A mix of the old and new with plenty of comfort food is the recipe for success at The Eagle House, 5578 Main St. in Williamsville.
Tricia Brown, who owns the restaurant with her father Bud Hanny, has found some modern ways to put a new spin on the site, which has served as a bar and restaurant since 1827. Brown grew up in the restaurant business when her grandparents owned The Little White House (now Milo's.)
This year, she is celebrating 40 years at The Eagle House and hopes to attract new generations since owning a longtime restaurant doesn't guarantee security, that's why The Eagle House strives for a balance of classic and modern. And it seems to be paying off.
Question: From your research, what do you think Eagle House was like back in 1827?
Brown: The original surveyors would say "bird, beef and bottle for the weary traveler." That was their line when they discovered Eagle House while surveying Williamsville.
Q: Was it always called Eagle House?
A: Yes, but we don't know where the name came from.
Q: What type of history has taken place within these walls?
A: It's one of the founding cornerstones of Williamsville. To incorporate the village was voted on here. Then, to counteract that, a group wanted to hold a meeting here to talk about dissolving the village (which did not pass.)
We're a gathering spot for everybody.
Q: Does that history guarantee you stability in the restaurant business?
A: People will say you've been around forever, but people forget about places that have been around forever and we don't want to be forgotten. So we have to keep ourselves in front of people.
That's the constant thing here - staying true to the character and history of where we came from while building on that to be attractive to new, younger customers and the next generation.
Q: Is that difficult with so many new restaurants to choose from in Western New York?
A: Thankfully, we're blessed to be recognized in the Buffalo community. There are so many great restaurants and choices, I always tell my staff how lucky we are that people choose to come here. You've got to be thankful for everyday that's busy.
Q: Your menu features classic items like Beef Wellington and chicken potpie. How do customers react to that?
A: People love that. They bring it (chicken potpie) out in a piping hot dish with a French puff pastry on it. The server puts the puff pastry on the plate and scoops chicken potpie on it. You really don't see that anymore - items being served tableside.
Chicken potpie, served tableside, with a French pastry is a classic, popular menu item at The Eagle House. (Elizabeth Carey/Special to The News.)
Q: How do you plan to mix up the menu and stay on the radar with customers?
A: We have a few new burgers going on the menu. We're going to do a Welsh rarebit burger that came after the story in The News.
Also, a French onion burger and a Reuben burger - those are all popular items that we're going to try in a burger. And music will kick in on the patio in June and go all summer every Thursday.
Q: That same approach - a mix of the old and new - applies to your 52 employees. How does that impact business?
A: It's difficult to employ students since they have so much going on and it's juggling for me, but it brings youth and fresh air into the building when you have younger employees blending with the veterans. And I feel like you are teaching them life skills.
When you go to the Williamsville South football game and someone's parents say my son loves to work at Eagle House, I think that's pretty awesome. We're part of the community.
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