In our pursuit of reasonably priced food, we have been to a lot of places that are, shall we say, off the beaten track.
None of them has ever been so far off the beaten track as Turner’s Port of Call, a quirky little seasonal place on Grand Island.
It’s not that Turner’s is on an obscure street; in fact, it’s on the well-traveled East River Road, right at the curve where the street bends away from the water. However, you might well drive past Turner’s, which we did, because it doesn’t have a sign, and the front of the building is obscured by the steep slope from the road. There’s a mailbox with the name of the place on it and a neon beer sign in one of the upper windows. You can also see decorative pilings wrapped with rope for a nautical touch and a metal awning that covers the steep flight of cement steps leading down to the front door – more than a dozen. There’s a handrail, but this place is not handicapped-accessible.
On a gorgeous sunny Sunday afternoon, a half-dozen people, mostly men, were seated at the bar, and every head swiveled as John, Pat, John and I entered. It’s possible that the patrons were astonished that obvious newcomers had found the place.
The music was loud, so after grabbing menus from the bartender, we walked through a back room, which contains a large ping-pong table, and sat at a table on the porch. On the way, we passed a stern sign banning yelling, a policy started after neighbors’ complaints.
There was no yelling when we were there. The porch has a fabulous view of the river with the South Grand Island Bridges in the distance. As we waited, we were entertained by many kinds of watercraft, swooping purple martins and screeching gulls.
The menu is compact, offering mostly fried or deep-fried food. There are chicken wings ($8.50 for 10), chicken nuggets ($5.75 for 10), black Angus burger ($5.50; cheeseburger $5.75), hot dog ($3.25), chicken fingers with curly fries ($9.75) or kielbasa with peppers and onions ($6.50). You can also order a half-dozen or so deep-fried finger foods, ranging from pizza logs ($7.25) to deep-fried mac and cheese bites ($6.25) Mostly, this is the kind of stuff you’d like to snack on while you enjoy a few cold beverages.
The place is proud of its New York strip steak sandwich, which presented a problem for us, because it costs $12.50, well over our upper limit. We solved that problem by ordering enough lower-priced food to give a fair account of the place and then throwing a steak sandwich in, too. When the food was served, we cut the steak sandwich into four pieces and each had one. It was, as promised, very good. The steak was thinnish but tender and delicious, with possibly a rub or grill seasoning on it. It was better than you’d expect from just a boneless strip steak and a grilled roll. So if you’re splurging, check that out.
Now, on to our legit cheap eats choices. The cook grilled all the rolls, which added extra flavor. Each of our orders came with a crisped side of curly fries.
The black Angus cheeseburger, while not as beefy tasting as the steak, was a satisfying burger, with a slightly irregular shape that indicated it was more than a processed, frozen patty.
The hot dog, served with authentic grill marks, was perfectly cooked. The four medium-sized chicken fingers were served steaming hot, with a slightly crunchy breading, in a mound of curly fries.
The kielbasa started as a sizable section of a link, cut in half the long way and seared on the grill on both sides. While it had a few little bits of snappy stuff in it, it was very flavorful. The layer of peppers and onions on the sandwich was both plentiful and cooked until soft and nearly caramelized.
There’s nothing fancy at Turner’s Port of Call, and maybe nothing out of the ordinary except for that steak sandwich. But it’s accessible to the water – we watched a boat dock below the patio at Turner’s and people climb up the path from the water, go inside and order food. That and the view make this a spot worth checking out during our all-too-brief summer.