3901 Sheridan Dr., Amherst, NY 14226
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American and Greek comfort foods, including everything from fried chicken to spanakopita, souvlaki to cakes and pies. Very reasonable prices and friendly service; some items are very tasty.
Menu doesn't include anything fancy and some items turn out better than others. Desserts, including rice pudding, sit in a display case for some time before serving, impacting freshness.
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American Amherst Greek
"They arrived alongside a similarly generous salad, primarily lettuce and pepperonici, topped with tomatoes, olives, and plenty of feta. We couldn't get through the whole plate."
Comfort foods are generally simply prepared items that evoke a sense of home or sentimental appeal. For years, Amherst's Sheridan Family Restaurant has offered such items - fried chicken, broiled fish, roast beef, pork chops, and sandwiches - but its focus has been on Greek comfort foods: souvlakis, gyros, mousaka, and the like. Seeking predictably good Greek food, we returned this week to this place after an extended absence, and as was the case in the past, we came away generally pleased by the quality of what we ordered.
Though we've seen the menu items many times before, we paged through them again, on the off chance that we'd find something surprising; we didn't. Sandwiches averaged $4, with options such as a BLT ($4.25), a Canadian BLT ($4.75), a Grilled American Cheese Sandwich ($2.75), and a Grilled Feta Cheese in Pita ($3.75), as well as club sandwiches with more garnishes for an average of $7. Sahlen hot dogs sell for only $1.90, foot longs for $3.25, and Italian sausages for $4.75. Full dinners start at $7.25 and average $8, with only one $11.50 option - a 12-ounce T-Bone Steak, complete with a side, salad or soup, and bread. This is clearly not a restaurant that's out to empty your pockets... even if you order aggressively, as we did.
We started by trying the "side order" sized Spinach Pie ($3.75), known at most Greek restaurants as spanakopita, and received precisely what we expected: a flaky, golden square of warm vegetarian pie made from layers of crispy Phillo Dough, spinach, and cheese, properly cooked rather than burned as it had been at the nearby Falafel Bar. Though neither place's rendition was mindblowingly amazing, achieving such a thing would require a deviation from the standard recipe, and this version was basically textbook: garnished with a bit of Feta and topped with an olive. It sold for less than half the price of Falafel Bar's version, tasted better, and didn't include the mandatory salad elements we hadn't really wanted there.
For entrees this time, we tried a variety of the meats, but in a fairly similar context: one of us ordered the Souvlaki Dinner ($9.95), a plate of beef kabobs served with a Greek salad, pita, and choice of potatoes. For this dish, we went with the Greek Potatoes, a plate of bright yellow sliced, oven-cooked potatoes coated in a light mix of lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, salt, and pepper. Both of these plates were very good, the beef kabobs numerous in number, characteristically tender, and nice in flavor - thanks to some garlic and basically the same other ingredients as the potatoes. They arrived alongside a similarly generous salad, primarily lettuce and pepperonici, topped with tomatoes, olives, and plenty of feta. We couldn't get through the whole plate.
That was partially because the other one of us ordered too much. On top of the 50/50 Souvlaki Dinner ($10.25), which is typically half beef and half chicken kabobs - we replaced the beef with pork souvlaki to sample a wider variety of meats - we made the mistake of ordering a side order of Onion Rings ($3.45) rather than trying to substitute them for the French Fries that we picked as our side with the 50/50. The basket of Rings arrived, large and beautiful looking, but there was something off to our taste in the batter, the onions, or both; they were a little too sweet and not quite as crispy as we like.
Thankfully, the rest of the plate was pretty good. Like the beef, both the chicken and the pork arrived wonderfully tender, properly flavored, and generally well-cooked: unlike Falafel Bar, the meat was in no way burned, but over the course of 10 or 15 minutes of eating, both the chicken and pork gradually lost their moisture and tenderness. For this plate, we used the included, deliciously crisp and slightly oily pita and accompanying salad to make and then devour a very satisfying sandwich, and there was plenty of meat and salad left over when we were done. The included French Fries were fine, not memorable.
Call us gluttons or gluttons for gastrointestinal punishment, but we couldn't help but order one of the desserts - a Rice Pudding ($2.75) - that always seem to be stored in a large upright display case near the front of the restaurant. Though the presentation makes clear that the fruit pies, cakes, and pudding isn't exactly fresh out of the kitchen, it lets you know that virtually anything sweet you might want is available here, with everything in the $3 price range. By contrast with, say, the Wehrle Family Restaurant, our pudding was extremely thick with rice, comparatively light on moisture, and topped with a copious quantity of cinnamon. We initially couldn't decide whether it was really good or had just been sitting in the display case too long, drying out. Thanks to the sweetness and mouth-filling texture of the eggy rice, broken up by soft but not gooey raisins, we settled on "really good."
Ultimately, comfort foods don't need to be culinary masterpieces in order to fill or satisfy; in fact, much of their appeal is that they're not complex and not special, rather, you order them because you know they're going to be good. In our experiences at Sheridan Family Restaurant over the years, generally speaking, we always know that what we order is going to be pretty good, sometimes better. And the service is consistently friendly, as it was on this occasion - even if we wound up with caffeinated tea rather than decaf ($1.59), there was an apology and replacement. Thus, while there were certain elements of the meal that take the Sheridan Family out of our three-star category, we do like this place: given the prices, the food, and the service, it's worth giving it a shot, and probably being a bit generous on the tip.