NORTH TONAWANDA – The big thing Lumberjack’s Patio Grill has going for it – aside from a gorgeous view of the upper Niagara River – is the fact that its menu, though limited, focuses strongly on locally produced products.
There are Wardynski’s hot dogs, Costanzo’s rolls, DiRuss sausage, Anderson’s ice cream. They even rely upon local farmers for their fresh produce. It’s a great idea and long overdue.
They’ll still probably need to expand the menu a little, but there has to be more locally produced goodies out there that they can offer. Johnnie Ryan, Weber’s, Crystal Beach and Chiavetta’s are a few names that come to mind. And what Western New York-themed restaurant would be complete without offering wings and beef on weck? I can think of a farm in Gasport that offers wonderful, grass-fed beef.
Lumberjack’s is a deceivingly spacious restaurant on the shores of the Niagara offering eat-in or “sail-away” service. Situated on the edge of a former marina, it has plenty of space for boaters to pull up, rope off and come in for a bite. You can eat in the diamond plate-themed dining room, or take it outside onto the roomy, breezy patio.
There’s even a small bar for those needing to wet the ol’ whistle.
The menu offers hamburgers, cheeseburgers, protein burgers, hot dogs, Italian sausage and fish fry sandwiches. None of the main offerings runs over $6. They also offer homemade sides of coleslaw, macaroni salad and potato salad, as well as their signature fries – seasoned curly Q’s guaranteed to be fresh-cut and never frozen. Whether that’s enough to keep the place afloat remains to be seen.
The good news is that they do it all right. The burgers are big, bold and juicy, and of course you couldn’t make a better choice than plopping them down on those fabulous Costanzo’s rolls. I’m not sure what exactly it is about them that separates them from the “average” bun, but whatever it is, people notice. I’ve had visitors from out of town who had never before had the pleasure, and they immediately remark about the quality of the Costanzo’s rolls. It does make that much of a difference.
As far as hot dogs go, folks take sides in support of Wardynski’s or Sahlen’s, each locally produced, and those who favor one over the other normally do so with great vigor. Again, the differences are subtle, but the natural casings are one thing that sets them apart. And they just seem to cook up so, well, tastefully – especially over a gas grill or, better yet, charcoal. Wardynski’s was a good choice, and Lumberjack’s serves them on a toasted bun that somehow manages to improve on the experience even more.
The DiRuss sweet sausage (at $5.95 the most expensive item on the menu, along with the fish fry sandwich and the cheeseburger) was delightfully mild but should be complemented with any of the many tasty “hot” Italian sausages made locally. Again, it’s a personal preference thing, but I would take hot sausage over sweet any day. Suggestion: Melloni’s of Lewiston would make a great addition to the menu.
The sautéed peppers and onions served on the sausage were a little overdone on our visit, rendering them soggy and kind of tasteless. That doesn’t add anything to the sandwich.
The curly-Q fries were, as advertised, quite good. We were thrilled to see that Lumberjack’s offered malt vinegar to enhance the fry experience and applied it liberally. Dashed with salt and dipped into ketchup – that’s good eating! They were cooked just right – not too crisp, yet not soggy and soft. A fry should stand on its own merit, in my book – not lie there in a mushy jumble. These did. To that I say boo-yah!
In keeping with the local theme, the fish fry sandwich is beer-battered in Labatt’s, another excellent choice.
We sampled each of the homemade sides and found them sufficiently to our liking. The coleslaw was juicy and sweet, the potato salad chunky and fresh-tasting. The macaroni salad needed a little help by way of the salt shaker, but that’s not unusual. With enhancement it was quite good.
No. 1 daughter, the health nut, inquired as to the merits of the protein burger and learned that it is 100 percent Angus beef wrapped in crisp lettuce, rather than bread. She regretted not having ordered that.
Lumberjack’s offers beer and wine, as well as a full selection of soft drinks. For dessert there are milkshakes and Anderson’s ice cream. Another idea: locally made pies. Wagner’s Farm Market isn’t far away and offers some tasty home-baked pies in a variety of flavors.
Another good thing about Lumberjack’s is the service: robust and friendly. Food prep time seems to be a little on the long side, but the servers provide table-side delivery and drop in to check on your progress over the course of your meal. What other fast-food-type place gives you that consideration?
Lumberjack’s doesn’t accept credit cards, but they do offer an on-site ATM machine for those lacking in the monetary department. We enhanced our visit by watching the nearby hydroplane races as we dined. You also can gaze on the many boaters, skiers and Jet Ski enthusiasts, or just sit there and get mesmerized by the glittering waters. What better way to spend a few moments of a late-summer or early-fall afternoon?
The dining room is done in a nautical theme, tracing back to Niagara County’s early days along the Erie Canal via a wall montage. Another thing I liked: the Dyson Airblade hand dryers in the restrooms. If you haven’t had the pleasure yet, be sure to try them. I’m not going to say it’s worth the stop just for that, because it isn’t, but after you enjoy your locally produced meal, don’t forget to wash and dry your hands.
All in all, I really like what they are trying to do at Lumberjack’s.
It’s a locally owned place, and they are taking advantage of fabulous local products, and that is an admirable goal. My suggestion is, don’t be afraid to expand. There’s plenty more local stuff I’d be happy to stop in and sample – even down to the condiments and the soda pop. If you’re going to do it, do it all the way, I say.