The Royal Cafe: A True Niagara Falls Treasure

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The Royal Cafe: Who Could Ask for Anything Better?

The Royal Café is perhaps the best kept secret in Niagara Falls. Located at 311 Hyde Park Blvd, near the center of the city – it is not in the tourist district. This is the real Niagara Falls.

The Royal is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It has a full bar. Not large – it seats about 60 people – the Royal is a friendly place where everyone feels at home.

It’s a place frequented by locals. But it’s the kind of place tourists like to go when they like to eat like the locals do.

I had been there a few times myself with Niagara Falls best known lawyer, Jim Roscetti, and Lewiston’s Republican leader, Gerry Wolfgang, for lunch.

I did not pay much attention to the food because the company was scintillating. But the soup was good. There is no one who doesn’t feel better by a little soup. And the burgers were extraordinarily tasty.

Then one night I came in for dinner and sat down for an hour with the owners, Kenny and Tracie.

I asked them about their restaurant and tried a sampling of food.

Homemade Soups

Tonight, they had chicken noodle soup with egg noodles.
“Pennsylvania Dutch, extra wide egg noodles,” Kenny said.

The soothing sustenance of good chicken soup. I sipped and felt warm comfort from it.

“We make all our soups, homemade,” Tracie said.

Also, on the menu, was hamburger soup with fresh vegetables.

“No canned or frozen vegetables,” Kenny said.

“I don’t do that. Not even at home,” Tracie said. “I use fresh vegetables with everything. It takes a little more time, but it tastes better.”

French Onion

The Royal has French onion soup every day and is rather famous for it.

‘What is the secret of good French onion soup?” I asked.

“The cheese and the wine,” Tracie said. “Fresh cut Vidalia onions. Everything we do is fresh, even our burgers are 100 beef. Nothing is frozen. Our chicken wings, our chicken breasts, are always fresh.”

Getting back to soup, I noticed there was a soup I never heard of.

“I just love to cook, and I like to try new things,” Tracie said. “I like to be creative with what I cook. Tonight, we have a stuffed hot banana pepper soup which is to die for.”

“It’s the same green banana peppers we serve as appetizers,” Kenny added. “We buy the banana peppers fresh. We make our own ricotta cheese stuffing.”

“Use good ingredients. Don’t take any shortcuts,” Tracie said.

Kenny’s Special

The Royal makes their own homemade pea meal bacon. They cure the pork themselves.

“There are Canadians who come in for it,” Kenny said, then explained the process of curing the ham in brine and rolling it in corn meal in the traditional way.

The Royal is the only restaurant in Niagara Falls that takes the time to cure their own bacon, as far as I know.

How’s this for breakfast: A large slice of pea meal bacon, two poached eggs, over an English muffin. And freshly made hollandaise sauce – with just the right amount of lemon – poured on top. It makes an exquisite and satisfying breakfast for $9.95 and served with fresh-cut home fries.

Baby Back Ribs.

Every Thursday, the Royal has baby back ribs. Slow cooked.

“I only serve baby back ribs. I don’t serve the bigger ones,” Kenny said. “Baby backs are more expensive and they’re smaller, but much more tender.”

I tried them and they were exquisite, with just the right amount of barbeque sauce, which is to say, because the meat was so flavorful, I did not need much sauce.

Best of all, these ribs I could eat with a fork. You don’t have to make a mess picking up ribs and chewing them off the bone. The meat fell right off the bone with a little prodding from my fork.

Seafood

The Royal serves an array of seafood. Fresh haddock on Fridays. Eight-ounce lobster tails every day for $13,95.

They serve their haddock in a variety of ways: Deep fried, beer battered, breaded haddock, or baked haddock, Greek or Italian style, or Cajun. The Italian has tomatoes and onions. The Greek has feta cheese.

On Fridays, they serve a seafood platter: crab cakes, scallops, shrimp and 10-12 ounce fresh haddock.

Kenny buys the fish personally at the market. The Royal makes their own batter, of course.

There is shrimp cocktail and shrimp baskets. The shrimp were fresh and perfectly cooked.

Fresh steamed clams with butter. On Fridays, homemade New England clam chowder with fresh clams and real cream.

Meatloaf and turkey on Sundays

Meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy is served on Sundays. And Monday, meatloaf sandwiches with mashed potatoes and gravy.

