5428 Main St, Williamsville, NY 14221
Rating: [learn more]
High-quality German and Polish food, served in a homey, quaint setting with set side dishes and wonderful Pecorino cheese. Flavors and combinations aren't common elsewhere.
Menu options are limited and seating can be cramped; some of the dishes, such as German sausages and certain sides, may be off-putting to those with sour or bitter aversions. A little pricey.
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German Polish Williamsville
"We were genuinely charmed... it would be fair to say that as Eastern European meals go, this was one of the best we've ever had, even having visited both Germany and Austria."
Main Street in Williamsville is so packed with well-known restaurants - The Eagle House, The Original Pancake House, Trattoria Aroma, The Creekview - that it's possible for a new one to open without attracting our attention. So when we were asked whether we wanted to try the "German restaurant on Main Street," we were frankly surprised that there was a German restaurant on Main Street. But lo and behold, there was Prosit - named for a German drinking toast, to health - complete with menus outside and a German-language "bier und wein" sign in the window. The surprises continued when we were seated at our table.
The Story: As it turns out, Prosit's only open four nights a week - from Wednesday through Saturday, 4:30pm to 10:00pm - and it looks and feels like a small, converted two-story home. There are tables on both floors, the first one cramped in a cozy way - like going to a great-grandmother's house - with one of its several tables literally adjacent to a salad serving station. The walls are covered in classic photographs and tapestries, one table actually adorned with a photograph of Desi and Lucy, and a cross hangs above the nearby entry to the kitchen. It's not like some famous New York deli, with signed publicity photos, or a Buca de Beppo, the imagery obviously duplicated from chain location to location. Rather, there's something genuinely old school about this place, its mismatched but nice dishes, its expensive but hardly modern table cloths and chairs, and its tastefully anachronistic approach to ingredient selection. You feel like you're at home. In a German home. With a choice of mostly German dishes for dinner.
The nine total entrees may start at $12, but actually gravitate around $18, with one at $19 and two at $16; all include salads and three set side dishes: sweet and sour red cabbage, lemon-vinegared celery and onions, and sauteed apples topped with Polish planek crumbs, ginger, and cinnamon. Six appetizers include Polish items such as Pierogis ($5 each) and a hunter's stew called Bigos ($6), while potato pancakes are served with gravy ($5) or sour cream ($4), alongside soup and salad options. There's a four-item dessert menu, as well.
Highs: What really caught us off guard at Prosit were the ingredient choices, which seemed almost designed to twist the tongue rather than let it follow a familiar path through every bite of a dish. Following included plates of sweet raisin and nut breads and sharp, salty Pecorino cheese, which surprised us by offering strong and pleasant tastes rather than the typically neutral or pretzel breads we're used to sampling before meals, we each received legitimately tasty house salads. Prosit's chef had drenched field greens, feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, olives, grapes and large, dark croutons in a thick but light-tasting tomato dressing; the combinations of sweet, salty, soft, crisp, and rough were exquisite.
Two of us ordered $18 variants on the classic German and Austrian schnitzel, flat-pounded, breaded and deep fried meats that are commonly served overseas with gravy. One of us tried the Heiglschnitzel, a pork version, while the other ordered the chicken version Huhnchenschnitzel, each served under a lemon and atop one of Prosit's potato pancakes. We both enjoyed each of these items, their bodies just as crisp and gently flavored as we'd typically expect, though the lack of any gravy took a little away from the dishes. There was hardly any room on the plates; they were loaded with the red cabbage and celery-onion sides, the delicate latter of which we preferred to the sour former. Prosit's cooked apple side was similarly pleasant, mixing sweet and sour flavors in a nice item that didn't detract from our desire for dessert.
A bigger highlight was the Frau SchlauBraten ($19), a beef brisket accurately described as "fork tender" and served with a moderately rich gravy. Though the most expensive item on the menu, the SchlauBraten was wonderfully soft and savory - a truly great brisket - plus, served in such a huge portion that several of us wound up sharing parts of it. A crispy potato dumpling was also on the plate, and enjoyable, alongside the other side dishes.
Though most of our group passed on desserts - an Apple Pie ($6), a crock filled with Polish Cheesecake ($7), and an Austrian Peanut Butter Cup cake ($7), we very much enjoyed sharing the Edel-Kirsch Black Forest Chocolate Mousse ($7). Described as served with a wine shot, the mousse had clearly been infused with a nice dose of cherry liquor before being sprinkled with chocolate chips and topped with whipped cream. It was served in a sizable dish, and though the quality wouldn't otherwise have been much better than a typical store bought box mix, the pleasant cherry, slightly alcoholic flavor elevated the mousse to memorably good.
Lows: While we generally enjoyed all of the meal, there were a couple of items that didn't do as much for us as the others. The Trappist Sampler Platter ($18), mixing one Wurst sausage, one Pierogi and one Potato Pancake, offered the choice between either a traditional German or a more familiar Polish sausage, both topped with sauerkraut. We also had a single sausage as an appetizer. At Prosit, all the sausages appear to have been boiled, and the traditional German sausage is definitely a love it or pass on it sort of taste; it's like mild ground beef stuffed into natural tubing, and in our view better disguised by the fermented cabbage sauerkraut topping. We'd stick with the other sausage unless you really feel compelled to try the German version. Still, the Pierogi and Potato Pancake were very good, both authentic and yet less greasy than we're accustomed to.
The only other "eh" item was the red cabbage side dish, which was the least popular of the three that were offered with each of our meals. Though we didn't mind it, it wasn't really to our tastes, and we would really have preferred the option to select sides up front rather than being handed the chef's selection. One of us commented that the apple side dish, despite appearing as described, wasn't great; different people will of course have different tastes, yet everyone will receive the same side dishes. That having been said, Prosit definitely exposed us to a number of interesting and unexpected flavors, and even if we'd do things a little differently the next time, we were impressed by just how different this meal was from what we'd been expecting, both in the general scope of what we found on the menu and the specifics of how the dishes were executed.
The Verdict: Our rating of Prosit at a solid three stars requires a little extra explanation. We were genuinely charmed by the venue, pleased by the service, and repeatedly surprised by the tastes and portions of the dishes we received; it would be fair to say that as Eastern European meals go, this was one of the very best we've ever had, even having visited both Germany and Austria. Yet it didn't strike us as worthy of a higher overall rating; we could specify small tweaks, namely gravies and different side dishes, that would further improve the dishes we ordered, and the menu's limited entrees, ranging from heavy to oily, and heavily accented with sour items, aren't just "not for everyone." Even entering Prosit takes a lot more bravery than an Irish or British pub, and perhaps only a little less than a Russian restaurant; unless you're German or Polish, you won't find any "comfort foods" on the menu. It helps to be open-minded to the prospect of trying items that might sound or taste a little different.
They will. But they'll also be very good, and even if the menu's constrained, the chef deserves praise and respect for the way meals are structured. There aren't two dozen entree options, you don't have to separately assemble appetizers, salads, and entrees, and frankly, you don't even need to pick carefully from the menu. Instead, you select one dish for a price that might seem a little high at first, and you wind up with a full, delicious meal that doesn't require a dessert at the end. That's different, and frankly refreshing. With only small exceptions, we thought that our dishes were worthy of the asking prices, and we're thrilled that there's a homey, yet high-class German option in Williamsville. We'd definitely go back again.