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Old Man River has it all for the summer

Great food, live entertainment and a spectacular view of the Niagara River – one area restaurant has it all when it comes to summertime dining.

Founded in 1975, Berrafato’s Old Man River in Tonawanda boasts dozens of different meals and sides to feed a hungry appetite fueled by a vigorous walk along the river or a long day at the office.

Plenty of open-air seating greets visitors as they head for the order line. Boards above the window feature about 20 different hot dogs ($3.19 to $5.99), 20 hamburgers ($3.39 to $11.99) and eight chicken sandwiches ($6.89 to $8.99). Sides range from regular, poutine or sweet potato fries to baked beans and potato salad ($1.79 to $5.29).

Wash it all down with a soft drink, milk or milkshake ($1.24 to $4.49).

My husband, Patrick, and I visited on a hot and humid summer evening and found a table along the sidewalk with a refreshing view of the water.

On my tray sat the rodeo burger ($8.95), which featured a third of a pound of Black Angus beef, cheese, bacon, onion rings and barbecue sauce. It was on a soft yet plump roll, so I was confident I could handle this big boy without a fork.

After three bites, I was proven wrong. The burger appeared to have been dipped into the sauce, so the meat patty slid to the opposite side of the roll each time I attempted to take a bite. Sauce ended up everywhere (except, luckily, on my khaki pants), so I gave in and grabbed a plastic fork to finish it off.

The burger was well-cooked and juicy, and the portion was satisfying. The barbecue sauce provided a nice zing, but I would have preferred more of a dollop than the drenching this burger received.

Patrick, on the other hand, had no qualms about taking a fork and knife to his Big Foot Chi Che Dog with chili and nacho cheese ($5.99). The wiener was buried beneath mounds of meat and cheese sauce, leaving no methods by which to lift it.

For those searching for seafood, Old Man River also has the Seafood & BBQ Shack, featuring fresh clams, mussels, shrimp, scallops and more. The shack also serves beer, wine and ice cream desserts.

A tenth of a mile down the road, Berrafato’s also owns Mississippi Mudds (313 Niagara St., Tonawanda). Many of the offerings are similar, but Mississippi Mudds doesn’t have as extensive a seafood menu or serve alcohol. It makes up for it with more options in ice cream treats and different types of sandwiches and sides, such as beef on weck, Italian sausage and four styles of macaroni and cheese (homestyle, barbecue pork, Buffalo chicken and Philly).

Old Man River describes itself as more than a seasonal eatery, but a dining destination. It definitely offers a great atmosphere for families looking for a summer treat or co-workers seeking a relaxing riverfront hangout for dinner or happy hour. It’s a great place to soak up what little summer the Buffalo area offers.


Berrafato’s Old Man River

Where: 375 Niagara St., Tonawanda (693-5558).

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily during warmer months.

Wheelchair accessible: Restaurant yes, restrooms no.

Extras: Seafood & BBQ Shack on the property serves ribs, pulled pork, shrimp, clams and lobster alongside beer, wine and ice cream treats; live music from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; barbecue and seafood specials each Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

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