To answer your first question, yes, the Creekview restaurant may be in the heart of Williamsville but it does indeed look out on a creek. Ellicott Creek, to be exact, where a small falls tumbles in warm weather and a glass-walled side room overlooks all. Located in an old house that's been added to through the years, the building just sort of rambles along the bank. Because the food is generally of such high quality, the place pretty much always draws a crowd.
Every neighborhood restaurant should be like this. There's a great big menu of starters, sandwiches, salads and small plates. Also, plenty of dinner entrees and pastas to choose from and even a list of daily specials. The food, for the most part, is generally of the type described as "American," although you'll find plenty of international touches -- these are good sturdy favorites without a lot of trendy ruffles and flourishes.
But that doesn't mean the food isn't very well prepared.
It was a night for comfort food, so we began with vegetable-loaded Manhattan Clam Chowder and shared an order of potato pancakes ($8.50). I consider myself a potato pancake maven and these belong way on the top of my list. There were three pancakes -- large and crisp -- (crispness is essential), served up with sour cream and good, slightly chunky applesauce. If you're not all that hungry, the order is enough for a light meal.
But we were hungry, so the next part of the meal came from the specials menu. Braised Short Ribs ($24.95) were tender and velvety, but were even better served as they were with parsnip puree, ever so slightly sweet, and caramelized Brussels sprouts.
Also on the specials list that evening was Carbonnade ala Flamande ($16.95), the Belgian stew that's braised in beer to make for a peasanty midwinter classic that's seldom seen around here. There was bacon, mushrooms, onions and potatoes in the dish and so much good, rich broth that it came in a soup plate with a handy little soup spoon tucked in.
Of course, I also could have mopped it up with the bread, but that bread is my only real quibble about the Creekview. It's ordinary white and there's not a thing wrong with it, but it's not very interesting and nowhere near up to the quality of the rest of food.
Even if we hadn't been in such a beef-y mood on our visit, there was certainly plenty of other dishes available on the regular menu. Fried Honey Dipped Chicken with a buttermilk biscuit ($15.95), Chipotle Baby Back Ribs ($23.95) and Filet Mignon served with wild mushrooms and bearnaise butter ($28.95).
There's even a Vegetarian Tasting Plate that changes nightly ($13.95), always a good sign of a right-minded chef with a good sense of what's fresh at market. (That evening, the plate consisted of French lentils, sauteed spaghetti squash, Tuscan white beans and asparagus.)
The Small Plate list includes New Orleans Shrimp and Grits ($12.95) or Tuscan Beans and Greens ($8.95). If you're lucky and turn up on the right day, you can even get Lamp Lollipop Chops with jalapeno mint glaze and fig compote for $14.95.
Desserts here are homemade, so it's worth the calories. Coconut Cream Pie was nice, pears baked in Zinfandel even nicer.
A good, moderately priced wine list makes for a holiday glow.
Correction: Last week's review of Valenti's Restaurant repeated incorrect information from a press release stating that chef Terry Valenti had appeared on the television show "Iron Chef" with Bobby Flay in 2003.
3 stars (out of 4)
WHERE: 5629 Main St., Williamsville (632-9373, www.creekview-restaurant.com). Sturdy American food served in this historic house overlooking Ellicott Creek. Credit cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa.
FAVORITE DISH: Carbonnade Flamande
NEEDS WORK: The bread.
PRICE RANGE: Dinner entrees with soup or salad from about $16. Sandwiches with fries from $8.50.
SERVICE: Very good.
HOURS: Lunch, Monday through Saturday. Dinner is served 4 to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 4 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 1 to 9:30 p.m. Sunday.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes (best to call ahead).
PARKING: In the lot.
RATINGS: Stars reflect the overall dining experience at the time of The News' visit, with greatest weight given to quality of the food.