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Staunch on the unbroken cord

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Like his father, Fred, Steve Wayne is a graduate of the Cornell School of Hotel Management, and he's been in and around restaurants almost his entire life. Fred Wayne ran the WayneHotel in Lyons --- named for the county, not the family --- when Steve was a boy. But for 45 years, the Wayne family has been synonymous with The Holloway House in Bloomfield. Forty-five years is impressive, but the Holloway House actually has a nearly 200-year history, of which the Wayne chapter is just the latest.

Originally established by blacksmith Peter Holloway, it started as an inn for stage coach travelers in 1808. The Munson family ran the Locust Lawn restaurant there from 1910 until about 1929, and the Seel family opened The Holloway House in 1939. The Waynes took over in 1961.

How unusual is this? Most restaurants close within three years. And the restaurant business has changed enormously, with extreme emphasis these days on trendiness. A 10-year-old restaurant is considered ancient. A 67-year-old?Absurd.

And everybody knows about the place, right? Mention The Holloway House to almost anyone and you get, "Oh, yeah, that's a nice place. I went there with my mother/in-laws/son/daughter once." It's the historic place with the Colonial Williamsburg feel, the place you might go to celebrate an occasion.

It's got that historic feel, with its elegant dining rooms, antique waitress uniforms, old-time service, and beautiful china. All that is reason enough to drive the 25 miles to check it out. But The Holloway House, beyond being a local institution and treasure, is a great restaurant by any measure.

The menu features deceptively simple food: roast turkey with dressing and fixin's, pot pies, chicken and biscuits, turkey a la king. But everything is done well, and scores of touches both in the mains and the sides make it just outstanding.

Consider that turkey a la king. The cream sauce is delicate, the turkey tender, the sherry added with just the right hand, the mushrooms large, succulent, and cooked perfectly. At lunch, $10.95 gets you that along with unlimited portions of the three homemade breads. Two have been made since 1939. Sally Lunn bread is a semi-sweet, yeasted egg bread, akin to challah, but better. Your kids will go bonkers for it. Orange rolls are the other, and you'll have to force yourself not to pound them. There is no better bread offering in area dining.

Steve Wayne speaks with disdain of the "cheap Charlies" with whom he competes. But the value at The Holloway House, when you consider the quality, is solid. You'll pay $17.95 at dinner for roast turkey with dressing, giblet gravy, and orange-cranberry sauce (homemade, of course). But that includes a salad, potato, vegetable, and those kickass breads. For $5, you can add a relish tray, soup, and a dessert.

As a member of the Finger Lakes Culinary Bounty, The Holloway House is a genuinely regional restaurant, cooking with local potatoes, cabbage, apples, and even meats at times (buffalo and wild boar from Wild Side Ranch, for example). And the wine list features more than 30 New York wines from vineyards including Dr. Frank, Heron Hill, Fox Run, Casa Larga, Arbor Hill, Glenora, and Warm Lake Estates. The Finger Lakes International Wine Competition just gave it the Willy Frank Award for its outstanding NYS wine list.

The list of great touches goes on... how about some "Killarny Kress," a proprietary, green, dill-flavored sauerkraut? Or some of Pam Graham's fresh-baked biscuits or marvelous desserts like fresh fruit pies (including the only sweet cherry pie in the country in season), crème brûlée, or what Michael Warren Thomas proclaims "the best banana cream pie ever."

It's the whole package at The Holloway House. It's history and professionalism: 80-year-old dishwasher Grace Howard, for example, just won the NYS Restaurant Association's statewide "Back of the House" award. "We know lots of our customers personally," Steve Wayne says. "I've been to their houses, even been to their funerals. We send them birthday cards. It's kind of different." Routes 5 and 20 are an old-time lifeline across the country. Wayne's son lives on the road in Oregon, his daughter works near it in Massachusetts. It's an amazing unbroken cord that The Holloway House sits upon and within. And it's a great restaurant. Make it more than an occasional destination.

The Holloway House, Routes 5 & 20, Bloomfield, 657-7120. Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, lunch 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m., dinner 5-9 p.m.; Sunday 11:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. (champagne brunch, $16.95, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.).


Food tip

Joey B's old location at 617 Whitney Road didn't remain vacant long (Joey B's is now next to the canal in Fairport). René Kiulman brings a Dutch theme to the region as the chef and owner of René's Cafe. He serves breakfast seven days a week, and lunch every day but Sunday (388-7480).

--- Michael Warren Thomas of www.SavorLife.com.

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