Is anyone out there eating INside these days? I'm certainly not, and neither, it seems, are the readers of this column. A recent listing of some personal favorite al fresco dining spots brought forth many other suggestions. (We usually only have room to list a few dining places every Wednesday -- heartbreaking but true.)
But, because it's going to be summer for a while, here are a few hungry readers' ideas I intend to try out myself.
Janice: You forgot to mention the Dockside Inn, on 153 Sweeney St., in North Tonawanda.
Mostly pub food, but still good eating and a great view of boats heading along the canal toward the river. How many of the other places that you mentioned can you dock your boat right in front of the restaurant and walk up for a drink and bite to eat? Check it out if you haven't! -- Nate, Lancaster
Great little place in Orchard Park is Two Sisters Cafe right in the village (4211 N. Buffalo St.). Cozy and pretty outdoor patio with plenty of seating under the canopy or out in the sun. Breakfast and lunch served every day and all day from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. with great full breakfasts, quiche, pancakes, paninis, soups, salads and more. Great for Sunday after-church breakfasts or lunch with the girls. Lobster bisque is their signature soup every Friday and is amazing!!! -- Diane
Dear Ms. Okun: Without a doubt, I find the patio at Gabriel's Gate, 145 Allen St., simply enchanting -- like a secret garden that somehow conjures up the feeling of being in New Orleans on a balmy night. The canopy of trees, the tiny white lights. I absolutely adore it. And those chicken wings! -- Audrey, Buffalo.
Hi, Janice. A patio I really love is Cecelia's on Elmwood Avenue. It has two connected areas: one for dining and one for snacks. It also has an outdoor bar. And then, of course, there are all the shops on Elmwood for shopping afterward. -- Donna from Depew.
And then there is this e-mail that kind of sums up the whole thing. It comes from Washington, D.C., resident Stephanie Sarwel:
Dear Ms. Okun: I heard you were writing a piece about patio dining in Buffalo and I thought I might provide you with an unusual perspective on it. Although I was born and raised in WNY, I now live in the D.C. area with my husband and three children. My parents own the restaurant Prosit! on 5428 Main St. in Williamsville.
Last summer I arrived at their back patio on a Friday at 5 and my mother literally threw a folded apron at me and said, "We need your help in the Beer Gardens!" Now, I was trained as an attorney, but have been a stay-at-home mother for the past 10 years. So while I felt a little nervous waiting on tables for the first time, I did have a lot of experience serving food to hungry humans. Waiting tables in the Beer Garden that evening was a real eye-opener. First, on how difficult it is to be a waitress. Second, on how gracious, accommodating and talkative Buffalonians are.
Time after time, the customers in the garden would give me helpful advice to keep me from spilling drinks over patrons or overloading my tray. It was frustrating to wait tables for the first time, but all of the patrons took my inexperience in stride. Coming from a city that is usually too hot in the summer for outdoor dining, and where people are usually in too much of a hurry to leave the restaurant -- either to get back to the office or to another high-powered social event -- watching people leisurely enjoy good food and good conversation against the backdrop of a temperate clime and beautiful Polish music played on an authentic record player was uplifting to the soul. People's eyes lit up as I served them their food. It was like dropping bags of gold into their laps.
Next Week: Where to eat fresh fish.
Send your questions and comments to longtime Buffalo News restaurant reviewer Janice Okun at firstname.lastname@example.org.