As summer winds down, Western New Yorkers are wrapping up their annual bucket lists to make the most of the season.
For many, a visit to The Public House on the Lake at 4914 Lakeshore Road, Hamburg, is in order. With 250 outdoor seats, it’s not unusual for the waterfront restaurant to serve 1,000 people on a good weather day. While customers flock there for food and drink, the owners say the waves of Lake Erie are one of their most valuable attributes.
The trio of owners, husband-wife duo of Frank and Sara Testa, along with friend Lou Milazzo, has operated the restaurant since April 2015. Lou sat down over a Corona to talk about their third season, weather challenges, a possible expansion and those waves.
Question: What is it about the lake that draws customers to you?
Milazzo: People come here to relax. You can’t beat hearing the waves crash. There’s no breakwall. There aren’t many places that get the waves. We have music Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. It’s very calming. We do acoustic or maybe duos.
People who come here want to listen to the waves crash, have a Corona, hang out, watch a little background music. We want it to complement. We’re not looking for bands to draw. This is not a rock concert. This is a relaxing environment where you can have some seafood, nice beer, craft cocktails and our wine list is great too.
Q: This is your third summer. Have you found a way to create a well-oiled machine?
A: We ironed it out in our first summer. You have to. We own the property now so it’s going very well. The three of us are friends. I went to school for this and they’ve been it in all their lives. There is The Public House of Buffalo on Hertel. And there’s probably going to be another one very soon, but nothing is public yet.
Q: So there’s a possibility of a third location?
Q: Would that be on the water too?
A: It’s confidential right now.
Q: When it comes to toasting summer along the waterfront, what drinks are most popular?
A: Craft beer is our most popular. We have craft cocktails, the mules, but we sell a lot of beer here. We’ve got 27 draft lines and 25 are craft. We only hold two (draft) domestics - everything else is craft. For bottles, we have about 75. The draft list changes daily.
Q: So you find what customers like and keep that?
A: Not really. I think part of the draw is when you come into a restaurant, especially here, you want to see what’s new.
Q: What types of surprises have you encountered as restaurant owners?
A: The weather is difficult. The last two years we had pristine weather, but this year, obviously not so much. Having to deal with storms coming in - that raises the blood pressure because you have to move sections and accommodate for that and keep people happy.
Q: How do you balance the business from season to season?
A: We do a lot of our business in the summertime, but every room has a view and a fireplace. We want people to know they can always come here and get consistent service and food. It’s very comfortable.
Q: You're not ready to give up on summer yet. How does the calendar hurt you?
A: Our business really drops once school hits. It could be 90 degrees, but once school goes back people look at summer like it’s over. We start promoting fall – we do brunch fall through spring. We have a photo (featured in this article) from April - it’s gorgeous – a reflection of the sky and the ice and the water. We are year round.