Walking into Kennedy's Cove feels like wandering into someone's house. There's a small bar inside the front door, and a dimly lit dining room, decorated with enough knickknacks to remind you of your in-laws' den. There, you can admire the big tropical fish tank and listen to servers and customers who are apparently on a first-name basis banter over what to have for dinner.
The menu wants to be taken seriously, featuring premium steaks, meat and seafood, from an 8-ounce filet mignon ($35) to a 20-ounce bone-in ribeye ($44), and market-priced Australian lobster tails and king crab legs.
But it wants to be down-home at the same time, with appetizers like fried mozzarella ($6), stuffed peppers ($9.50) and a steak eggroll ($8). Those seemed more in place with our table, set with paper napkins and a tealight in a decorative holder.
We listened to the specials recited by our server, then wished for a card to review. John, a guest fond of olives, asked for the fried olives special ($7), and a cup of French onion soup ($5). Cat got the steak eggroll, and I had fried calamari ($10).
For mains, Cat ordered a special of 8-ounce filet mignon with crabmeat-stuffed shrimp ($45), I asked for the 20-ounce ribeye, and John got a 10-ounce filet ($38).
Our guest Jane, allergic to gluten, had to ask a server to walk her through the potential meal choices. Our server did an excellent job, supplying all the necessary dietary details and checking with the kitchen to answer outstanding questions. Jane chose bacon-wrapped scallops with Sweet Baby Ray barbecue sauce ($28).
Cat's steak eggroll turned out to be a ground beef and cheese burrito, with mushrooms, not deep-fried and wrapped in a flour tortilla. It tasted fine, but wasn't what we expected, especially at a steakhouse.
The fried olives appetizer was more than a dozen quarter-sized, deep-fried spheres, made of a combination of cheeses and chopped mild California olives. John, expecting stuffed olives or at least something that tasted more like olives, was disappointed.
When the server asked if he liked them, he said, "No." She said, "That's too bad, they're really good."
The French onion soup was warm underneath its cheese quilt, but it offered relatively weak broth without noticeable wine or vermouth bolstering its flavor. My calamari was fried to a welcome crunch in its crumb coat, but a fishy note detracted from its appeal, and the wasabi ranch dressing made me realize I'd never before missed marinara.
The steaks were outstanding, tender hunks of beef cooked accurately, with frizzled brown edges from the intense heat, which I appreciate. The table's meat eaters all accepted the invitation to have Kennedy's "famous" blackened seasoning applied before cooking, which didn't add as much bite as I expected, just a nudge past fresh-ground black pepper.
The steaks came with a choice of salad and potato, with a $2 surcharge for twice-baked white or sweet potatoes. Jane's sweet twice-baked was terrific, fluffy and flavored with maple syrup and butter. Cat's wasn't as good, faintly gluey, like it had been sitting longer.
John thought his regular twice-baked, fortified with sour cream and onion, was terrific. The big fried potato wedges with my steak were crunchy and satisfying.
The dinner salads were enjoyable, with fresh croutons, field mix, chickpeas and grape tomatoes, especially if you add crumbled blue cheese ($1.50).
Crème brûlée in a chocolate shell ($7.75) was a creamy, rich way to end the meal. My apple turnover ($6, $2 more for a scoop of ice cream) was like an apple pie for one, with a soft middle but crunchy corners of pastry.
At Kennedy's Cove, the steaks were terrific. But if it used to be a steal, those days are over. We paid downtown steakhouse prices for a meal that, besides the steak, didn't keep up in terms of quality. Despite that, though, the attentive service and good company still made for a fine evening.
Prime steaks make the grade ?at otherwise homey restaurant
Seven plates (out of 10)
WHERE: 9800 Main St., ?Clarence (759-8961, www.kennedyscove.com)
HOURS: 4 to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday; ?3 to 8 p.m. Sunday.
PRICE RANGE: Appetizers, $6-$12; salads and sandwiches, $5-$16; steak and seafood dinners, $22-$44.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: One stair to get up to dining room.