Michael’s Town Shanty is a modest, homey place with a few surprises.
It’s set up like so many Western New York taverns, most of which serve very good food. The front room contains a horseshoe-shaped bar with small tables for diners off to the side. The back room, with about a dozen tables, is one of those comfortable, unpretentious places full of the happy chatter of families, couples and small groups.
The Shanty offers a Polish buffet for just $8.99 from 4 to 7 p.m. on Sunday, and that’s what John, Dan, Ruth and I were interested in. We were greeted right away by a young woman server and an energetic man who guided us to a table and showed us the menu specials. He was the owner, Michael.
One of the laminated pages he handed us was a list of 17 burgers, most of which were pretty unusual, such as the picnic burger, which is topped with baked beans and cheese. Michael said that customers love the Shanty Mak, a homemade version of the Big Mac, with the restaurant’s own special sauce. Most of the burgers were between $6 and $8.
Although it didn’t apply, Michael also handed us an interesting list of $6.99 dinners served from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and also on Saturday. The entree choices included pork loin, chopped sirloin or chicken Cordon Bleu, and came with either soup or salad and a chocolate mousse.
Another special of the house is a $10.95 seafood buffet offered Wednesdays between 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. Fish also takes center stage on Friday, with a $9.99 fish fry, Cajun grouper ($8.99) and crab-stuffed fish ($10.50).
The guys ordered from the menu and Ruth and I chose the buffet. Our server said the buffet included chicken, cabbage, lazy pierogi, kielbasa and pork chops – remember that list and you will be able to laugh at me.
The two menu items were excellent. Dan’s Reuben burger ($7.50) was a 6-ounce, hand-formed beef patty, nicely grilled and topped with the ingredients of a Reuben – sliced corned beef, sauerkraut and melted Swiss, with Thousand Island dressing on the side. It was an unusual idea, and a winning one.
John is picky about meatloaf, so I knew the bar was high when he ordered the meatloaf stack ($8.99). The dinner started with mashed potatoes, topped with a sizable chunk of meatloaf. A generous portion of corn was arranged around the central pile, the whole thing was doused with brown gravy and several crispy, lightly breaded onion rings were on top. Almost everything about it was good, especially the nicely spiced taste and consistency of the meat.
Ruth and I took samples from the long metal tray on the buffet, which were all kept very hot. The golumpki, or beef-and-rice-filled cabbage rolls covered with tomato sauce, were plump and tender. The zing of contrasting flavors made the sweet and sour cabbage, and although we found the chicken breast pieces a bit dry, we loved the peppered noodles. A bowl of lazy pierogi was creamy and satisfying, the potato cakes had a nice crunchy breading and the segments of kielbasa were very tasty. We wondered about the pork chops our server had mentioned, then went back for seconds, finishing off with a small peach cobbler.
We finished, paid, and walked to the door of the back room to peek into the bar. It was then that I spotted three more large metal trays about six feet away from the main part of the buffet. I asked our server what was in them. “You didn’t get any pierogi?” she asked. The overlooked trays contained pork chops and two kinds of pierogi.
I blamed myself for the oversight and promised to return for what I am sure are stellar pierogi.
Michael’s Town Shanty
Where: 2400 Clinton St., Cheektowaga (824-6775)
3.5 pennies (Out of four)
Hours: Opens at 11 a.m. Monday through Saturday, noon on Sunday. It closes at 8 p.m. daily except for Friday and Saturday, when it closes at 9 p.m.