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Published: Thursday, 7/3/2008

Restaurant review: Erie Restaurant ***

The sign above the entrance, showing a big, shaggy creature stampeding across the plains at full gallop, says all you need to know about the Erie Restaurant, located on the tiny main drag of Erie, Mich., about 12 miles north of downtown Toledo.

Yes, it s a modest eatery that serves good food at honest prices, along with beer and spirits at the bar. But the specialty of the house is what distinguishes it from most other restaurants in the greater Toledo area: buffalo on the hoof on the sign outside, buffalo on the plate or the bun inside.

Owing to its leanness compared to ground beef, buffalo meat has begun to appear on a growing number of local menus. But the Erie Restaurant can rightly lay claim to serving buffalo steaks and burgers for the longest time: 27 years and counting.

Ground buffalo was first served at the roadhouse in 1981, and according to a server, it outsells ground beef. Its main virtue is fewer calories and a lower fat content buffalo fed on grass is roughly 97 per cent fat-free, while grain-fed cows contain meat with 5 to 15 percent fat.

More important, ground buffalo looks and tastes pretty much like ground beef, although the price is around $2 more for the more exotic, less produced buffalo. Available in one-third and one-half pound burgers and patty melts ($4.95/$6.95) and 10-ounce burger steaks, the meat was slightly milder in taste but just as good as ground beef.

Of course, the buffalo-averse have plenty of alternatives hot beef, chicken, turkey, pork chops, breaded veal, steak stir fry, perch, shrimp, frog legs, and full breakfasts each morning.

According to the menu, Al and Vicki Delrue s Erie Restaurant has been family-owned since 1944. The d cor consists of knotty pine walls, lots of tables and ceiling fans, plus box wine and bottles of Kessler s whiskey and blackberry brandy within easy reach behind the bar.

Soups on our visits included vegetable beef and beef noodle ($3.25 a bowl), the latter so loaded with noodles that a fork might have been handier than a spoon. The usual appetizers are available, from crusty home fries and onion rings to buffalo wings (no relation to the main attraction).

Daily specials include baked chicken and dressing, kielbasa and kraut, German potato salad, chimichangas, and Hawaiian chicken.

For lunch one day, we opted for a lake perch dinner ($13.95) with four fairly decent butterflied fillets, a cup of soup, and a big order of green beans.

Other lunches were a $6.50 special of three fried-chicken pieces with soup or a small salad plus a big helping of green beans; and two sandwiches: stacked ham and swiss and corned beef, both $4.95 and both piled high with meat.

Contact Bill of Fare at fare@theblade.com



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