Jul 13, 2017
OAKFIELD — Mike and Donna Dilcher didn’t set out to create a visitors bureau when they purchased an Oakfield restaurant space in 2016.
The Oak Grill and Cafe owners have found their Lewiston Road business has become a popular way station for diners traveling between Batavia and the cottages, communities and curiosities to the northwest.
“We get a lot of vacation traffic,” Donna said Sunday, one day after they had served a couple from Florida on the return leg of a trek to Lockport to pick up a school bus the diners planned to converted into a mobile home.
“The patio has helped a lot,” she said. “People say its welcoming, that it looks friendly. And sure enough, they say when they come in they’ll be stopping back.”
The restaurant, former Alli’s Cones and Dogs, has become an attraction of its own with additions the Dilchers plan to keep implementing. The expanded patio and paved driveway were joined by a drive-through window for call-ahead orders and ice cream-buyers who’d prefer to keep their kids in their car seats.
The Dilchers said they hope to keep up with an annual “capital project” schedule to accommodate crowds that come for weekly car shows and the occasional 20-burger lunch order from down the road at Crazy Cheap Cars.
They have continued to tinker with a comfort-heavy but refined menu — certified Angus burgers, cheesesteaks, open-faced ribeye sandwiches and beef on wecks; homemade pizza and wings, breakfast food and a rotating special that includes homemade chicken and biscuits, chili and soups.
The latest addition came with its own facility — the Clam Shack that connects the patio what was once a storage room and benefits a small selection of beers and wines. The ‘shack’ has been remodeled with an roll-down counter window flanked by pails for clams and beers. A sink for raw clams and a steamer sit inside nearby.
“We’re keeping it simple,” Mike said of the addition, which opened as a Thursday-to-Sunday trial after Independence Day. “It starts with high quality clams.
“You can get them steamed or raw,” he continued. “We’ve sold more steamed than raw, but there are (raw clam) diehards.”
Their former lifestyle — Donna was worked in Sherwin Williams’ Rochester offices, and Mike was a global marketing manager for the company — led to many nights of dining out. They enjoy going on vacations and consider their world as not being black-and-white, but a house-paint variety of grays.
“We just roll with it, there’s nothing etched in stone, we’re very flexible,” Donna said.
That’s where the idea for a Clam Shack came from — where else on their diners’ travelers can they find both clams and a setting to truly to enjoy a dozen with a cold beer?
“We look for something unique that no one else is doing,” Mike said. “It’s not just serving clams, its the clam shack atmosphere.”
By Jim Krencik, The Daily News