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Audubon North is a quirky bar with solid food

The Cheap Eats world works in mysterious ways. While researching the local clam scene, a fellow clam-eater pointed us in the direction of the Audubon North Restaurant noting, “the casinos are the best.”

We had never hear of this joint, so we investigated.

Pulling in, we wondered if we should go in. It looked a little rough. There seemed to be guys having a private picnic on the back lawn. We persevered in the name of a cheap meal.

From the bar adorned with retro Sabres/Bills photos we descended into what felt like an attached garage to find seating at white folding tables paired with wood folding chairs. (Or for the lucky, Aunt Mary’s 1980 wooden “wishbone” chairs). The room was rustic with an unfinished basement feel, but not in a bad way. Judging by the crowd at the bar, we think the room was needed for overflow, especially during Bills and Sabres games because of the big TV.

Working in tandem, we had Harried Young Runner waitress paired with a woman whose voice reminded us of Lina Lamont from “Singin’ In The Rain.” Both were super sweet.

We asked Harried for “whatever light beer you have” to make it easy. Drafts arrived in plastic mugs that we promptly clinked to “Walker, Texas Ranger” showing on Grit TV.

Alas, the clams casino were part of the Cajun broil (with fish, shrimp and crab cake). At $14.95, it was not in the CE budget.

Instead we sampled, “2 peirgoie (yes, spelled this way) 2 fingers” ($8.95). If this was a new twist on a Buffalo combo, we liked it. The potato and cheese pierogi were huge. Nicely browned, the filling wasn’t too heavy and the dough was light.

The homemade chicken fingers were excellent. Tender, yet crisp with just the right amount of hot sauce. Sig O said the homemade blue cheese was also great.

The fish fry ($11.95) was breaded and super crunchy with a nice light, hot fish inside. A wedge of lemon would have improved it. Sides included fresh-cut fries, garlic pasta or garden mac salad. Intrigued I tried the garlic pasta. It was OK, but basically spaghetti with olive oil and garlic and something green like chives or parsley. (I envisioned a creamy Alfredo.) Italian bread and a cup of decent crunchy, creamy coleslaw also came with the fish.

The weck/wing combo ($10.95) was OK. The thin, well-done beef was tender, but seemed along the deli variety. The weck roll’s bottom became soggy from too much au jus. The menu noted rolls are fresh-baked daily, but it didn’t help the sandwiches.

On the other hand, the wings were crispy. Served with homemade blue cheese, they were more dry than saucy, but finger-licking-good, especially with the delicious fresh-cut fries.

Single wings are $8.50 and four chicken fingers are $8.95, both served with fries. Double wing ($19.95) and finger ($22.95) specials include a pitcher of beer.

Limited sandwich choices range from a hamburger at $6.50 to the likes of a chicken sandwich and bacon cheeseburger at $8.50 to a 10 oz. strip steak for $14.95. All come with fries or garlic pasta. A Super Caesar is $7.50 ($10.50 with steak, $14.50 with steak). Buffalo Chicken Caesar is $10.50.

Friday’s specials included New England clam chowder ($3.50/$4.50). A fish sandwich ($8.50), shrimp scampi ($12.95) and half fish with six shrimp ($11.95). All included a side.

Curiosity satisfied, we headed out and waved to the picnic dudes. The moral of this Cheap Eats? Don’t judge a Cheap Eats joint by its cover.

Audubon North Restaurant

Where: 3050 Sweet Home Road, Amherst (691-9248, Facebook)

Hours: Open daily at 9 a.m., Sundays at noon.

Ambiance: Quirky, quintessential dive bar with solid food.

Yum: Homemade chicken fingers

Wheelchair-accessible: No

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