Nestled underneath the Lenox Hotel, the Lenox Grill is a dimly lit but cheery place with lots of beer and a kitchen that’s open until 3 a.m. Add a roaring fire instead of the televisions over the bar and you would have a good start on a Hobbitish burrow, albeit with glass-block windows.
Most recently North, this edition of the hotel restaurant offers an expanded lineup of standard Buffalo appetizers and bar food with some ambitious notes. There’s crab cakes ($9), sure, but the fried calamari sports Thai sauce and Asian slaw ($9); the mussels get chorizo, roasted corn and spinach ($9) and the sausage-stuffed banana peppers have been chopped and fried into fritters, with red pepper remoulade ($8).
There’s burgers and sandwiches aplenty, from portobello ($8) to pulled pork ($8.50). The entrees include pastas, steak, chicken, pork chop and salmon ($13-$19.50). The tables are bare, but the napkins are cloth and the chairs are comfy.
Our gang of four got the pepper-sausage fritters, and its cousin, flatbread with banana peppers and sausage ($10), a bowl of white bean chowder with andouille sausage ($6), and a single order of Thai spicy wings ($8.70).
For entrees, we asked for cioppino pasta, clams, shrimp and mussels in white wine tomato sauce ($17); chicken Milanese, pan-fried cutlet topped with salad ($14); a Southwestern special burger with jalapeño, roasted red peppers, bacon, Monterey Jack ($11); and a grilled double pork chop with housemade barbecue sauce ($15).
Our server was attentive, for the most part, though she had a lot of ground to cover.
The fritters arrived hot, with a crunchy crust and catchy flavor punctuated by bits of sausage and pepper. But their insides verged on gummy, a disappointment. The flatbread, crispy around the edges and loaded with dollops of ricotta and sausage, disappeared quickly.
The bowl of soup was so big it needed a diving board. Chunks of potato, carrots and spicy smoked sausage in a spicy, creamy broth were fortified with white beans, celery and more. It could have happily been dinner with good bread.
The Thai wings were served whole, not disjointed Buffalo style. Upside: wing tips to chew on, if you’re into that. Downside: a bit of a tussle to eat. The standard sweet chili sauce was charred, to its benefit, but the chicken skin was soft and wet. Celery was fine, but carrot sticks with the blue cheese dressing were limp.
My pork chop arrived with decent char marks, but it was overcooked, chewy and stiff. The tangy barbecue sauce was not enough to save it. It came with dry, underseasoned quartered potatoes and a delicious sauteed vegetable medley that included peppers, zucchini and red onions.
Cat’s chicken Milanese was overcooked as well, dry around the edges. Its accompanying salad was well-dressed, with red onion and grape tomatoes.
Rick, disappointed that his cioppino pasta arrived without broth or free-flowing sauce, said he found it bland. “I am eating until I find a clam,” he growled, but he never did. The final score included five mussels and five small shrimp.
Mary’s burger was eyed with envy from several angles. It was plump, spice dusted and arrived cooked as ordered. Its shameless cap of peppers, cheese and bacon made it a protein-packed handful of fun. The burger’s excellence was acclaimed by all, and the expanse of fries that arrived alongside were crispy, salty satisfaction.
For dessert, we ordered crème brûlée ($5), banana walnut gelato and mango sorbet (both $6).
The gelato was rich with banana flavor, but the texture was grainy, not the silken spoonfuls of classic gelato. The mango sorbet’s flavor was vivid and fruity.
The crème brûlée was served in a deep ramekin, making it more of an adult pudding cup than a fine eggy custard. But it was good pudding, and we enjoyed it.
The Lenox seems like a worthy place to eat late into the evening, especially if you stick to its satisfying sandwiches and appetizers.
The Lenox Grill: 6 Plates (Out of 10)
Revamped hotel restaurant offers pub food and more until the wee hours.
WHERE: 140 North St. ( 884-1700, www.lenoxgrill.com)
HOURS: 4 p.m. to 3 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday; noon to 8 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday.
PRICE RANGE: Appetizers, salads $6-$13; sandwiches $7-$12.50; pastas, entrees $13-$19.50.
PARKING: Lot behind building.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: No.