Williamsville, NY. The early 20th century. A man guides his family’s horse-drawn carriage through the flurries of snow sweeping across their circular driveway before coming to a halt in front of a striking two-story home. The ride was long and chilly, but inside, homey warmth awaits. Today, teleportation discs may have replaced the horse and buggy, but travelers still traverse the same driveway in search of a warm welcome. Now the home of Parings Wine Bar, the turn-of-the-century house reflects the goal that owner Shelia Paolini shared with the Amherst Bee’s Jessica Finch: “We want it to feel like you are coming into a living room, that you are at home, not at a bar.”
As soon as guests push open the bright-red front door, they enter a space that combines the comfort of a lived-in family room with the gourmet flavors found at traditional wine bars. Lit by flat-screen TVs and a cozy fireplace, guests peruse Chef Scott Martin’s ever-changing menu, which often features mediterranean nachos, lobster mac 'n' cheese, and horseradish beef tenderloin. Resident sommelier Alphonso DiMono’s wine list, which culls vintages from global wineries from Australia to France to California, perfectly complements the chef's creations. The bar’s mixologists also shake up more than 20 martinis infused with treats such has espresso vodka, Godiva white-chocolate liqueur, and pumpkin puree. As they sip and eat, guests can also join in special event nights that include art shows, live music, and happy hours that feature 20 types of wine for just $20 per bottle.
Red Mill Inn’s rustic, two-story exterior engenders idyllic visions of a bygone era. Black clapboard shutters pop against the old farmhouse's bright red walls, which were built in 1858, and a giant wooden water mill nestles beside carefully trimmed hedges. Inside, dark wood floors and paneling surround wood tables, a roaring brick fireplace, and antique light fixtures. But this bucolic atmosphere belies a hectic kitchen staff who bustle to conjure flames beneath tender cuts of prime rib and filet mignon. Famous for their char-grilled steaks, fresh seafood, and Sunday brunch specials, Red Mill Inn also specializes in down-home country classics such as pan-fried calf's liver and Yankee pot roast. After dinner, house-made desserts arrive courtesy of an onsite pastry chef, whose creations shock sweet teeth more than a retainer lined with Pop Rocks.
Perkins began as a single humble Ohio pancake house in 1958. More than 50 years––and 440 national locations––later, each Perkins restaurant stays true to its roots by keeping those signature buttermilk pancakes the focal point of a 90-plus-item menu. Cooks layer the popular flapjacks in stacks of two, three, or even five and make the fluffy towers all the more tempting with toppings such as glazed strawberries, whipped cream, or flavored syrups. Breakfast favorites—including hearty omelets and country benedicts—are served all day, meaning kids and adults can order short stacks to accompany their jumbo-shrimp or steak dinner, instead of smuggling them in under a stovepipe hat. Unlike most other chain restaurants, Perkins also features in-store bakeries that churn out the shop's real fruit and cream pies, muffins, and chocolate-chip cookies.
Chen's taps diverse Chinese, Japanese, and Thai traditions to forge a slate of Eastern dishes and creative cocktails that have gleaned numerous accolades from Zagat. Executive chef and owner Bing Zhou plates elegant portions of lemon chicken, peking duck, and seafood gently seasoned with Chinese spices as maki rolls nestle raw morsels of salmon, lobster, and yellowtail in innovative combinations. Bartenders sling more than 25 martini styles beneath the soft lighting of recessed sconces as bamboo floors support terra-cotta statues of historic warriors. In the lounge, overstuffed chairs sidle up to a crackling fireplace to share stories of their ottoman ancestors beneath cream and persimmon hues.
SCREENS Restaurant & Sports Lounge captivates casual moviegoers and cinephiles alike with its array of daily scheduled films and private group screenings in three high-definition theaters. In addition to a variety of cult and foreign flicks, towering high-definition screens broadcast the latest NFL Sunday Ticket games, X-Box and Playstation 3 tournaments, and national flossing championships to viewers nestled in comfy lounge chairs. Servers bustle from room to room, placing the menu's selection of gourmet pizzas, pasta dinners, and burgers on tables flanked by portraits of iconic Hollywood stars.
The disk artisans at Bocce Club Pizza make their pizzas from scratch daily using hand-stretched dough, a selection of 30 toppings, 100% whole-milk mozzarella, and sauce recipes that have been crafted into tasty combinations since 1946. Chunks of pineapple and canadian bacon surf mozzarella waves on the Hawaiian specialty pizza ($16.59), and steak and sautéed peppers make snow angels in a garlic spread on the steak white pizza ($18.59). All of the menu’s dough saucers boast a hearty whole-wheat doppelganger available upon request, and gluten-sensitive customers can play matchmaker between their single stomachs and a gluten-free quarter pie. To raise the edible altitude, Bocce Club Pizza also features un-flat fare such as the chicken fajita sub ($7.99) and a basket of 10 buffalo wings ($7.99), which—like romance novels—can be made hot, medium, mild, or Victorian.