O'Brien's Farm Fresh Meats and Smokehouse is a butcher store that serves lunch and dinner. There's a meat counter in the back of the long room, which is lined with coolers and shelves of items like baked goods and Southern Tier Brewing Co. six packs.
The place has a homey feel, sort of like a coffee shop crossed with a farmhouse. A bar along one side is fashioned from old shutters, doors and reclaimed wood. There are also large televisions at either end and a few tables outside.
If you like, you can pick out a piece of meat and have it cooked to order, including aged beef from locally raised cattle. The T-bone, porterhouse, New York strip or Delmonico steak, served with a choice of potato and sauteed vegetables, can be yours for its raw price plus $9.
The server handed us menus and a specials list that included a 12-ounce strip steak rubbed with thyme and garlic ($15.99), flank steak stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese and pesto ($15.99), grilled chicken Alfredo pasta ($14.99) and a 16-ounce locally raised T-bone ($19.99) with garlic parsley butter.
We ordered spinach dip with bacon and smoked pepperjack cheese ($8.99) from the appetizers, but it was sold out. So we chose fried smoked mozzarella wedges ($8.49) and a Springtime Salad ($8.49) with crumbled blue cheese, candied pecans, and, intriguingly enough, Concord grape vinaigrette.
I went for the 16-ounce T-bone, with mashed sweet potatoes. Cat asked for the smoked barbecue platter, half a chicken and a half rack of "our famous dry-rubbed, hickory smoked St. Louis style ribs" ($16.99) with mac and cheese and coleslaw.
The salad was a heaping platter, enough for two, with an abundance of nuts and cheese, and shredded carrot. The greens included a welcome diversity of arugula and spinach, and the sweet maroon dressing was deliciously different.
For the appetizer, four hunks of mozzarella showed up with marinara sauce. The first bite into a crispy wedge reminded me that we were in a smokehouse, with a woodsy aroma and flavor. I would have liked a spicier or more assertive sauce to stand up to the cheese, but it didn't stop us.
The chicken and ribs arrived liberally coated with sticky barbecue sauce, plus a ramekin of sauce. Both meats were extremely tender and moist, but for a smokehouse specialty, I was expecting more smoke flavor. The meat was plentiful, just sauce dependent.
Cat, who isn't as picky as I am about barbecue, said she thought the meat was fine, but made her wish for hot sauce. Her side of mayonnaise coleslaw was sweet and still somewhat crunchy, flecked with purple cabbage and shredded carrot. The mac and cheese spirals were moderately cheesy, but served at room temperature.
My steak centered a handsome plate, topped with a hefty plug of garlic butter. The steak was cooked accurately to medium rare, tender and juicy. I ate the whole thing.
I can't swear that I could distinguish its flavor from a non-local steak, but I'm not sure if that says more about my palate than the steak. I did wish it had more of a crust or vigorously seasoned exterior, even with the substantial raw garlic punch of the butter, pungent enough to remind me of skordalia, the Greek garlic spread.
The sweet potatoes delivered homemade mashed texture and flavor. The mixed vegetables included carrots, green beans, zucchini and summer squash, vegetables treated with respect and served with a bit of crunch, not boiled to a pulp.
O'Brien's is well on its way to establishing itself as a village favorite, but some of its dishes made us wish for more depth of flavor, a bit more character, despite excellent ingredients. Pretty good cooking for a butcher shop, you might say.
O'Brien's Farm Fresh Meats & Smokehouse
DESCRIPTION: Family butcher shop and smokehouse offers heartwarming meals on Hamburg's Main Street.
WHERE: 32 Main St., Hamburg (646-6328, www.obriensmeats.com).
HOURS: Lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday; dinner from 4 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
PRICE RANGE: Appetizers, soups, sandwiches $3.29-$9.99; steaks and entrees $13.99-$20.99.
PARKING: On the street.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes