There is a great Onion headline that reads “You Can Tell Area Bank Used to Be a Pizza Hut,” accompanied by a photo of that oh-so-Hut roof, now with a brown paint job.
In those instances – and I can think of several – it is easy to tell what a building once housed. On the other hand, there are also spots in Western New York whose earlier incarnations might not be that obvious – but as longtime Western New Yorkers know – have been home to numerous establishments. Know-it-alls will cheerfully rattle off the names of restaurants, businesses and stores long since departed. (That’s not necessarily a skill I would be proud of.)
Casato’s is located at 4905 S. Buffalo St. in Orchard Park, a well-traveled corner in the Southtowns just past the village and near a Route 219 entrance. This is one of those “used-to-be” dots on the map – Rappl’s, Ganer’s, Early Times in the Park are the ones I remember.
Whatever that corner once housed, Casato’s seems to be a success, a well-liked bar and restaurant that draws a huge Friday night crowd.
I’ve now visited twice, at different times of day: a Friday evening and a Saturday afternoon. Predictably, it was packed on that Friday with the fish fry crowd. As expected, the Saturday lunchtime numbers were much smaller.
In both cases, I left satisfied, and judging by the size of the fish fries – hanging-off-the-plate huge – no one else went home hungry, either.
Visit No. 1 was a lazy Saturday afternoon. My wife and I met friends who live in Orchard Park, and we arrived to an almost empty bar. This, however, was rather nice. It meant that we could converse easily, enjoy efficient service and truly relax.
The Casato’s bar area is certainly conducive to going with a group. The bar is not overly large (10 stools), but nearby are three long tables with chairs. It’s a nice place to sit with friends, but I would imagine these go quickly every evening.
Our server was friendly, talkative and clearly passionate. She took the time to tell us about a few of the food favorites, and while she was a bit unsure about the beer selection, her enthusiasm more than made up for it.
The draft beer selections are the bar’s greatest selling point. The menu does not list all of them – likely due to an ever-changing list – so I’d recommend doing what I did and walk right up to inspect the offerings.
The menu explained that there are 30 beers on tap, and in addition to the Buffalo Bar Must-Includes (your Blues, your Coors, your Buds), it listed Southern Tier Phin & Matt’s, Longboard, Magic Hat No. 9 and a few others.
I opted for what I’d call a very good deal, a five-beer sample for $7. I selected beers from Southern Tier Brewing Co., Founders, Dogfish Head, Magic Hat and a Hefeweizen.
As we chatted, I noticed several TVs, lots of wood and signs heralding a few drink deals (Woodchuck Wednesdays!).
We all dined, sticking with bar food (wings, spinach artichoke dip) and stuffing ourselves happily. Then came a telling moment – in a good way. Our server noticed that one member of our party had barely touched her beer. She asked if everything was OK and when our friend explained that she simply did not like her choice, our server told her to choose any other beer she’d like.
“We want our guests to be happy,” she said, smiling, and I believed that. Perhaps that seems a small gesture, but considering how downright rude the staff of many establishments act, a genuinely nice moment does not go unnoticed.
Our return trip was similarly uneventful, but the Friday night crowd was much larger. Still, the service remained strong, and while it was a little noisier at the bar, conversation was still doable.
If that Friday crowd is any indication, the corner of South Buffalo Street and Jewett-Holmwood may have found itself a lasting resident.
Where: 4905 S. Buffalo St., Orchard Park (662-0009)
Scene: A casual suburban spot drawing a mix of ages
On tap: 38 rotating taps, including Belgian and imported beers, a wide variety of craft beers, and even “food”-themed selections.
Music: A mix of newish (Lumineers, Adele) and older (Fugees, Natalie Imbruglia) radio-friendly faves.
Hours: Noon to 10 p.m. Sunday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Closed Monday.