2 Detroit St., North Tonawanda, NY 14120
Web: The Shores Waterfront Restaurant & Marina
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Sandwiches Seafood Tonawanda
"We went into the Chicken Fajita Wrap with no expectations, but were surprised at how well the ingredients worked together, particularly the spicy sauce and tender chicken."
If you aren't familiar with the geography of Tonawanda, you mightn't know that it includes an island - Tonawanda Island - which has its own marina and restaurants. One is the small and aptly named The Shack, which serves hot dogs and ice cream from the middle of a boat store's parking lot. The other is The Shores Waterfront Restaurant & Marina, a considerably larger, full-service place with a nice view of the water, and a small menu with seafood and sandwich options. We paid The Shores a visit this week to see whether there was anything special about its food, and with one exception, came away fairly pleased. Since we didn't sample the core of the menu deeply enough for a full review, we're not issuing a rating, but wanted to share our initial impressions regardless.
Though its waterfront location would in some cities lead one to expect an upscale meal, The Shores is classically Tonawandan in its down-to-earth decor and menu, either of which would just as easily work in a Buffalo tavern as here. With the exception of the uncovered patio, which has plastic chair and circular table seating for perhaps 30 people when the weather's cooperating and the Yellow Jackets aren't out, the restaurant looks a little like a cozy bar from the 1960's, complete with a view of the Niagara River from the hunting lodge-like dining room that's off to one side. Its menu starts off with a somewhat misspelled but otherwise charming list of drinks - a "Mia Tai," a "Pina Coloda," Margaritas and Martinis, all designed to convince you to relax.
The rest of the menu is largely American and substantially, but not entirely seafood. One page labeled "Light Fare" includes sirloin, chicken, and Italian sausage sandwiches, but most of the other options are seafood: crab cakes, clams, and shrimp in various forms as appetizers, then cod, a seafood paella, crab legs, salmon, and varied shrimp and scallop dishes as entrees, plus a few vegetarian and chicken options in each category. All of the appetizers are centered around a $10 price, give or take a couple of bucks, while the entrees center around $20, with a few higher-priced exceptions, and both salad and sandwich options floating in the $11-$12 range. This isn't a cheap restaurant, but the prices aren't completely out of whack, either.
Our group of six ordered a number of different dishes, but we really focused on only four items. Most memorable of the bunch was a Chicken Fajita Wrap ($11), a surprisingly tasty mix of "fajita seasoned chicken" - a light chicken wing sauce mixed with a very melted cheddar - plus sliced onions and peppers, all in a fresh Italian herb wrap with French Fries and a tomato salsa on the side. We really went into this item with no expectations, but were surprised at how well all the ingredients worked together, particularly liking the spicy, cheesy orange sauce and tender, grilled chicken meat. Even without the fries, the wrap might have justified its price, but we liked the fries enough to eat them down to the plate, as well.
Another sandwich, the Caribbean Jerk ($11), was less surprising but also generally good. Served with the same fries, the biggest wow here was its toasted and lightly buttered Costanzo white roll, which had just enough crisp on its edges to impress us, offsetting two somewhat weakly flavored full rings of pineapple, which took away from a mildly marinated, pan-seared chicken breast in the center of the sandwich. While we wouldn't call this a fantastic example of jerk sauce or prep, a stronger marinade would have helped the otherwise well-cooked chicken to stand out more, and fresher pineapple would have been a better garnish.
We also grabbed a couple of appetizer class items, starting with the Stuffed Banana Peppers ($10), which were pretty good. Two garlic toast points sat on the sides of three full, roasted green banana peppers, each pumped full of a pleasant white mix of three cheeses, then topped with parmesan crumbs. There was nothing technically wrong with the peppers - they were broiled without being overcooked, their cheese stuffing was tasty, and we really liked the garlic toast, but we were left feeling like a little something special was missing. A combination of cheese and breading or spicier peppers might have made these more exciting, but they were good as-was.
Steamers - a dozen Prince Edward Island Little Neck clams for $12 - were the only other item we ordered, and again, we were generally happy with what arrived: the clams were oddly a little bit beautiful thanks to small purplish blue colors on their inner shells, and they ranged from medium to medium-small in size. Each was soft and a little more moist than we'd expected; the small side cup of butter didn't need to get much use. However, as we ate them, we thought that they might have been a little undercooked, something that didn't come back to mind until the next afternoon. That's when we suddenly developed the sort of sharp stomach discomfort that indicates food poisoning, and we've had once or twice before with undercooked clams or mussels. Three hours later, we were back on our feet, but we'd bet money that it was those clams - at least they tasted good.
Other members of our group tried a few different items, including a Chicken Parmigiana ($17) with capellini pasta that one person raved about, deeming it better than the versions found at most local Italian restaurants, two portions of Grilled Atlantic Salmon ($19) that were judged to be okay, and a Blackened Chicken & Broccoli dish ($17) that was reasonably received; uncharacteristically, we didn't get the chance to sample these items, and the dessert items were in very short supply that night - of the two choices, only a single slice of Peanut Butter Pie was actually available, and we left early, passing on sampling it. After the fact, members of our group told us that it was actually very tasty, a claim we'll have to verify for ourselves on a subsequent visit. We'll be skipping the clams, but if our first visit was any indication, there'll be plenty more worth trying.