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Determined Western New Yorkers dine al fresco 'Forget the bugs and humidity, blot out the traffic, noise and fumes.'

Buffalo -- City of No Illusions. Located in Western New York -- where it is often gray or precipitating. We all know about that.

How, then, do you explain our astonishing number of restaurant patios?

Drive down any street, expressway or country road and count the number of eating places that spill into the open (sometimes not-so-fresh) air. More turn up every year.

A local restaurateur once told me that it is the kiss of death to try to run a restaurant -- sans patio -- in Western New York in the summertime. And you know what? He's probably right.

Certainly, we don't lack for variety. Some outdoor eating sites are pastoral and serene -- like the back dining area of Rue Franklin, the quintessential sophisticated city yard.

Some are lush, like the patio at La Tee Da on Allen Street; some bring back the front porches of yesteryear -- see Trattoria Aroma on Bryant. Others are almost rural, like the terrace of the Creekview in Williamsville.

There are some good prospects for the Miss Congeniality award, too. Le Metro Bistro overlooks the Walker Center parking lot; O offers an all-too-close-up of Sheridan Drive; some patios perch on the edge of gas stations, bus stops or just plain grunge.

Here's my point: There are diners in all these spots. And here's another point: I am often one of them.

Forget the bugs and humidity, blot out the traffic, noise and fumes. Disregard the fact that I just paid a fortune for a haircut. Like thousands of other Western New Yorkers, I choose to eat outside when the weather is even semi-warm.

Restaurateur Nick Kotrides of Faherty's and Toro on Elmwood, and the Empire Grill on Hertel, has some thoughts on that.

"Dining out is important to Western New Yorkers," he told me, "because we shovel snow seven months of the year. We have a limited time to spend outside, so we have to make most of it."

I would also add that there's an aspect of voyeurism, too. I personally like a spot where there's lots of foot traffic so I can stare; it's fun to be part of the action.

For a restaurateur, the advantages of outdoor dining are obvious, too. He gets to expand his dining or drinking space, which means more income.

Yes, there can be problems. Neighbors (and municipal officials) might complain about noise, crowds or fumes. Open an outdoor terrace; you could create a monster.

And here's a twist -- an outdoor terrace can even become a victim of its own success. Customers might enjoy spying on their neighbors and/or daydreaming a bit too much. They might perch too long to do this.

Over-relaxation means less table turning. I sympathize, but only a little.

Al fresco dining has its difficulties, but it's a winning situation nonetheless.

Does anyone have tomorrow's weather report?


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