Warm sunny weather is on its way, they say, and I'm determined to believe it, so now it is time to answer many queries that appeared in the e-mail: Where do you eat where you want to contemplate a water view? A murky situation here, for sure.
At first I grumped to myself that, for an area with as much shoreline as we have -- Lakes Erie and Ontario, the Niagara River, Ellicott Creek and other rivers and streams, plus the Erie Canal -- there aren't many spots to sit at a table and contemplate the horizon (or, maybe, life).
But when I started listing them, I found there were quite a few.
Granted, most waterfront places are super-casual, and, also granted, we need more. Nevertheless, I thought of more spots than I can list here.
A caveat: Many of our waterfront restaurants are more about the aquatic landscape rather than the food. What follows is a partial list of some of the better ones. (I'm confining myself to the American shore for this column.)
First to Niagara County: The Silo, 115 North Water Street in Lewiston, overlooking what I consider the most beautiful part of our area, where the Niagara River winds its way up to Lake Ontario, is way up high and is definitely a burger and ice cream place. It's fun on a nice day.
Nearby is Water Street Landing, 115 South Water St., which also has a patio, but upstairs is a more upscale dining room. It serves lots of seafood (not local, you don't get much local seafood in these parts). The shrimp and lobster dishes are tempting, and there's plenty of beef as well.
Then there is the Wilson Boat House, 57 Harbor St., Wilson, overlooking a small harbor on Lake Ontario, with a pretty dining room and an outdoor terrace. Outside, there is lots of action here (marine and otherwise); inside, you'll find a mainstream menu. Try the Shrimp Fritters if they are available.
Moving to Buffalo and the Erie Basin Marina, just about everyone knows about the Hatch, the hot dog stand that kept on growing. And at lunch time, just about everyone is in the ordering line ahead of you, moving incredibly slowly. Still, when you finally stagger to a table, you can't ignore the view of the marvelous old lighthouse, the water traffic and those aggressive gulls. And you can't ignore the Fried Bologna Sandwich with peppers and melted cheese, either, because it is a monument to the art of American Junk Food.
Want to get fancier? Go to Templeton Landing, on the other side the marina parking lot. It has far more elaborate digs: an outdoor patio and indoor dining rooms with great raised booths, all the better to see the waves. This is a chain, so expect very mainstream cuisine.
Down the road, there's casual Dug's Dive, 111 Fuhrmann Blvd. (mentioned in this space recently), which reigns over the Small Boat Harbor. Or, try Hoak's, 4100 Lakeshore Drive, Hamburg, which is really an old Buffalo tavern just a-hanging over the rock. Here you eat fish.
Also in Hamburg, Root Five, 4914 Lakeshore Road, is undergoing a metamorphosis, having hired some top chefs and revised the menu toward the contemporary. (Pomegranate Baby Back Ribs, anyone? I haven't tried them yet, but I will.)
You also can head to Williamsville (that's what I said!), where you'll find the Creekview Restaurant, 5629 Main St., in an old house with some tables overlooking Ellicott Creek.
This is a neighborhood restaurant -- but every neighborhood restaurant should be like this, where quality ingredients always triumph in the end. In this case, a prize-winning, long-established chef, Mary Ann Giordano, turns out good, sturdy American food of Italian inspiration.
Next Week: Where to eat before the show.