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NIAGARA FALLS – The best thing about Sullivan’s Hot Dogs isn’t necessarily the hot dogs – although they are great.

No, the best thing is that after you enjoy a wonderful summery meal, you only have to walk around the corner of the building to get great desserts from the ice cream stand out front.

Even that may not be the best thing, though. I always look forward to saving some of my dog or burger bun (french fries will do in a pinch) to feed the monster carp that loiter around the creek just off the raised rear deck. Kids of all sizes enjoy feeding the fishies – if you can get the food morsels past the cruising seagulls, that is.

Now that I think of it, the best part of eating at Sullivan’s is that it encompasses all of what’s great about summer – charcoal-grilled Sahlen’s dogs, tasty burgers and hand-cut fries eaten open-air, either at the picnic tables out front, or the covered tables on that beautiful patio/deck overlooking the water. Oh, did I forget the ice cream? In classic Perry’s flavors and all-new creations of every ilk.

In addition to the Sahlen’s dogs – in varieties including a jalapeño dog, an onion dog and the signature “Superdog” (wrapped in bacon and topped with gooey nacho cheese) – there are some tasty Angus beef burgers, Mineo and Sapio Italian sausage, Polish sausage, veggie burgers and grilled skinless chicken sandwiches. Get your fries straight-up or splattered with Greek dressing and feta cheese, hot sauce and mozzarella or hot gravy. They do a mean sweet potato fry, as well.

There are salads and pizza logs and other choices, as well, not to mention a kid’s menu. Oh, and the 34 flavors of Perry’s, along with some homespun ice cream drink concoctions. Every seasonal place should be this good.

What makes it that good is the charcoal grill, which lends an authentic outdoorsy/summery taste to the goodies. Everything is made to order, which might add a couple of minutes to the wait time, but adds infinite pleasure to the end product.

One drawback: The place is kind of reliant upon the weather. If it’s a dark, gray/wet day, you aren’t going to brighten it up with a trip to Sullivan’s, because they’ll probably be closed. Oh well, we can live with that.

The most unfortunate part is that they are only open spring and summer. But on the flip side, the annual reopening of Sullivan’s gives us something to look forward to each spring.

With burger prices ranging from $3.70 (single) to $5.59 (double), dogs in a similar range and those fancy-schmancy fries creations setting you back about $3.50, you can add a drink or a cone and still get away for under $10. Try that anywhere else.

Maybe that is truly the best thing about Sullivan’s.

Sullivan’s Hot Dogs

Where: 501 Cayuga Drive, Niagara Falls (236-4119, www.sullivanshotdogs.com)

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday; noon to 9 p.m. Sunday.

Wheelchair access: Yes