29 Wehrle Dr, Cheektowaga, NY 14225
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Amherst Desserts Greek
"We've withdrawn our 2.5 star rating for Wehrle Family Restaurant following the unfortunate passing of its owner, who was apparently also responsible for at least some of the food preparation."
It is hard to convince a person to try something new when a familiar and good option is nearby; those who lack a sense of adventurousness will generally only be spurred by necessity to try an unfamiliar food or restaurant, and thereby grow their palates. We were in that camp. Over the many years we spent in Amherst, we repeatedly visited the Wehrle Family Restaurant, a family diner that did so well with easy American favorites that we never bothered with its specialty, Greek cuisine. Then, we changed, and that changed. The Mediterranean foods we once avoided became appealing, just before we left Western New York for sunny Southern California. And when we returned, hunting for quality Greek, the Wehrle was still here. It's not perfect, and serious Greek fans will rightly point to reasons to patronize City of Buffalo establishments such as Pano's and the Towne, but this is one of the less celebrated places to find a good meal. Updated December, 2009: Please see the update at the bottom of this article.
The Story: Located at the intersection of Wehrle and Harlem, the Wehrle Family Restaurant is in an interesting neighborhood, right between Amherst and Cheektowaga in the same general vicinity of fairly anonymous Chinese and American restaurants; its most noteworthy culinary neighbor, The King and I, was forced to relocate years ago, and the Wehrle Family now sits on a roundabout surrounded by large chain drug stores and a Hector's Hardware. Recent changes have expanded its parking and improved its exterior, but left the interior mostly the same. Inside, there's a traditional breakfast and coffee counter, booth and table seating for roughly 50 people, and a semi-exposed kitchen area that help contribute to a diner-like feeling. From the ambience to the menu, it's decidedly not fancy, and the prices reflect that.
Highs: In years past, we used to come here for the chicken wings, which even today remain surprisingly cheap: a single order is $6.55, a double $9.55. Crispy and spiced to your preference, they're a good option if you're not looking for the full-on Duffs experience. Similarly, Wehrle caters to other local preferences: it makes legitimately good Manhattan and New England Clam Chowders ($2.40 cup, $2.70 bowl), serves an $8.50 Friday Fish Fry that's well-liked and aggressively ordered by fans of the plate, and other obvious classics such as tasty fried Onion Rings ($3).
But the quiet stars of the menu are, as noted before, the Greek items. Spanikopita ($4.70), a square but otherwise pie-like piece of buttered, flaky Phyllo dough with spinach and feta, is absolutely delicious and affordable here, crispy and golden but never overcooked. It's also served with a salad and pita for $6.35, putting a similar plate at The Falafel Bar to shame on quality and pricing. We've never gone wrong ordering this place's Lamb Souvlaki Over Caesar ($12.25), a plate with five tender, grilled lamb chops served with a slight Italian accent; the traditional version with a Greek Salad and pita sells for the same price. You may well find more on your souvlaki plate at the Sheridan Family Restaurant, but it's hard to complain about the quality of items that arrive this consistently delicious.
Desserts are also a highlight here. Though Wehrle maintains a large display case full of cakes and pies ($3) in the front of the place, whetting your appetite for sweets before you've even enjoyed your meal, we're partial to the Greek Rice Pudding ($3), which unlike the Sheridan Family version comes out fresh, milky, and "just right" in texture based on our experience; we skip the whipped cream and go straight for the cinnamon-topped pudding. It has literally never disappointed us, and we consider it to be one of the best versions available locally. Sometimes, we go for the honey-sweetened, multi-layered Phyllo dough and pistachio Baklava ($3.40), which is always very good but not particularly special here; fans of American desserts can opt for the unsurprising ice cream ($2.50) and sundae ($3) options instead.
Lows: It's obvious after visiting for years that the Wehrle Family Restaurant is both family-run and not trying to impress or befriend customers so much as serve them efficiently and well; on occasion, the servers can be a little brusque or seemingly impatient, and the diner-like venue doesn't aspire to the sort of comfort or beauty that more recently updated Greek places elsewhere in the area offer. Similarly, the dishes we've noted above are always good to very good, rather than great, and there are occasionally mistakes that are quickly but not always apologetically remedied. Those seeking a generally no-nonsense meal will find it here, but diners looking for coddling should probably look elsewhere.
The Verdict: The Wehrle Family Restaurant is a reliably good choice for lunch or dinnertime Greek or local American favorites, with each side of the menu represented well enough to satisfy budget- and taste-conscious diners. If you can get past its nothing fancy trappings and nonchalant attitude towards serving new customers, you may well find that its prices and food quality make it worth becoming a regular, or at least a repeat visitor.
Updated December, 2009: We've withdrawn our 2.5 star rating for Wehrle Family Restaurant following the unfortunate passing of its owner, who was apparently also responsible for at least some of the food preparation. The quality of the food, from the soup (lukewarm and thin) to the entrees (flavors) to the desserts (off), had declined sharply on our most recent visit; we may update and revisit this review in the future.