Charlie’s Boat Yard doesn’t have to be a spectacular bar and restaurant to be a seasonal success.
If the sun is setting just right over Lake Erie, its neighboring Small Boat Harbor is packed with occupants, or a swell of cyclists is circling the nearby Buffalo Harbor State Park on a temperate summer night, the waterfront locale could please with lukewarm hot dogs and bottles of Blue Light.
Thankfully, Charlie’s is not this type of underachieving entity, one dependent on its picturesque Outer Harbor location. Now in its second summer of operation, it has become a marquee Buffalo outpost that, with its seafood specialties and beach bar vibe, can already claim itself as a local summertime staple.
“The view sells itself,” said co-owner John Skipper, who opened the Boat Yard with its namesake Charlie Goodspeed in May 2016. “Everybody wants to be outside to be next to the water, have a drink and look at the boats.”
Yes, there’s the view. Nestled in the space previously occupied by the Canal-era-inspired Dug’s Dive, Charlie’s boasts gorgeous lakefront vistas in its backdrop. Guests can find spots across its breezy, sunlit dining room or expansive patio, gaze over nearby boat traffic, and enjoy a sight made more interesting with the recently completed Harbor State Park Promenade, a waterfront, rock-lined pathway that now juts from one side of the harbor to the other.
But thanks to Charlie’s exceptional culinary, cocktail and craft beer offerings — typical inside other Goodspeed-owned favorites such as South Buffalo’s Brick Oven Bistro and Lackawanna’s Mess Hall — its menu could stand without the nearby sounds of seagulls or the roar of Sea Ray motors.
With fresh seafood supplied by Montondo’s in Lockport, Charlie’s offers selections such as spinach-sprinkled mussels ($10.95) and seared tuna ($22) for guests who would like to enhance their waterfront ambiance with seaworthy fare.
Visitors looking for a few open-air drinks will find a buzzing rear patio with live music three nights per week that is on par with the local greats off either Route 5 or the Niagara Thruway. Drinks span locally born brands and national favorites. Cocktails feature offerings from local distilleries like the Cobblestone District’s Lockhouse.
Charlie’s beer list features multiple selections from Flying Bison and Hamburg breweries, as well as Michigan’s Bells Two-Hearted Ale, recently ranked by the American Homebrewer’s Association as the country’s best beer.
However, more is coming. Over the next year, Skipper and Goodspeed have plans to expand their existing kitchen space and, with the additional room, multiply their tap lines; add a second floor for an additional 15 tables and a small bar; and, eventually, attempt to operate Charlie’s Boat Yard as a year-round establishment.
Incoming additions to their Outer Harbor neighborhood — like the forthcoming 23-story Queen City Landing on the former Freezer Queen site and additional harbor development down Fuhrmann Boulevard — would make this transition more viable.
But aside from these future developments, the possibility for more exists because of the growing prominence of Charlie’s Boat Yard as far more than a seasonal shrimp shack for sunset-aided solace. And just like its host Buffalo waterfront, it’s just starting to inch toward its ultimate potential.
Address: 1111 Fuhrmann Blvd. (828-1600)
Hours: Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Scene: Laid-back seafood and socializing amid a beach bar vibe.
Parking: Lot or along Fuhrmann.
Drinks: 27 beers and 15 wine selections.
Don’t forget to: Grab a Charlap’s ice cream from Charlie’s walk-up order window before heading home.