As for the mashed potatoes, you can get them every day, made fresh. Mashed potatoes with real potatoes, butter, milk. No sour cream. No cheeses. The people of Niagara Falls like their mashed potatoes the old-fashioned way.

There is no great secret to it. Tracie thinly slices potatoes, setting them to boil. When they’re soft, she mashes and seasons them, adding warmed milk and butter. The result is a deep dish of creamy, smooth mashed potatoes.

Turkey

On Sundays they also serve fresh turkey with gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, fresh vegetables and cranberries.

Curiously enough in their club sandwiches and julienne salads they use the same fresh turkey. They do not use processed turkey.

“I wouldn’t serve anything I don’t like,” Tracie said.

Like fresh carrots and Brussels sprouts tossed in a pan of butter and garlic and squeezed the juice of a lemon over them. Everything is simple but satisfying.

Boiled Dinner

Tracie likes to make a “boiled dinner.” Corned beef and cabbage.

“So many people do not know how to prepare it properly. It’s often too dry or too salty,” Tracie said. “I slow cook it in a roaster oven. After the meat gets down to a certain point, I put in the potatoes and carrots and it soaks right into the brine and makes it so flavorful.”

On Tuesday, the Royal also has a Polish platter. Perogies, Kielbasa, fresh cabbage rolls, sauerkraut, fresh rye bread for $16.95. Sometimes she also does a polish boiled dinner.

Pasta

At the Royal, they make their own sauces. Red sauce and Alfredo.

They don’t put meat in the sauce, which is nice for vegetarians. For non-vegetarians, they serve spaghetti with fresh homemade meatballs, which you can get every day.

What goes into the best red sauce?

Roma and sun-dried tomatoes, good olive oil, fresh basil. Thick, rich tomato paste; fresh-packed crushed tomatoes and a cup of red wine. Rosemary, thyme, oregano.

In skilled hands, meals become greater than the sum of their ingredients. It makes a wonderful meal: Rich tomato sauce with a sprinkling of shredded parmigiana over pasta. Crushed red pepper, and freshly ground black pepper. Fresh-baked bread. Crisp green salad.

Grated Cheese

One thing I found interesting is, at the Royal, they shred their own parmesan cheese.

Why? I asked.

Kenny answered, “When you buy a bag of shredded cheese, in order for it not to clump together, they use a little sawdust. Parmesan cheese in shakers – like Kraft – they have sawdust in it. It’s legal. They use about 5 percent sawdust, so it won’t stick. When you buy it in a block, there are no fillers. That’s why we buy it in blocks and shred it ourselves.”

It’s a small thing?

“But it is so much better,” Kenny said. “Flavor. And it melts. You see how nice the grated cheese melts on the sauce.”

Steaks

Kenny prefers to serve New York strip steaks. Aged beef.

“I select the best cuts,” he said. “I won’t have it delivered. I personally inspect the beef I buy.”

How do you like to cook it?, I asked.

“Of course, we cook it to suit our patrons. I like my steak medium rare. Nice and pink throughout. I don’t mind if it’s really red too.”

A 16 ounce NY Strip at the Royal is only $19.95.

Desserts

Tracie is a baker as well as a cook. She likes to make homemade cookies: Chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter, sugar cookies.

For dessert, there was peanut butter pie and dark, strong coffee. The layers were sealed together with chocolate, warmed up with a hint of ancho powder.

She also had banana cream pie, coconut cream pie, strawberry cheesecake, and homemade fried dough.

Every day, they have fried dough.

Daily Specials

There are so many items to try at the Royal. It’s a place where you can go and eat often.

Hot buttermilk biscuits with chicken and gravy. Fried chicken. Veal parmigiana. Lobster mac and cheese. Shepherd’s Pie. Sometimes it’s hard to choose.

They say there is a difference between dining and eating. Dining is an art. And when you eat to get the most out of your meal, that is dining.

You dine at the Royal Cafe.

But why take so much space to write about a local restaurant?

When things are great, they deserve mention. It is important for people to know.

Great food and a wonderful atmosphere are found at the Royal.

You can’t ask for anything better.

The Royal Café is located at 311 Hyde Park Blvd, Niagara falls, NY 14303.

One Comment

  1. The best fish fry for miles, hands down nice people too!!

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