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Is there anything better than waterfront dining? "With all this waterfront improvement being talked about now, this is the time to think matters culinary."

The sun is shining, the air is warming -- it's time to eat on the water.

Which ought to be easy for all of us lucky enough to live on the Niagara Frontier. After all, water is everywhere: the river, the lakes -- both major lakes and minor -- and the creeks.

The days are getting longer, and all that water is sparkling in the light.

We are so lucky. People in other parts of the country would give anything for this access.

Which brings up the inevitable question -- why have we missed an opportunity to show off yet again?

Why are there so few places offering waterfront eating? It's always been a puzzle to me.

Here's a partial listing of the venues that do exist.

Shanghai Reds offers stunning views of the Erie Basin Marina. Harry's Harry's Harbour Place Grille on Niagara Street overlooks Grand Island and Canada. There are also Dock on the Bay and Root Five on Route 5. The absolute knockout is Top of the Falls Restaurant.

And some informal places -- beloved Hoak's for seafood, the Hatch in the Erie Basin Marina, where the lunch lines are legendary. (That fact alone tells you something.)

There's Old Man River and Mississippi Mud's on the Niagara River, Justin Tyme and few other spots along the river in the Falls.

I've probably missed a few and I apologize. But sadly, my list is pretty much complete.

Still, it's not too late.

With all this waterfront improvement being talked about now (and with some indication that maybe a few things might actually happen) this is the time to think matters culinary. And here are a few things about waterfront eating that should be borne in mind:

No chains, no franchises. What we want are eating places with local ambience. The most successful meal I ate in Florida last month overlooked pelicans and dolphins.

Unfortunately even there (especially there, perhaps) those places are getting harder to find.

The water must be easily visible. No stretching of necks or standing tippy toe. There should be a lot of well-maintained outdoor seating (with heaters if necessary). But there should be indoor space, too. Think windows, think glass.

Ambience and menu? Two ways to go. Formal and upscale, sure. But the menus must be accessible. A waterfront restaurant is not the place for Chocolate Rubbed Seabass. (I actually saw this on my travels. Oh lord.)

Casual and upscale restaurants are important and might appeal more to the tourists.

Wings, of course, but not too many wings. Enough already. How about terrific burgers, our fine hot dogs, salads made from local ingredients, fresh water fish?

In Florida, we enjoyed grouper sandwiches and Key Lime pie and what is called a Softie (a soft shell crab lightly battered and sauteed and crushed into a bun with some lettuce and tomato and a little of mustard sauce).

We might not have those resources but we have a plenty of others.

So to arms everybody! (Or to our knives and forks anyway!)

Here's to watery al fresco nourishment. Bon appetit.

e-mail: jokun@buffnews.com

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