In this land of long, cold winters, we soak up summer with gusto. At The Shores Waterfront Restaurant and Marina in North Tonawanda, a sprawling waterfront patio invites guests to do just that.
A boat storage warehouse next to The Shores suffered a large fire in spring of 2015, after which the restaurant cleaned up the grounds, leaving expanses of green space for boaters and Tonawanda Island visitors to enjoy. And enjoy they do: The spot was hopping even on a recent weekday evening with groups of adults and families all basking in the late summer sunshine.
Both the interior and patio are built to handle volume. The inside bar is spacious and open with enough rails to bring a crowd without feeling crunched, and the deck is littered with plenty of tables, most with room for four or more.
A colorful drink menu includes a small selection of bottled and draft beer, a handful of wines, frozen drinks and cocktails. You’ll find the usual domestics, plus a shandy and Flying Bison Rusty Chain on the menu, although The Shores was out of several options when we visited. The restaurant has not tapped into the growing local craft beer scene yet, but if the number of empty bottles littering tables nearby is indicative, the clientele does not seem to feel the loss.
On the cocktail side, The Shores’ offerings run tropical and fruity, including a Mai Tai, fruit-froward Martini, Mojito and similar strains available. Be prepared to pay island prices; a frozen margarita without the optional “liquor float” and a frozen espresso liqueur drink ran $8.50 apiece. Beverages are served on the patio in practical plastic cups and are on the small side, but full of the flavor. For the kids and teetotalers, a selection of milkshakes would hit the spot under the blazing sun.
We tried a few of The Shores’ frozen cocktail options on an above-80 evening, and they arrived refreshingly cold and as sweaty as we were. The plastic cups did little for them or us, but at least eliminated the broken glass potential. A craft cocktail joint this is not, but neither is it trying to be. If you’re looking for a lovely spot to sip on something while watching the world go by, The Shores will do just fine.
Food options are standard, including wings, artichoke dip, a smattering of seafood, sandwiches and entrees, with plenty available for picking should the mood strike. While the prices were a bit high for relatively pedestrian fare, the portions were large and everything came out hot and fast.
That atmosphere is the best aspect of The Shores, by far. Guests can watch boats skim by on the Niagara River, listen to live music from the built-in stage by the water, or toast the last lazy days of summer as the sun sinks behind the horizon. As a place to enjoy the best months of Buffalo, The Shores hits the spot.
The Shores Waterfront Restaurant and Marina
Where: 2 Detroit St., North Tonawanda (693-7971, shoreswaterfront.com)
Hours: Open April 1 through Oct. 31.
Scene: Sprawling patio with scenic waterfront views
On tap: Fruity, tropical-themed drinks, frozen creations and standard domestic beers.
Don’t miss: The frozen drinks menu is especially refreshing on a hot, late-summer day.