7800 Transit Rd., Williamsville, NY 14221
Web: Frog Hair Grille & Golf
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American Beef on Weck Favorites Salads Seafood Steak Wings
"The Poached Pear Salad ($10) is legitimately one of the area's best, combining beautiful ingredients with wonderful flavors and memorably contrasting textures."
July's annual Taste of Buffalo is bigger and better-known, but August's Taste of Williamsville actually introduced us to several suburban restaurants that we mightn't otherwise have visited. Chief among them was Frog Hair Grille and Golf, a Transit Road establishment with a name and theme that will appeal far more to some people than others - the "golf" part may even dissuade some prospective patrons - even though the restaurant's menu and ambience are both extremely appealing. If you can look past the name and think "light country club" instead, you'll begin to understand why this place is worth a visit; by the end of a meal, we'd actually be surprised if you didn't want to return.
To get the obvious questions out of the way, Frog Hair is indeed a place for golf fans - its name refers to the mowed grass located between the green and the rough - and it's impossible to miss the large, projector-equipped video golfing stations when you walk in towards the dining room, or the fact that the whole place looks like a lot like the restaurant at a country club. From the woods to the lighting and flooring, the place feels like it could easily be the club house at the end of a golf course, yet it's neither exclusively for golfers nor country club types; in the four times we've visited over the past eleven months, we can only recall seeing one group of people ever actually occupying the video golf booths, even when the main dining area's been full of people. From what we gather, Frog Hair's spacious, street-facing outdoor patio is far more popular, with wood-planked table seating, a large, well-equipped bar, and pop music playing at audible but inoffensive levels. This isn't a miniature golf and pizza place for kids' birthday parties, but rather a restaurant where smart casual attire and the related attitude are prevalent.
The easiest way to describe Frog Hair's menu would be "country club American cuisine with dashes of Tex-Mex, Italian, and Cajun;" it's a seven-page but relatively short collection of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, and entrees divided up into "1st Hole," "On the Green," "Front Nine" and "Back Nine" sections. Chicken wings, fingers, salads and entrees sit alongside nachos, quesadillas, and an ancho chili sauced pork entree, plus simple American and Italian-American picks: burgers, pasta, steaks and seafood. Every meal starts with a complimentary basket of "pretzel bread" - long, thick loaves of moist, salted pretzel served with mustard - and we can say without question that this is one of the very best starts to a meal we've had anywhere in the area. It's exactly what you'd expect from a freshly made pretzel, only larger, better, and free.
At the Taste of Williamsville, we'd tried the Signature Lobster Bisque ($3.25/cup, $4.50/bowl), which we've had on two subsequent occasions, finding the soup to be thick, buttery, and pleasant in lobster flavor, if decidedly inconsistent in quantity of lobster meat. Our first sample at the taste was generous on the meat, but our last sample was skimpy, and the one inbetween was somewhere in the middle. Thankfully, the rest of the soup is quite good, and the nice oyster crackers help add to the texture.
Other appetizers have consistently fallen into the "good" category, sometimes surprisingly so. We've repeatedly ordered the Stuffed Banana Peppers ($9), two invariably fresh hot peppers that have been loaded up with white cheeses, lightly baked, and served with triangles of dark but lightly toasted garlic pumpernickel bread. On most occasions, cutting the gooey cheese and slightly spicy peppers and depositing them on the bread is the way to go, but the peppers and cheese are always good enough to eat alone. We've also sampled the Seared Ahi Tuna Appetizer ($8, also sold as an entree for $22), which is one of the most attractively offered versions of this dish that we've ever seen - six small but fat slices of rare tuna with peppercorn crusting, a sweet soy drizzle to one side, and a red tortilla cup filled with lightly wasabi-flavored dipping cream on the other. The tuna's edges are spiced and crisped well enough to enjoy without either sauce, but we loved the brown sauce, and would sooner see more of it on the plate than the light wasabi cream. This is one of the surprisingly good, even great items we've had here.
Traditional Western New York favorites also do well at Frog Hair. On one occasion, we sampled the Chicken Wings (Single/$8.75), which while a little expensive given the portion size and moderately-sized wings were properly cooked, spiced, and flavored. A parsley garnish was added to try and dress up the plate, but wasn't needed; these were legitimately good enough to stand on their own. The Beef on Weck is served in two sizes - "Par 3" for $7.25, and "Par 4" for $10 - differing in the amount of meat on the bun. Par 4 is generously appointed, and though the kummelweck bun isn't anything special, the freshly sliced top round is good, and Frog Hair serves both versions with potato chips, a pickle, horseradish, and a cup of beef jus. A favorite, it isn't, but we'd eat it without much complaint.
Frog Hair's salads deserve special commendation. The Poached Pear Salad ($10) is legitimately one of the area's best, combining beautiful ingredients with wonderful flavors and memorably contrasting textures. Most obvious in the bowl are the full, sweet, cooked pear, which sits off to one side, and the crispy wonton noodles that contrast with its soft, easily cut body. Between them are generous quantities of mandarin oranges, sundried, raisin-like cherries, crumbled bleu cheese, mixed greens, and candied walnuts, mixed in a sweet Thai vinaigrette that helps every bite to vary a little from sweet to bitter to sour, crunchy to soft to something in between. Even when one of us picked the salad dry of its choicest ingredients, there was still enough left over for the other to enjoy what was left. By contrast, Frog Hair's Chicken Caesar Salad ($9) and Fajita Salad ($10) - a mix of sliced, breaded chicken breast with crunchy tortilla slices, cheese, lettuce, and black beans - are both good, not remarkable, more noteworthy for their filling sizes than anything else. They're now also offered in smaller "Perfect Portions," each at a $2 discount.
Finally, there are the entrees, of which we'll describe only one: the Marinated Flank Steak ($18). Quite possibly the only disappointment we've had at Frog Hair, this large plate arrived loaded with vegetables - steamed squash and broccoli, a pile of creamy white truffle mashed potatoes, and deep-fried brown onion rings - yet the steak, a tender and properly medium rare but merely decent piece of beef, was all but invisible, relatively small in size and plopped right down in the potatoes. Its sauce, a red wine reduction, was too light on the meat, requiring use of a tiny pool that sat off to its side, mixing with the potatoes. Given the value of the other items we've tried, especially the quality of the salads, this wouldn't be an item we'd rush back for; surely a kitchen this talented can do better. Other options, such as Crab Stuffed Steak with hollandaise sauce, Free Form Lasagna and other pastas with shrimp and scallops, start at $13 and climb to $25, with most options hovering around $18.
Overall, our three-star rating of Frog Hair reflects a genuine appreciation for what this Williamsville restaurant has to offer: the name and golfing theme may not appeal to every passer-by, but we've been pleased by virtually every meal we've had here, as well as the fact that the menu enables different meals to go in entirely different directions - light, heavy, upscale, downscale - catering to whatever one's preferences might be on a given visit. While truly standout items might be few in number, and a little inconsistency between visits can be expected, good meals and generally reasonable prices are consistent, and worth sampling.