Shanghai Red's is open. For a while, that didn't look like a sure thing. Having expressed concern over Specialty Restaurants' plans to replace the demolished Crawdaddy's restaurant on the waterfront, this page now has the far more pleasant task of welcoming the completion of a commitment.
The opening of a new restaurant is not critical to the future of Buffalo, which already has more than its share of fine restaurants for a city its size. But this one is special because of its location. It borders the Erie Basin Marina, a bright spot in a waterfront redevelopment effort too often shadowed in the gloom of delays. It can be a vital and active bridge between the popular shoreline parkland of the Marina and the hoped-for bustle of the Erie Canal Harbor project.
There's a certain -- and perhaps unintended -- irony in the Specialty Restaurants' name for its new establishment, which replaced a ramshackle building named and designed to evoke an old Gulf Coast dock building. On the surface, Shanghai Red's seems to lack a Buffalo connection, too. But it sits midway between a landmark 1833 lighthouse with the nickname "China Light" and a new harbor development designed to evoke the city's historic red-light Canal District, which in its day was considered by sailors as the second-roughest waterfront in the world, behind only Shanghai.
The much more genteel restaurant will have to do without the tourist input from the harbor project, with that historic reconstruction still a few years away. But its opening does ease concerns over the long delay in replacing Crawdaddy's, which eventually led the city to insist on a deadline, which the city extended by a few weeks to allow careful completion of the first phase. Other deadlines for phase completions loom, and the city retains a $500,000 performance bond and title to the building, but the company's recent performance has been good and the city's deadline extensions have been reasonable.
The new dining facility opens on the verge of winter, and the Nov. 28 deadline for the completion of outdoor patios may seem largely academic. But Buffalo always has room for more high-quality restaurants whatever the season, and this one could help make the vitality envisioned for the urban waterfront year-round. Bon appetit.