One aspect about The Buffalo News’ restaurant reviews that I should have made clear much earlier is how much they are a group act, not a solo performance.
Yes, I present my opinions, hopefully with specifics to back them up. But the reason I walk through the door in the first place is usually because of you, my readers.
You collectively set my agenda. I try to deliver a report with enough detail so that you may reject my analysis but still end up with useful information. When it clicks, I feel like a restaurant detective, put on the case and delivering a report.
So when I walked through the door of Parkview Café in Westfield a few weeks ago, it was not an accident. I was there because two informants – sources of high-quality intel that I’ve never met – had dimed them out.
At the crossroads of Westfield, the town that grape juice built, Parkview Cafe is kitty-corner from the Welch Building, across from Moore Park. In clement weather, customers perch at hightop sidewalk tables and marvel at the view.
The park is nice, but it was the plates that had me wondering. Real china, indigo Currier & Ives, which is rare enough these days. Rarer still, they arrived bearing photo shoot-ready food, channeling Martha Stewart by way of Charleston, S.C.
That’s where David D’Amico and his husband, Ed Tkach, turned up from, anyway. Tkach runs the front of the house, bringing his Olympic-level charm to bear on each table in turn. D’Amico runs the kitchen, and they shut down in December and return in spring, with the robins.
[Related: A 'grape trip' to Westfield]
They took over the Parkview in 2013. Their renovation aimed at clean and classy, chandeliers in the windows, weathered wooden floors and historic photos on the walls commemorating an Abraham Lincoln visit to Westfield.
It’s a breakfast, lunch and brunch place with a tiny menu, which pretty much guarantees you have to try the Benedict. The Parkview’s version was textbook.
Trim, almost minimalist, it had just enough of a hollandaise lemon-butter hug to gild a pair of perfectly poached eggs. It comes in three flavors: regular (Canadian bacon, $9.95), florentine (sautéed spinach instead of bacon, $10.75) and Neptune (crabcakes, $11.75).
[Stay up to date with food-and-drink info: Sign up for the weekly newsletter]
The crabcake version delighted with flaky crab bundles held together with an imperceptible modicum of crumbs.
With asparagus and a side? Oy, such a bargain. Especially when the side is real grits, shipped in from South Carolina, the menu proudly says. There’s also “home fries,” gently browned sugar cubes of potato, moderately mayonnaised mac salad and freshly shredded apple walnut coleslaw that was refreshing, but could have used more walnuts.
A Reuben ($12.25) was a gutsy griddled sandwich on rye, stuffed with corned beef, swiss cheese and sauerkraut, melted all the way through in a panini press.
What really hooked me was the chicken and waffles ($12.75).
Historically, this dish has been a personal vale of sorrow. Most kitchens can turn out an adequate piece of fried chicken. It’s the waffles under the warm bird that seem harder to get right, usually wilting faster than fallen cherry blossoms.
This one offered crusty resistance, with Belgian fortitude, sturdy even after a thorough drizzling with honey. The plentiful hunks of boneless chicken, crispy and moist, were a joy to behold. I asked for some hot sauce and went to town.
I was already silently thanking my informants before the pot pie got to the table. They were right again: a paragon of buttery crust, golden brown and flaky, formed over the clear glass dish holding creamy chicken stew.
The crust-to-filling ratio was excellent, the meat, carrots and peas abundant, the entire proceeding a well-balanced number that avoided the salt-lick tendencies of so many of its kind. Real crust, too, not an “I don’t have time for pastry” patch of puff pastry on top.
The price? Are you sitting down? It was $10.75 – with a side.
Reeling, I noticed a woman watching me. Joan Fernsler introduced herself, and said that I should write about the place, because it’s wonderful. I agree with Joan, and the others.
Bellinis ($6.50) and other alcoholic choices are available, including a brief wine selection topping out at Matua Sauvignon Blanc ($31). During the week, lunch includes Angus burgers, like blue cheese and bacon ($12.95), and wraps such as the grilled pesto chicken ($9.75).
After a single visit for brunch, I understood why I saw so many people dressed in blazers and Sunday dresses in the room. When Tkach said that people who are traveling to the area – to Chautauqua Institution down the road a piece, or right in Westfield – they sometimes make reservations six months in advance, I believed him.
You don’t leave a pot pie like that to chance.
Parkview Café – 8 plates (out of 10)
Location: 3. E. Main St., Westfield (326-3600)
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Prices: lunch, $9.50-$13.75;, brunch, $8.75-$13.75.
Atmosphere: amiable hum in high-ceilinged room.
Wheelchair accessible: yes, rear door
Gluten-free-options: salads, eggs