Grand Island is a perfectly nice place, and not just because it’s home to all those sepia tone memories we have of sepia tone photographs from Fantasy Island’s Wild West photo booth.
Beyond the amusement park, however, Grand Island hasn’t been a fully-realized recreation destination. That is in the process of changing and a revamped Beaver Island State Park is one reason why The Island is becoming just a bit extra. In 2019, the hospitality company Montana International won a 20-year contract to develop Beaver Island, and The V’Randa is one of the company’s full-service restaurants worth checking out.
Given that Beaver Island is a beautiful, unique state park, it is a bit odd how basic it’s been. Montana International’s owner-operator Cyndy Montana recently explained to us that New York State really isn’t in the business of building out attractions.
“Customer service and marketing just aren’t a focus of the state,” she said. “I don’t take care of the grounds, or the trees, or anything related to nature – and that’s the state’s forte, keeping the park nice.”
As the name implies, the main draw of The V’Randa is a veranda outdoor seating area. With a picturesque view of the Niagara River, The V’randa takes advantage of natural beauty. The food menu pairs well with the view by providing fresh modern and classic food: truffled stuffed peppers, Korean barbecue pizzas, steak frites and summer salmon pies.
Montana said she entrusted the development of the menu to her executive chef – Peter Emborsky.
“When chef told me what he wanted to put on the menu I was a bit leery of a couple items,” she admitted. “Like steak frites, for instance, I wasn’t thinking it would be a good summer dinner, but it’s our biggest seller. The salmon pie is our second biggest seller, and with that one I was like, ‘Yeaahh, I don’t know,’ but I didn’t say anything, and chef certainty knew better than me!”
Drink options include a full bar, with house cocktails, wine and beer. There’s often live music on the veranda and there are upcoming live music events that incorporate the adjacent Falconwood wedding venue, which is also being operated by Montana International. Long-term plans include festival-like food, drink and music events.
Adults tend to be the main focus of The V’randa and this section of the park, but Montana said families shouldn’t feel unwelcome.
“There’s a beautiful brand-new playground that the state just built downhill from The V’Randa,” she said. “We don’t have a big kids’ menu. That’s not our focus. But we love it when families come in and the kids go down to the playground while the parents sit on the veranda, have some drinks and watch their kids play.”
If you are hesitant to head over to Grand Island, the $7 park admission fee could be a reason. Montana suggests keeping that fee, which goes toward park maintenance, in perspective.
“So many people don’t want to pay that $7, and I get it,” she said “I wish people would look it is as the same as going to Buffalo. You can pay $15 dollars to park when going to dinner in Buffalo, and you’re parking in this ugly, cement lot. When you pay $7 to come into Beaver Island, you drive through this gorgeous landscape and there’s never any problem finding a good parking spot.”
Born and raised on a farm in Quebec, Montana met and married a Grand Islander, moving to the area more than a decade ago. Over the past few years, she’s watched The Island start to pick up a bit of momentum and she said Beaver Island will be a big part of continued growth as a local destination.
“I’m excited to not only bring Beaver Island back to the attention of people in Western New York, but to also help make Grand Island more known for its own identity,” she said.