Get in the car, check the gas tank (and your credit card balance), check your citizenship documentation and drive. And bring your appetite along.
Today, I'm extending my list of destination restaurants to nearby Ontario. Last week I gave a short list of drive-to places on the U.S. side of border. As you probably can tell, these are very limited summaries and I am not including the fancy winery restaurants, which deserve a column of their own (soon, I hope).
As always, your suggestions and ideas on the subject are encouraged. Oh, what the heck -- they are begged for. Note the email address at the end.
And with all these places -- I don't have to remind you about this, do I? -- call ahead, both to reserve a table and to check availability. Restaurant hours can change faster than the weather.
If you're GPS-less, pick up some driving suggestions, too.
Port Dalhousie, right outside St. Catharines, is a boating center and is afloat with dining places. Many are informal, attracting a young drinking crowd. But if you want something more upscale, I suggest Treadwell's, 61 Lakeport Road (905-934-9797; www.treadwellcuisine.com).
The chef/owner here is Stephen Treadwell, who subscribes to a farm-to-table philosophy, promoting food and wine products that originate close to home. He calls it "Niagara Cuisine" and it is prepared simply. (Treadwell is no fan of the multiple ingredient school, which he, bless him, calls "Confusion Cuisine." I tend to agree.)
The attractive restaurant is open Tuesday through Sunday for lunch and dinner right now, but next week it will be open seven days. There is a Sunday brunch and the amusingly named Snob Wine Bar.
All the menus are enticing, but I prefer lunch, which this season listed goodies like Duck Fat Fried Bread with East Coast Lobster Salad ($20). Lunch is considerably less expensive than dinner, and there is a good selection of puddings any time, but nothing here comes cheap. The winter dinner menu listed Trio of Beef (aged tenderloin, cheek ravioli and roasted bone marrow) for $42.
"We're still fooling around with the spring menu," I was told.
Moving right along to Port Colborne, we come to Sugar's Too Fish & Grill House, 10416 Lakeshore Road West (905-834-0586). This is an unassuming place set in beautifully landscaped grounds, open for dinner only Wednesday through Sunday. It is run by husband-and-wife team Judy and Stan Unyi -- he cooks, she bakes the best pies in the world and sees to the front of the house. This year she's doing Mango Key Lime, among others.
If it's Wednesday night, order the ribs; other times order the lightly breaded Lake Erie Perch, which is light as a feather. Order the baked potato (go ahead, laugh, the place has a better baked potato than just about any other restaurant -- must be all that butter). If you insist, the coleslaw is great.
Close to the Peace Bridge is the famous Ming Teh, 126 Niagara Blvd., Fort Erie (905-871-7971), which began as the area's first exceptional Chinese restaurant many years ago and is still going strong (open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday and dinner only on Monday).
Interesting art abounds in Ming Teh, the product of the former owner; the room in back overlooks the river. Everything is delicious, but a few of my favorites are the Pickled Cabbage Soup with Pork, the deep-fried fish with sweet and sour plum sauce, each and every dumpling, and the Peking Duck, which has to be ordered 48 hours in advance and comes in two courses (no soup).
And then there is Yukiguni, a fine Japanese restaurant at 5950 Fallsview Blvd. in Niagara Falls (905-354-4440), open just about all the time.
And a place I've raved about before. Paris Crepes Bistro, 4613 Queen St., Niagara Falls (289-296-4174), which is about as French as you can get without getting wet. Open for lunch only Sundays, closed all day Monday; dinner the rest of the time.
Eat the crepes, of course. Many varieties. But also eat the mussels in garlic and Pernod sauce; eat the Magret (breast of duck, cooked rare). Don't miss the french fries and take home a loaf of bread.
Janice Okun, former food editor for The News, has been out and about in the regional restaurant scene for 40 years. Send your dining questions and comments to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.