The Review / Prescott’s Provisions
Superb small plates in the Northtowns
Wagyu beef tartare
Photos by Eric Frick
40 E Niagara St,
Tonawanda, NY 14150
(716) 525-1260 or prescottsprovisions.com
Prescott’s Provisions holds the center of three prime crossroads: the convergence of the Erie Canal and Ellicott creek, the bridge where Buffalo’s Delaware Road transitions into North Tonawanda’s Main Street, and the border between Erie and Niagara counties. A captain’s bell behind the bar and a teak deck above it lend an intended nautical vibe to this repurposed auto mechanic shop, which comes complete with big glass garage bays and industrial fans between the exposed rafters. New and old intersect in an open kitchen, which is powered by wood, the original cooking fuel, and consistently turns out dishes that possess a sharp, modern edge. Finally, a bright daylight-flooded coffee bar and café occupies the large entrance area. Living at the crossroads could convey a lack of identity, but Prescott’s Provisions seems to embrace it, right down to its distinctive logo.
The restaurant is equally accessible by road, bike path, and waterway. Onsite parking can be a little tight, but extra room for spacious outdoor seating and an unobstructed view of the harbor seems a fair trade-off for a few extra parking spots. The transformation of the building is quite remarkable. A tower creates a vaulted ceiling anteroom, which serves as a coffee bar. Around the corner, the room opens up to a raftered ceiling and large industrial ceiling fans. The back wall reveals an open kitchen, showcasing the wood grill and large brick oven. A mantel full of cookbooks and copper cookware over the hearth complete the homey feel of a kitchen that sends out food that is anything but rustic.
Considering the ubiquity of wood-fired pizza on current menus, it’s nice to see that only three are offered here. Expect a decent sized pie (maybe “medium” in standard Buffalo pizza joint lingo), featuring a big ring of airy crust with charred bits and smoky flavors. The pizza yields to a gentle chew indicating use of softer flours and light handling of dough. Focaccia is even more impressive. Served warm with singed and crisp edges, the crumb has perfect structure for sponging up the bowl of peppery extra virgin olive oil. Toppings include sweet caramelized onions and grated Parmesan cheese.
Burrata at PP is a showstopper.
As a champion of small plates, I’m pleased to report that the bulk of the menu is dedicated to them, and many are excellent. (Keep in mind that the menu changes a bit with the seasons.) Hay-smoked potatoes are billed as crispy, but they arrive as tender baby red potatoes glossed in an oily sheen and tossed in salt. The hay smoke is intense and pleasurable, and has me wishing that more places saved room in their smokers for humble vegetables. Crispy Brussels sprouts live up to their billing, well roasted until the edges are browned. Tossed with bacon bits, tart mustard seeds, and walnuts, the finished composition is addicting. Similarly pleasing are cauliflower florets, lightly battered and deep-fried until golden and served alongside a ramekin of thick aioli made from the spicy renderings of Calabrian pork sausage. Burrata is a showstopper. Simple in presentation—perched in a puddle of chartreuse olive oil under a bit of black pepper—it’s perfectly executed, tasting of fresh milk and presented still warm, so it’s soft and yielding to the fork. Wood-roasted octopus is a single grilled arm about the size of a very slender carrot. It’s precooked for a pleasant chew, and the second cooking over wood leaves it nicely charred. Braised beans, raw celery, and nutty romesco sauce round out the dish. A wide, shallow bowl of lightly smoked salmon makes a bold statement by applying some esoteric ingredients and techniques. It’s a playful mix of wood-kissed, sashimi swimming in a pool of cucumber liquor, studded with gelled cubes tasting of bread and butter pickles, sliced radish for crunch, and yuzu kosho for citrus and chile heat. Wagyu beef tartare, despite being artfully composed, might be the least favorite of the small plates we tried. The delicate beefiness of the wagyu is masked by a bracing mustard used to bind the minced meat and a dark sauce used to paint the plate seems mostly Worcestershire as opposed to the listed black garlic.
Lightly charred wood-roasted octopus is served with braised beans and romesco.
Entrees largely follow the formula of the small plates, including multiple complementary elements overlapping in interesting ways for both the eyes and the palate. Bigeye tuna is lightly seared for a ruby red center, matching the shades of the accompanying watermelon and radish. A standout pasta selection of housemade bowties—with capers and sunchokes and steeped in umami and citrus—evokes a classic Caesar salad. Ricotta gnocchi paired with maitake mushroom and spring peas comes with a DIY sauce of sorts in the form of the liquid yolk of a poached farm egg. The dumplings could be lighter. Silver dollar scallops come four to an order, neatly marked by the wood fired grill and served atop risotto. Matchsticks of butternut squash, browned butter, and marcona almonds play nicely with the mild mannered scallops, and lend an essence of fall. While the hay-smoked potatoes have us celebrating Prescott’s Provisions’ smoker, we are a little disappointed in the grilled pork shoulder and belly. The shoulder is on the dry side and sans a helpful, moistening sauce, merely including a spoonful of plumped mustard seeds instead. Any smokiness resides in the underlayer of lentils, which are intense like the potatoes, but, unfortunately, not as enjoyable.
Finally, for those looking for something familiar, the double cheeseburger, clocking in at $17, is worth its price tag. It towers on the plate, with two gooey cheese-topped patties, lettuce, special sauce, and a delightful bun (somewhere between a crisp, seeded kaiser roll and pillow perfect Wonder Bread). This classic combo of flavors needs no further explanation.
The dessert list changes, but, luckily, the one constant offering, chocolate mousse, is pretty darn good. Three rough mounds of decadent mousse are tamed by macerated mixed berries, fresh cream, and graham crumbles, affording the diner the opportunity to craft varied flavor combinations, making every spoonful new and interesting.
Whatever route and preferred mode of transportation—be it feet, bike, car, or boat—that delivers you to Prescott’s Provisions, I’m confident the journey will be well rewarded.
Ancient cooking methods, flavor-forward results
Crispy brussels sprouts
The use of wood as a cooking fuel predates civilization itself, but, in recent decades, professional chefs are rediscovering the flavors and aromas that only wood can bring. According to former Microsoft executive Nathan Myhrvold, the author of Modernist Cuisine, “Wood smoke contains more than a thousand flavor-producing compounds.”
Increasingly, chefs are thinking less about futuristic gels and foams and more about the heightened flavors and crisp, charred textures that can only come from playing with fire.