A few years ago I went on a quest with my sister, who eats dairy-free, to find the best nondairy custard. We landed at a tiny, unassuming place on Grand Island called Adrian’s Custard & Beef.
To our surprise, not only did it serve the best nondairy custard we had ever tasted — totally devoid of that weird chemical aftertaste common to dairy-free custard — but also some of the best beef on weck, onion rings, French fries and fried pickles.
But, as born-and-raised Town of Tonawanda girls, how had we never heard of this place, a mere 10 minutes away? The best we could come up with is that it is one of Grand Island’s best kept summertime secrets, and, unless you live there, you’ve probably not had the pleasure of a meal at Adrian’s.
That is likely to change, however, as Adrian’s expanded this year into a much larger space across the street at 2352 Grand Island Blvd. It went from an old-school food stand, which opened in 1989, into a more modern, and spacious, building. The new digs features ample indoor and outdoor seating, an ice cream window, which keeps that nostalgic feel, and, new to Adrian’s, a bar.
I’ve clocked two Adrian’s visits so far this summer, and on my most recent one, introduced a friend to the establishment. We started with a medium beef on weck ($6.30), small cheeseburger ($5.20), sweet potato fries ($3.93) and “fring” ($4.20), which is half onion ring, half french fries.
Shortly after ordering, our names were called. We plucked our trays and dug in. The cheeseburger exhibited a nicely browned crust on either side. Crisp lettuce and a hearty tomato slice topped it, and a hefty bun held it all together. The exemplary beef on weck featured tender slices of beef, almost melt-in-the-mouth soft, piled high.
Fryer foods are tricky to get right, and Adrian’s does — every time. The onion rings and fried pickles are standouts. The rings are thick cut, and the batter is so crispy it almost shatters. It’s also slightly sweet. The fried pickles are doled out in generous portions (six per order for $6.56), and the addition of dill to the batter makes for a flavorful touch. Sweet potato fries often suffer from not being crispy enough, but not these ones, and they come with honey for dipping.
The menu also includes a variety of chicken sandwiches ($6.29 to $9.29), hot dogs ($2.82), pulled pork ($5.15 to $7.35), sausage ($3.66) and veggie sandwich ($3.59).
We each finished off with two scoops of ice cream ($3.31), opting for one of the many flavors of Perry’s ice cream. The scoops were generous in size. Adrian's also serves custard, sundaes, floats, milkshakes, malts and lemon ice.
The dairy-free custard flavors rotate every couple of days, including cake batter, vanilla and cherry. Additionally, they sell dairy-free ice cream cakes and dairy-free ice cream sandwiches, which are made between two gluten-free cookies.
No matter what kind of eater you are, Adrian’s is an excellent place to grab a cheap meal in the summer. But, for those who eat dairy-free and gluten-free, Adrian’s offers more choices than usual and exceptional-tasting custard.
2352 Grand Island Blvd. (773-9242)
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Sunday
Gluten-free options: GF roll, chicken sandwich, chicken tenders.