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In the Niagara Falls neighborhood of LaSalle, the unofficial countdown to summer starts when Sullivan's opens.

Perched along Cayuga Creek, the unassuming joint attracts people hungry for the basics, like Sahlen's hot dogs, Black Angus burgers and hand-cut fries. Locals hang out on the veranda and feed scraps to the huge carp below.

The stand also attracts people who get lost looking for the factory outlet mall and stop at Sullivan's (501 Cayuga Drive, 236-4119) because they're hungry, said owner Jim Zetes.

"People find our place because they're lost," he said, "then they continue to come back."

They come back for 40 flavors of Perry's ice cream. For pizza fries, Buffalo chicken fries and Greek fries. For chicken breast and sausage cooked fresh for every order, and special hot dogs like the Soprano Dog ($6): with homefry potatoes, peppers and onions on a crusty bun.

"We don't do any advertising," said Zetes, who built the place 13 years ago, sold it and bought it back this year. "It's all word of mouth."

Are people waiting for you in the spring?

"This time of year, everybody's tired of the food at home. They're looking for summer foods. When we open up, it could be snowing out, and people come here to get their food."

Sounds like it's not exactly fast food, though.

"Nothing is made ahead. You order french fries, we cut the potato and put it in the fryer. If people are in a hurry they have to go to one of the fast-food chains and go through the drive-through. People know that."

The neighbors know?

"The customer base we have is fabulous. The same people have been coming for 13 years. The kids that were coming for ice cream 13 years ago are working here now."

You've got some freaky fry combinations. Mozzarella and gravy?

"We'll cut up to 1,000 pounds of fries a day. We cut sweet potato fries, too."

Your place isn't called Zetes' Dogs?

"When I was a kid, I worked at Sullivan's hot dog stand on Buffalo Avenue. I always said if I ever found the right location, I was going to put up a hot dog stand and open it."

e-mail: agalarneau@buffnews.com