NORTH TONAWANDA – The Lumber City – and in particular Webster Street and its immediate vicinity – is quickly becoming a go-to spot for trendy, fashionable and affordable restaurants, and one of the latest entries, Canal Club 62 Tap and Eatery, is certainly no exception.
We nearly didn’t go in because at first glance it looked more bar than restaurant, but those initial apprehensions were quickly put to rest. In fact, Canal Club 62 offered more than enough culinary delights to please the entire family.
A typical Webster Street storefront, Canal Club 62 opens into an even more typical bar area. In keeping with current trends, it’s sparsely decorated, with a steampunk feel. There are steel chain bottle holders adorning the walls.
Turn the corner into the dedicated dining area, and it’s more of the same, only quieter: original brick walls and wood floors, sparse lighting, and throwback-style electrical accoutrements. The nice thing is that the dining room is not cramped, with adequate room to stretch out a little. There’s even a piano in the corner, although on this particular evening, its ivories were not being tickled.
The bar side was pretty crowded during our visit, even though it was relatively early on a Saturday evening. But we were there for food.
The server quickly explained that, despite having been open for some time, the restaurant that day was operating with a limited menu, consisting of a few sandwiches, salads and selected entrees. Since then, the menu has been expanded.
One of the girls behind the bar raved about the chicken piccatta, said the steak sandwich was to die for, and wholeheartedly recommended the salt-and-vinegar fries and the Buffalo cauliflower. We took her advice and ordered all of them except the cauliflower.
We started things off with the stuffed pepper wonton appetizer ($7) and were delighted with the dish. Crispy wontons filled with a stuffed hot pepper mixture that just melted in your mouth.
We also had the salt and vinegar fries ($6), which were served in a large cone. It may sound kind of pedestrian - just shake a little salt and vinegar on some fresh fries, right? - but it was anything but. It wasn’t liquid vinegar at all, but instead a rub, kind of like a meat rub. Or maybe the concoction they put on salt and vinegar chips. Whatever the case, it was wonderful! And for $6, it really gave all four of us a sufficient taste, so a reasonable deal.
On the subject of presentation, Canal Club 62 really went out of its way. These meals were well thought-out and executed so that they looked as good as they tasted. And, considering we thought it was more of a bar than a grill, the taste was out-of-this-world. This was top-notch food, with everything executed to perfection. Bravo!
The loaded steak sandwich ($14) offered New York Strip (and not a skimpy piece, either) topped with provolone cheese and sauteed peppers, onions and mushrooms served on a garlic roll. Tender as all get-out, tasty, cooked to perfection (we ordered it medium, and medium it was). Superb sandwich.
The chicken piccatta ($14) is apparently one of their most popular dishes, and as soon as I tried it, it was abundantly clear why. Lightly battered and topped with lemon capers and artichokes, it was delightful. Like the steak, it was fork-tender. The lemon came through loud and clear - maybe a little too clear, but only a little. It was really good, but it may have been topped by the grilled vegetable couscous served as a side,.
Two of my party had the fish and chips ($12), which consisted of smaller filets of beer-battered ocean perch served with pommes frites, baby frisee slaw and dill tartar. The fish was good, my companions agreed. The frisee slaw was a trendy choice, made, I am told, from a type of chicory that can be on the bitter side, but is quickly finding a place on gourmet tables. We weren’t that fond of it.
The pommes frites, on the other hand, two thumbs up. Who doesn’t like thin, crispy french fries, after all?
We didn’t have any alcohol and passed on dessert, and we got away for well less than $20 per person, which, to my way of thinking, was awesome for the meals we enjoyed. The servers were quite attentive, and I don’t think we ever had to ask for a refill - they just showed up, as if on que, to fetch more.
I’ve heard very good things about other dishes at Canal Club 62, including that Buffalo cauliflower, and I can’t wait to see what other culinary delights they have planned. Judging by the crowds it seems that they are on the right track.