns out honey and garlic can play well together, with the ricotta adding fresh dairy richness to the toast party.
Arugula salad with endive, spiced pecans and feta ($12) was a small helping of fresh greens, dressed with restraint. Boccocini, ($10), five fried mozzarella balls riding atop a pool of chunky tomato sauce, fulfilled my gooey cheese needs, but I wanted more character from the sauce.
A giant meatball with a molten mozzarella core, on more of that tomato sauce with sliced banana peppers, was hefty enough to serve as a snack for four. It was tender and aromatic with fresh basil chiffonade, a finer version of the massive meatball served at Lackawanna’s Mulberry at a finer price ($14).
A pair of stuffed peppers ($11) wrapped up a trio of classic Buffalo Italian appetizers. Sausage and cheese filling dusted with grated Parmesan cheese overflowed the split peppers into the baking dish, to be scooped up with the accompanying bread. Gorgonzola dominated the five-cheese filling but I didn’t mind.
Teriyaki lamb pops ($19) were four rib chops cooked to tender medium, accented with a sticky-salty glaze and apple chutney packing a warm chile buzz. With frenched bones as handles, the meat lollipops were a perfect dose of lamb for eaters feeling just a little sheepish.
A bistro steak ($25) topped with onion marmalade and truffle butter richly satisfied my beef craving. It was cooked to the proper shade of pink, but had lost much of its juice to the plate. The heady combination of truffled butter and sweet caramel onions wrapped each bite in an umami cloak. Asparagus spears alongside were properly tender-crisp.
Chicken cutlets with arugula salad ($22) wasn’t quite as satisfying. Two thin chicken breast cutlets were crumbed and fried, golden brown and crispy around the edges, paler and softer in the middle. After a pass with the salt and pepper, silky butter lemon sauce and the peppery bite of arugula salad made most of that ground back.
Hit of the night honors went to beef sliders ($16, pictured as lead image), three little hamburgers on grill-toasted buns that ended up soaked by juicy beef that showed the advantages of prime ribeye. Applewood bacon added sweet smoke, white cheddar salt and thinly sliced pickled jalapeno punched through the fat.
Seafood casino bake ($32), the menu’s priciest dish, should not be tackled without a partner. It’s a mound of fat scallops, shrimp, clams and mussels, cooked to pliable tenderness with enough applewood bacon to provoke arguments about whether “too much bacon” is even theoretically possible. Then it’s topped with toasty, buttery crumbs and a handful of lemon wedges that should be unloaded over the entire beachhead before you attack.
Desserts ($10) included a crème brulee that was plenty creamy but light on vanilla, a fruit salad with ice cream that suffered from elderly watermelon, and one of the best fried ice cream scoops I’ve had since Chi-Chi’s vanished.
These days, it seems like every other new restaurant wants to tell customers that its philosophy is to share dishes. In a fresh look for Williamsville, Share Kitchen gives diners an extra nudge to get them started.
Share Kitchen & Bar Room - 7 plates (out of 10)
800 Maple veteran gives Williamsville casually cool spot to share a meal.
WHERE: 5590 Main St., Williamsville (906-3400)
HOURS: 4 p.m. to midnight Tuesday through Saturday.
PRICE RANGE: Salads and sides $6-$13; seafood, $16-$32; share plates $11-$25.
PARKING: Street, municipal lot across Main Street.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes.
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