6075 Main St., Williamsville, NY 14221
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"As Anderson's ice is fairly priced and generously dispensed, we always seem to realize too late that the next smaller size of one of these mixes would have been entirely filling."
Though we have been fans of Anderson's for as many years as we can remember going there, we could take or leave probably half of its current menu. All the sandwiches, grilled stuff, and salads? Sure, they're fine, but we have many other local favorites for these items. Even Anderson's Beef on Weck, which has apparently won awards in the past, strikes us as only passable by comparison with the area's heavy hitters. But this 60-year-old, seven store local chain's desserts - the custard that famously is included in its name, the ice cream sundaes, and the lemon ice - are deserving of heavy praise. We won't go into great detail on the custard or sundaes, which are consistently great because they are exactly what you'd expect when you order a soft chocolate custard waffle cone or a Mexican sundae. It's the lemon ice, and its more recent variations, that have most recently kept us coming back to Anderson's for more.
Lemon ice is, in a nutshell, Anderson's equivalent of an Icee. Served in a dish ($1.80 to $2.40) rather than a cup, the consistency is closer to that of soft-serve ice cream than a beverage, and thus it's eaten with a spoon instead of being slurped up with a straw. There are never any ice chunks, nor gradations in the completely smooth, almost fluid white delicacy. It could, on the right day, briefly be sculpted into a shape with your spoon, but in the heat of summer, you'll have perhaps 20 minutes before it has started to melt, gently softening along the way.
The biggest difference between lemon ice and frozen drinks is in the flavor. Anderson's rendition is, by lemon standards, quite nearly as subtle as the tart fruit gets, with a taste that is more sweet than sour, and effortlessly light. There is nothing chemical or strong in this dish, unlike the Icee, which we love despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that it can beat your tongue senseless with both color and power; lemon ice here is so airy that you might mistake it for health food. Which, frankly, it may well be by contrast with the Brownie Overboard sundae ($5.50) we have tried and also loved here.
As much as we have enjoyed lemon ice over the years, Anderson's "flavor of the day" alternatives have become equally compelling draws. Having tried both the store's loganberry ice and blue raspberry ice in isolation, we now realize that they are best served in swirls alongside the lemon version, creating a yin-and-yang contrast that places the original in an odd position. Lemons, prized for their lip-pursing powers, here play a milder second fiddle to the more robust cousins loganberry and raspberry - a refreshment within the refreshment. As Anderson's ice is fairly priced and generously dispensed, we always seem to realize too late that the next smaller size of one of these mixes would have been entirely filling.
Our praise for Anderson's rendition of this dessert is qualified by only one thing: the existence of a serious out-of-town competitor. Rita's Water Ice (more recently, Rita's Ice), a growing chain of franchised dessert shops, has taken its soft Italian Ice to new heights with more than 25 flavors, imbuing some with small chunks of fresh fruit that have been generating buzz for years. Somewhat surprisingly, a Rita's location opened last year on Main Street near U.B.'s South Campus, only to close down before people even realized it was there - the closest one's now in Erie, Pennsylvania. Anderson's can rest easy for now, but mightn't it be a good time for this local institution to start experimenting with fresh fruit?