35 S. Transit, Lockport, NY 14094
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Lockport Seafood Steak
"For supposed Black Angus beef, the Filets were chewy and grainy rather than smooth, with very little flavor, and there was no doubt in our minds that the cuts were sub-par."
We're not going to make excuses for the photos of our recent meal at Garlock's: due to the weak lighting conditions in this well-established Lockport steakhouse, they're quite possibly amongst the worst we've ever published, and believe it or not, our meals looked considerably less impressive when we were eating them. But that's not to say that their subject matter is boring: to the contrary, the experience was noteworthy for a number of reasons, though it wasn't entirely or even substantially positive. When the meal was over, the only discussion between the four members of our group was whether Garlock's merited a two-star rating or lower based on the quality and pricing of the items we sampled.
In short, Garlock's is one of those old-fashioned restaurants that wears its aged appearance like a badge of honor: though its current owners have run the place for the past 19 years, the South Transit location dates back to 1962, and long maintained a reputation as a standout fine dining establishment in Lockport, specializing in steaks. One of our dining companions recalled having dinner there with his father decades ago, and the interior looks like a middle-class "fancy" restaurant of that era: wood-paneled walls mixed with wrought iron dividers, small tables with white tablecloths and dark chairs, then the too few and too little lights. Its servers are dressed in nearly formal attire - tuxedos minus the jackets - and there are a few traditionally upscale touches, such as the surprise appearance of a nice palate-cleansing cup of sorbet mid-meal. Though the service wasn't perfect, such that our drink refills needed to be requested and plates tended to linger a little longer than they should have, our server was friendly and present enough in the dining room that flagging her down wouldn't have been an issue had we wanted to be more insistent.
Similarly, though Garlock's menu isn't long - three pages, plus wines - it's full of comfortable enough fine dining choices. From a full page of 14 appetizers, we selected two of the three soups - Turtle Soup ($4.50) and Baked Onion Soup Au Gratin ($6), plus a $10 Combo Appetizer with three different items: two stuffed mushrooms, two baked clams, and a single stuffed crab. Most of the other options were variations on the clams - raw or baked - a shrimp cocktail, or sauteed escargot; we didn't feel like we were missing much with our choices.
Each of these items was in the okay to acceptably good category. Of all the turtle soups we've tried in the past, this one was amongst the least memorable, with only the tiniest pieces of indistinguishable snapper turtle meat mixed in with an oddly plain brown tomato broth, accompanied by a shot glass of sherry. We splashed and mixed the sherry in after the bowl arrived, giving the soup its only interesting flavor, and spent most of our time hunting in vain for pieces of meat. By comparison, the Baked Onion Soup was the more deluxe of two French Onion versions offered - the other lacked the baked-on mozzarella cheese toppping - and was fine to one of our tastes, with reasonable cheese and a decent sized piece of crouton-ish bread floating in the beef and onion broth, but the person who ordered it found it to be overly salty after eating the whole bowl.
Garlock's Combo Appetizer improved with each item we tried. It started weak with the two tiny baked clams, which were each stuffed with a mix of gooey cheddar, bacon, green peppers and clam bits that we wouldn't have ordered again. But then the dish improved as we moved to the stuffed mushrooms, which were larger and topped with both garlic breading and crab meat, nicely mixing their moist, common bottoms with drier but more ritzy stuffing, benefitted by the strong flavor of crab. We actually liked these, but we really enjoyed the stuffed crab, a similarly meat-heavy mix of breading and crab placed inside a modestly sized crab shell. Served with twin lemon slices, this plate didn't strike us as worth having again in its entirety, but the stuffed crab piece was definitely good.
Our group of four ordered three different entrees, with two people individually choosing slightly different preparations of a Garlock's "specialty of the house," the Prime Black Angus Filet Mignon ($27 each). One person went with a rare preparation, the other medium, and neither they nor the third person who sampled the Filet was happy with the quality or taste of the meat: for supposed Black Angus beef, the Filets were chewy and grainy rather than smooth, with very little flavor of any sort, and there was no doubt in our minds that the cuts were markedly below the standards of steaks we've had at other Western New York steakhouses. If they were truly Filet Mignon cuts, the cows surely deserved better. Both steaks came with rubbery pieces of garlic bread, fair salads, and a choice of potatoes: the potatoes au gratin tasted as if they'd been made with Velveeta, and a forgettable twice baked potato added a $2 upcharge to the other steak. The salads were acceptable, apart from some browned lettuce we noticed and discarded in one of the dishes. It needs to be noted that no one was impressed or even fully satisfied by the expensive steak dinners, a major factor in our sub-two-star rating.
Another member of our group ordered the first of four "Fowl" choices, the Barbecue Platter Combo of Ribs & Chicken ($17). Like the steaks, this plate was served with a salad and choice of potatoes - we tried the french fries, which were decent but not generous in quantity - and we enjoyed the thick, sweet Raspberry Vinaigrette on the otherwise somewhat sparing plate of lettuce, too few and too small croutons, and raw red onion rings. But the meats were nothing to write home about. The small chicken breast was overcooked almost to the point of dryness, markedly impacting the fun of cutting and chewing the meat, which like the ribs was coated in a sweet, lightly tangy barbecue sauce. These ribs were fair in quantity given the price, and more properly prepared to the extent that they were still tender, if not exceptionally moist; a thicker layer of the sauce was on top, making them easier to enjoy.
The last of the entrees was the Ground Steak Dinner ($14), a large clump of ground sirloin beef served alongside a lightly toasted piece of bread and a side of asparagus rather than potatoes - again for a $2 upcharge. This plate was somewhere between fine and good given what was ordered, namely a glorified hamburger minus the bun. While the portion here was in the eight to ten ounce range, and thus equivalent to a half pound or more burger, it wasn't anything special, nor were the accompanying bread and thin pieces of asparagus. Garlock's $16 total price for this plate felt steep given the quality of the items.
That was generally our feeling across all of the entrees, and most pronounced with the mediocre Filets, though the included sorbet, salad, and side items were nice additions that partially offset the prices. Those looking for a place to have a semi-fancy meal might be sated by Garlock's if they set their standards low for the food; the service and dark ambience are a throwback to times past, and with some work in the kitchen, this could be a place worth revisiting in the future.