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Set a course for Ship n' Shore, Buffalo-area's best-kept summer secret

On a small peninsula at the border of Lockport and Pendleton, where the Tonawanda Creek splits from the Erie Canal, sits a time-honored and storied spot that remains one of the area's best-kept summer retreats.

Ship n' Shore dates back to 1917 as a tavern, with the building’s history extending even further beyond that. Tied closely to the development of the Erie Canal, it’s a fascinating read scrolled out on its tattered menu that I’ll save for you to enjoy in the same fashion I did: Elbowed up to the bar, watching some TV, covered in wing sauce, and somehow on beer number three in what felt like no time at all.

Dive bars, for lack of a better term, possess a character that, try as you might, cannot be bought. Like barnacles on a boat, Ship n' Shore is packed with memorabilia, both maritime and otherwise, that will throw you back to a different place and time.

If it doesn’t, just ask owners Tom and Joan Class, one of which is bound to either be working in the kitchen or relaxing at the bar with the regulars. Owner/operators since 1991, much of it is their collection which they’re proud to show it off with a story and a smile.

Becky Brzyski waits on customers at Ship N' Shore in Pendleton. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)

You’ve been to places like Ship n' Shore before, but nobody’s ticking all the watering-hole boxes quite like they are. Old tin beer promos, neon clocks, dry-erase specials boards, old personal photos, and Big Mouth Billy Bass (for bonus points) all adorn the weathered pine interior, bathed in the glow of the fish tank. And that’s just the interior bar.

Snip n' Shore boasts sizable dining areas, indoors and out, both with views of one of the prettier waterfront strips in the area. Between hosting the occasional wedding, the artfully landscaped peninsula behind Ship n' Shore is most often rocking to the beat of all types of live music, booked typically from Friday through Sunday.

On Sunday afternoon, the senior crowd (including my two rocking grandparents) packs the back room to dance to the tunes of the 1950s and '60s.

Out back, the beachy patio bar stocks a maxed-out selection of bottom-dollar domestics (on tap and bottled), a frozen margarita machine, and a clam bar with all the usual suspects. All of which, conveniently, is also available via boat-up access.

A painting at Ship N' Shore, a tavern with roots back to 1917. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)

In addition to the diverse bar scene, Ship n' Shore offers a full menu focused primarily on seafood specialties from Cajun shrimp to king crab, converting to a small selection of familiar late-night munchies at 9 p.m.

Like a siren calling you to the rocks, Ship n' Shore will draw you in and pummel your agenda. It’s not hard to let the hours slip when you feel so at home. Whether you prefer tossing back clams in the crow’s nest of the interior bar or sipping frozen margaritas out back with the band, Ship n' Shore has the versatility, variety and charm to keep you coming back night after night.

When Tom and Joan get to know you by name, it might be time to set a course for home. After the clams run out, at least.

Ship n' Shore

Address: 5612 Tonawanda Creek Road (625-6106)

Hours: 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Monday; noon to 1 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday; and 2 to 9 p.m. Sunday.

Scene: Eclectic charming dive bar/restaurant. Cozy nook inside, sunny back bar outside with water access.

Drafts: 16

Bottles: 16

Food: Casual seafood and Pub fare. Potato skins to lobster tails.

Ask about: The history and memorabilia.

Parking: Paved lot.

Credit/debit: Yes; $10 minimum. ATM on site.

Don’t forget to: Take the walk to the back patio to see the incredible view of the Erie Canal and Tonawanda Creek.

*For more bar features, click the tag at the bottom of the page.

Ship N' Shore in Pendleton. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)

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