NT restaurant takes top spot in reader poll
By Joshua Maloni
Right after Memorial Day, Niagara Frontier Publications asked readers to nominate their favorite summer food locations because, well, our staffers have big appetites and full gas tanks.
Votes came pouring in online and via a form in the newspaper. This year’s “Savory Summer” winners include:
√ Best Summer Dining Spot – The Dockside Bar & Grill
√ Best Frozen Treat – Hoover’s Dairy
√ Best Beef on Weck – Taylor’s Tap & Grill
√ Best Hot Dog – Ted’s Hot Dogs
√ Best Hamburger and Best Fries – Five Guys
√ Best BBQ (ribs, chicken, pork) – Texas Roadhouse
Congratulations to the winners – and to the many eateries nominated, including the Brickyard BBQ & Pub, The Silo Restaurant, Louie’s Texas Red Hots, Adrian’s Custard & Beef, and Hibbard’s Original Frozen Custard.
Members of The Dockside Bar & Grill team.
Is it even possible to visit Dockside without sharing your dining experience with dozens of patrons? Indoors or out, by the bar or on the patio – one of Western New York’s best – this North Tonawanda hotspot is hopping.
Remarkably, orders still come out sizzling and without a long wait.
“I think the No. 1 key is our staff,” GM Marty Sykes said. “I mean, right now, we have the most talented kitchen of any restaurant that I've worked in. We have an awesome staff up front as well, that are able to manage crowd control. You know, ‘It's a waitlist; come and have a drink at the bar, and as soon as your table’s ready, we buzz you and we'll bring you right to the table.’
“It's a blend of we want to have the best, quality product with the quantity that we have. So, it's a fine, delicate line; but we try to manage the best we can with that.”
Of course, part of Dockside’s charm is its view, but patrons come for more than aesthetics.
“The patio doesn't hurt – being able to seat so many on the patio; a great view. North Tonawanda has done an amazing job with the docks here over the last couple of years, and really kind of dedicated themselves to making this area a destination,” Sykes said. “But as far as what makes us a little bit different, I think Jay, the owner, has done a great job over the years of establishing the footprint down here; and then always keeping up on appearances and new items. We have a new patio retractable awning. Those things help. And then we have the food.
“You can do the location, and you can be great if you have a great location, but couple that with a dynamite kitchen, it really kind of sells itself in that aspect, once you get them in the door.”
Dockside’s menu has changed a bit since 2020 happened. Right now, it offers an ample assortment of appetizers (including wings, stuffed banana peppers, seafood starters and the unique barbecue pork fries), a wide selection of sandwiches (steak, chicken, meat and veggie burgers, pulled pork and a haddock po’boy), large salads and entrees (try the blackened chicken or spicy jambalaya; my dinner guests always like the chicken tenders and fish fry).
“There's one item in house that we don't make from scratch, and that's a balsamic reduction,” Sykes said. “Everything else comes in fresh daily – from our seafood, clams, oysters – those are in every day. … You know, freshness, that's a key ingredient.
“And again, I can't say enough about our kitchen staff. They care. They care what product goes out; they care how it looks; temperature; and that's an amazing feat at a place that is as busy as we are.”
So, too, is keeping customers happy. Though there is no shortage of food destinations, Dockside has become a summer must, with patrons of the Sweeney Street eatery voting it tops in the “Savory” competition.
“We have a huge group of regulars; and we are very fortunate that they love to come back day after day and time after time,” Sykes said. “But I also look at every guest that comes in. I'd like to keep them as a regular going forward. So, I guess we treat every guest that comes through that door (as) they're just regulars we haven't met yet. That’s kind of really the mantra that we all kind of live by here. We want you to come back – enjoy yourself, enjoy the food – and everything's got to pair up. The bar’s got to meet the restaurant expectations, and the service has got to meet the food preparation.
“We're just lucky enough that people enjoy it to vote us in. It's really nice. A nice thing.”
Hoover's Dairy Restaurant
Hoover’s Dairy star server Mary Schuppenhauer.
•Hoover’s Dairy won Best Frozen Treat for its wide assortment of sweet treats at the farm and adjacent restaurant.
Judy Hoover said, “We always aim to please. That’s the big thing; and you really want to please your customers, because you want them to come back. … You want to give them the best you can, and treat them very good, because that’s how business runs. If you don't, it ain’t good for you. So, that's my thing, for all the years that this place has been in business, that's the big thing is the customers, and I say treating them right, fairly, and give them the best you can for the price, and the whole nine yards.”
Hoover noted, “Right now, we do all Perry’s Ice Cream products.”
She explained, “I just think, given the quality of what the ice cream is, that type of thing, is the big thing. … There’s always a lot of comments, especially on the soft-serve. People like that. And it comes from Perry’s, and I think that has a lot to do with it, is the quality of Perry’s products. I would say that. And just making the different treats that people like or request.”
Hoover’s offers almost 50 different ice cream flavors. Dessert is served via cones, shakes, sundaes and floats. Customers also can try a banana split or a “Hoover Swirl,” which is akin to a Dairy Queen Blizzard.
Taylor's Tap & Grill
Jeff Taylor and Julie Taylor outside of Taylor’s Tap & Grill.
•Taylor’s Tap & Grill took home Best Beef on Weck.
Jeff Taylor said it all comes down to “high-quality meat.”
“And we have amazing staff that puts out quality food all of the time,” Julie Taylor added.
Thanks to that combination, “Our customers are, in fact, the most loyal, the most supportive,” she said. “Our regular customer base is huge, and they are the reason we're still in business.”
She added, “Really what I want to say is thank you to them for … voting for us; but more than that, being so supportive and keeping us open through this whole nightmare. They are the best.”
As we enter the fall and football season, the hope is that restaurants will remain as popular as they were this summer. Julie Taylor said she’s looking forward to seeing “smiling faces coming in; to be able to have our full menu back for the rest of the year. And with ‘new normal,’ then you can try new things. So, we can experiment with new menu items and things. For the last year, we just kind of stuck with the status quo. But, moving forward, we can become more innovative and try new things and change the menu up a little bit.”