We find ourselves in Niagara Falls, stateside, for four days this week. Jake does some work for a large government contracted manufacturer here and it always takes several days. Until two weeks ago I was still working in Michigan, so he took these trips alone, stayed at the Crowne Plaza Niagara Falls alone, ate meals at the hotel bar alone and generally billed the daylights out of this company while working 14 hours a day for them. But now that I’m working from anywhere the internet exists, I came with him. Now I spend the day at the Crowne Plaza alone, eat my lunch alone and work via Adobe Connect with AtotheB.
The Crowne Plaza is perfectly fine, although not as grand as one might think (ahem, nearly all the gym equipment is broken, as is my ice machine). Niagara Falls, USA is not a city most would visit if it weren’t for the falls and the casino (which I have a perfect view of from my window…) and even then, I learned yesterday that the average visitor spends 12 hours here. The Canadian side is more visited; the hotels are larger with more amenities, the casino facilities are a few steps closer to Vegas (whereas the US side is more closer to bingo hall with neon), and the city itself is tidier. Also, the view of the falls is better. I love Goat Island and how you can stand right on top of the water, but if you really want to SEE the falls, Canada is your side.
One thing sorely lacking on either side is a quality restaurant. Both sides have casino restaurants and we’ve eaten at several. They are good, more expensive than they deserve to be, but certainly better than the infinite number of shabby storefronts serving questionable fast food.
Since we are going to be here for four nights I figured I poke around a bit for some other options. Our first night we tried to hit the steak house in the Seneca Niagara Casino only to find that the wait was over 90 minutes unless we had reservations. I tried to use my gigantic pregnant silhouette and intense need for beef to get a table, but no dice. Clearly that host has never dealt with pregnant women before!! We ended up at the Italian restaurant of the casino, Cascata, I believe and they had beef. The filet I ordered was very good, but the service wasn’t that great and the winning gambler clientele not my cup of tea. Plus, Native American casinos are the only place in NYS one can smoke in public and my super pregnant senses couldn’t get past the smoke.
Lunch was on my own yesterday, I considered ordering room service as I was working online with AtotheB, but she had to leave me early and I decided to walk to the Hard Rock Cafe for a Cobb Salad. At least its consistent. Actually, it was very good! Fresh, large, nicely priced, no complaints.
Dinner yesterday was the great triumph though. I’d looked at Yelp restaurant reviews as well as UrbanSpoon and TripAdvisor and found Wine and Third to have great reviews. Not many reviews, but what was there sounded promising. Plus it was only two blocks from the hotel.
Wine on Third is a small place with a bar that serves a tapas style menu and a dining room with eight or nine tables where you can order their dinner menu. Turns out a thursday night is pretty dead on the dining room side and we had the whole place to ourselves, while the bar side was pretty full. I was concerned what this might mean for service or even food quality, but we could see the chef preparing tapas plates and everything looked outstanding.
The dinner menu was small, with a seafood special and soup of the day in addition. Dinner items were listed with a suggested wine pairing and I was so jealous of Jake and his wine all night. I did taste everything and it seems the pairings were a good match. The waiter was also ready with wine choices for the appetizers that did not list a suggested wine.
We started with a bruschetta amuse bouche.
I thought the bruschetta was perfect; the bread was toasted but didn’t break apart or hurt your mouth when you bit it, and the tomatoes had not soaked through to make the middle soggy. Plus there was an olive in the middle. I loves me some olives! We also had bread service, only three slices of garlic bread with olive oil. At first you think three slices is a small amount, but I like that its enough to be tasty and still enjoy the meal because you aren’t full of bread. The bread may have been made on site; it was a very fresh loaf with roasted garlic cloves baked in.
Jake ordered an appetizer of Mussels with Chorizo, while opted for just an entree…my tummy space is not what it used to be.
Jake also had a suggested Chianti with the mussels that was a perfect peppery match for the spicy chorizo.
My entrée was a free range chicken breast (with bone!) stuffed with prosciutto and mozzarella over a tomatoes, polenta and a tomato coulis. Jake order the filet mignon with gorgonzola and mushroom risotto and a meritage pairing. Lets just say we both cleaned our plates. I found the gorgonzola on Jake’s to be a little heavy handed but he loved it and the wine pairing was excellent. My chicken was also very good; moist, well seasoned and the polenta was perfect.
Dessert. I eat more of them than I used to. I even had one at Hard Rock earlier today and last night we went to Cold Stone Creamery (with the best ice creams servers ever!!) after the casino dinner. So tonight was no exception. Wine on Third had three choices, with the only one I heard being Lava Cake. I’m always suspicious of lava cake if it wasn’t mentioned at the beginning (because its supposed to take about 25 minutes as the cake is baked when you order it, with its insides left soft) because it often means the restaurant makes a shell of cake and fills it with hot batter. I ordered it anyway.
It came quickly, and I was sure it wasn’t real, but there must be magic in that kitchen because this was everything lava cake is supposed to be. The cake itself was moist and warm and increasingly warm and flowing center. Jake had a few bites, very few, while I devoured, scraped, used my fingers to finish the raspberry sauce.
We also tried something new. Normally we would order a port with dessert, but the waiter recommended something else: chocolate wine called Cocoa du Vin. Interesting. It was very chocolaty, and reminded me of Bailey’s only with a wine-ish flavor. We asked to look at the bottle; its nothing fancy…the label states that it’s a “grape wine” made in Florida. I liked it, you could only really have one glass, but for dessert, very nice option.
So, Wine on Third is a winner and I can only hope that they will still be in business the next time Jake works here. Niagara Falls is not foodie friendly and like many cities who made their fortunes on industry and chemicals, is just plain run down. A restaurant like this is worth a visit and hopefully will inspire some other entrepreneurs to return to the falls.