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Published: Friday, 8/2/2002

Hamway's on the Main moves east on Monroe

Whatever the sign still says, it's Hamway's on the Main. For a while, however, "Tavern on the Main" is going to remain in large, illuminated script over the door, in the expectation that the combination of two long familiar, popular names will contribute to a smooth transition from one to the other.

The way I put the question as I headed out Monroe Street was this: Is it more Hamway's - you know, the menu, service, and atmosphere of the former location at Alexis Road and Monroe Street - or the Tavern? So far as I'm concerned, either would be OK, because both have long been on the short list of eateries I've liked.

What's the answer? You'll have to decide for yourself. The only assurance I can give you is that whichever your answer, you'll like Hamway's on the Main.

A first-time visitor is likely to be taken by the creative imagination that saw how a restaurant could be laid out in an odd-shaped room that now, noon and night, is quite full of happily chattering guests.

On the right side, running half the length of the long, narrow space, is a fairly small but efficient

bar, quietly entertaining a half-dozen contented customers, and beyond, in the depth of the room, a largely open kitchen. Separated from the bar by an unobtrusive room divider, the almost-always crowded dining area occupies the entire space on the left.

Assuming that pasta is by now a fully naturalized item on an American menu, only two shish-kabobs - beef tenderloin and chicken - or just possibly a spinach dip "con queso" (the menu says chips and salsa) suggest a hint of exotic origin. Otherwise, the menu, appetizers and entrees alike, is as American as apple pie.

Beef is my usual choice among entrees, with chicken or seafood an occasional exception, and the Hamway's kitchen has a feel for red meat. The memory of many a 12-ounce New York strip, practically the house steak, is associated with the name and setting.

Seafood dinners include not only the salt-water catches that have become expected on a full-service menu, but also, from our Great Lakes, pickerel, perch, and colder-water whitefish. I must confess that I've never had fish prepared in a Hamway kitchen, but friends across the table have had only good things to say of such meals.

Anyway, at the end of a recent sweltering, humid day - doesn't one feel for the kitchen staff on days like these? - my appetite was not hearty, and for the first time I can remember I chose a dinner salad, the tuna salad platter, with perky red French dressing. If you like salads or find yourself looking for something light, take my word for it, these salads would be a thoroughly satisfying light supper. The generous dollop of tuna was all that could be expected, as were the other ingredients - two boiled eggs, raw carrot sticks, sliced green pepper, cucumber slices, green olives, and, of course, ripe, sweet quartered tomatoes.

Feeling virtuous, I decided that I owed myself the indulgence of a dessert, especially since my server was eloquent in describing what was available. The layered lemon cake - two strata of lemon custard, all topped with squishy white, sweet icing - was, oh my, worth the calories!

Look for the Tavern on the Main sign in the right-angle corner of a strip mall, the Promenade Shops, on the southwest side of Monroe Street just inside Sylvania. It may be that the sign by the time of your first visit will say Hamway's, but even so it is not hard to find. And it's certainly worth the hunt.

Contact Bill of Fare by e-mail at fare@theblade.com.



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