Growing up in Buffalo, I spent most of my summers heading up to the beaches in Canada. Therefore, I never really got a chance to get to know that American side of Lake Erie that well. There was no action in the city, waterfront-wise. It’s only been over the last few years that my wife and I have been exploring establishments along the lake on the US side. In the process, we drove by Hoak’s on the Lakeshore numerous times, in search of places that had more of a beach vibe. Then, a couple of weeks ago, we ended up pulling into the Hoak’s parking lot, to see if we were missing out on anything.
It turns out that we were missing out on a bunch of things. Although, from the road, the patio looks a little uninviting. it tuns out that it’s actually pretty decent. There was a wind blowing that day, so the waves were crashing below and the breeze kept us cool. The inside of Hoak’s is immediately homey and inviting. The place reminded us of the old CPO Club (RIP), which was a Friday after work ritual for us. Hoak’s has a very similar vibe. It’s a salty dog type of place. There is a lot of seating in the main dining room, and super quaint – if not charming – bar, tucked into the far corner. The bar had a ton of old sports memorabilia sitting atop narrow shelves.
Taking a look at the menu, it appeared to be pretty typical for Buffalo – wings, salads, fries, sandwiches, seafood (yellow pike and lake perch), steak, burgers, and a kid’s menu. My wife ordered a large dinner salad. The veggies were super fresh and crisp. All of the dressings, we were told, are house made. She ordered her chicken wings crispy and hot. The wings came out exactly how she liked them, which can be an issue, even in Buffalo.
My fish sandwich turned out to be one of the best ones that I ever had. The meal was enormous – so big in fact that I could only eat half. My wife agreed that the fish was worth the trip alone. I ended up putting the sides of tartar sauce and coleslaw on my sandwich, which was the icing on the cake. It was one of the better slaws that I had ever had. The fish was lightly battered, and super flaky. With a squeeze of lemon, and a swig of cold beer, there was no other place in the world that I wanted to be.
As we ate our food, we both felt that we had finally happened upon a place that felt like home. We both miss the CPO Club so much… Hoak’s managed give us hope that places like that still exist. As the waves continued to crash below, napkins blowing about, and the seagulls flying overhead, we almost felt as if we were ocean side. Even the restaurant and bar had an island atmosphere that kept us hanging around for one last beer before heading back home.
Hoak’s is just outside the city, a couple of minutes past the windmills – it took us eleven minutes to get there from downtown Buffalo. It’s a short drive to a place that feels like its 3000 miles away. Out of all of the restaurants that we have explored along the US waterfront, Hoak’s was the most memorable due to the killer food and the super laid back attitude. And that says a lot because we have found some inspiring beachside haunts that have been big hits.
Sometimes, all it takes to make us happy is some solid food, a cold beer, and a lake breeze. Hoak’s has all of that and more. Take the kids, bring a date, go by yourself… once you’ve discovered this circa 1945 establishment, you will look for all sorts of reasons to stop back for a visit.
Hoak’s on the Lakeshore | 4100 Lake Shore Road | Hamburg, NY | (716) 627-4570 | Facebook