5507 Main St., Williamsville, NY 14221
Web: Glen Park Tavern
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American Bars Drinks Williamsville
"It's a cozy bar and restaurant that's well suited in all regards to offer fine meals to its Williamsville neighbors - a place that easily and perhaps deliberately blends into its surroundings rather than standing out."
Some restaurants are so filled with teens and twentysomethings that older patrons stay away; at others, such as the Glen Park Tavern in Williamsville, the average age is in the 50's, and younger diners may overhear - as we did - people at an adjacent table actually pointing out as much. "Not many young people come in here," one said to an agreeing companion, as the small place continued to fill up, and they were surely correct: by 7:30 or so, there were only one or two people from the 20-and-under crowd in the place, and they were being told - accurately - that no tables were available. Even in the middle of the week, Glen Park Tavern has a healthy crowd inside, and judging by our visit, it's substantially 35-and-older, with lots of love and attention from Williamsville locals.
Inconsistent Pacing. The growth of the crowd might have explained the service, which started out attentive when the restaurant was at a quarter or third of its capacity, but became dodgy soon thereafter. We started by ordering a cup of the Lobster Bisque Soup, which we'd heard very good things about, as well as one soft drink and one Tom & Jerry, the classic eggnog-like cocktail made from brandy, rum, hot water and a sugared, stiff-beaten egg, plus a dash of nutmeg and a full cinnamon stick at the core. The hot, delicious Tom & Jerry went down fast enough that we were soon ready for another, but our server never asked or offered a follow-up; after waiting the entire meal without an inquiry, we wound up requesting and enjoying a second as we paid the check. Baskets of bread we spotted on other tables somehow never made it to ours, leaving one of us with nothing to eat while the other had soup, and then our entrees arrived before our appetizers, but just barely, such that our small table literally overflowed with dishes. We would have had bigger problems if there hadn't been a chair available to hold one of our plates.
Fine Food, From What We Sampled. We had high expectations for the Lobster Bisque, sold for $5 per cup or $7 per bowl, which Glen Park's web site stated in a patron review was the "Best Lobster Bisque on the planet," the sort of claim we try to verify for ourselves. Unfortunately, the review was either significantly outdated or overhyped, as the bowl we received was tasty enough and thick with buttery broth, yet had only the most microscopic traces of lobster meat. The flavor was nothing special - by contrast with, say, Eckl's, it would rate as forgettable at best, and at worst, expensive for what was there. The included oyster crackers were necessary to give it something interesting in texture, which a well-populated Bisque shouldn't need.
Other items were all in the fair to good category. We were excited to sample Chef Tony's Stuffed Hot Peppers ($10), which the restaurant touted as Taste of Williamsville award winners, and found them to be fine: there were four - a good number, and good-sized - each filled with a mild bread stuffing and topped with shredded cheese. The fact that Glen Park includes both stuffing and cheese was appreciated in as much as some restaurants go with only one or the other, and the fresh peppers were cooked nicely, just shy of becoming soggy, but the flavors were all plain. A little more spice, a little more stuffing, or a lot more cheese might have made the peppers stand out.
Two sandwiches were similarly good, but not particularly memorable: Glen Park's Reuben ($9) arrived open on a wide plate, with plenty of Swiss cheese spread out on a bed of corned beef, sauerkraut, and Thousand Island dressing, while a similarly $9 "Certified Angus Beef on Weck" showed up with a modest portion of meat and a wonderful kummelweck bun, perfectly balanced in coarse salt and caraway seed toppings, plus cups of jus and horseradish. Though neither was filling on its own, we liked both sandwiches, but weren't as fond of their soggy included fries, particularly the ones made with white potatoes; the sweet potato ones were a little better. More of the moist, thin-sliced meat might have justified the Beef on Weck's price tag.
That left the eight Tavern Wings, which were too few for the $9 plate and nothing special in flavor: ordered hot, they were only modestly spicy and, like the fries, leaned towards soggy - possibly the consequence of having waited in the kitchen too long after leaving the deep fryer. While our Western New York transplant wrote them off after one wing as not worth finishing, the born-and-raised local noted that they were "baseline" wings - more authentic and tasty than can generally be found outside of this area, but nothing special by comparison with a hundred or more other places locally. BBQ and Citrus Chipotle flavors are offered as alternatives; we might be inclined to check them out along with some of the menu's more interesting options on a future visit.
The topic of whether there would actually be another visit was left open at the end of this one: apart from the Tom & Jerrys, we weren't thrilled with anything we tried, though we liked the venue, found the menu intriguing, and certainly didn't leave the place hungry. We had just enough residual curiosity about the many items we didn't sample to consider a future follow-up - the reason we're not issuing any stars at this point - and it's possible we'll revisit it one of these days. For now, Glen Park Tavern strikes us as a cozy bar and restaurant that's well suited in all regards to offer fine meals to its Williamsville neighbors, a place that easily and perhaps deliberately blends into its surroundings rather than standing out.