We heard boats whirring through the river, water lapping the shoreline and American flags rustling in the breeze during a recent lunch at Lumberjack's Patio Grill.
The seasonal North Tonawanda restaurant boasts a spacious deck overlooking the Niagara River. There, with oldies and reggae music playing in the background, we basked in the sunshine, enjoying that most glorious of Buffalo treasures: summertime.
Lumberjack’s is one of my go-to summer spots. It offers a simple, Buffalo-centric menu, including Anderson’s ice cream, loganberry and Costanzo's rolls. (The restaurant also has a small bar serving beer and wine.) But at Lumberjack’s, food comes second to the real attraction: sitting on the deck overlooking the water, perhaps with a cold beer in hand, where you can feel the breeze and, if you’re there at the right time, see a sunset shimmering across the sky.
Diners order at the inside counter, pick a table and wait for staff to deliver the food. (There also is inside seating.) On our visit, we ordered a veggie burger ($7.20), grilled cheese ($4.20), Italian sausage ($8.20), lettuce wrap burger ($7.20), sweet potato fries ($4.20), curly fries ($4.20), onion rings ($4.20) and fountain drinks ($2.50 each).
Does seafood taste better if you’re eating it near the water? Studies have proven that yes, it does. Does Lumberjack's food taste better because of the setting? I’ll never know for sure, but I’ll wager that it does. Either way, by the time our trays arrived, we were starving.
The veggie burger was hefty, set on a buttered, toasted bun with lettuce. The grilled cheese was crispy on both sides with ample American cheese in the middle. The Italian sausage, from Mineo & Sapio, was delicious with the sautéed peppers and onions heaped on top. The lettuce wrap is a nice choice for those eating low carbs, and it features a good-sized burger tucked within. The seasoned curly fries are hand-cut, and the extra effort is evident. The sweet potato fries are perfectly crisp, arriving with honey for drizzling, and the onion rings were equally as tasty.
The menu also includes hot dogs ($4.20), fish fry sandwich ($8.20), chicken sandwich ($8.20), fish fry dinner ($12.20), salad ($4.20) and sides such as coleslaw, macaroni salad and potato salad (all $2.50).
Lumberjack’s tagline is: “Eat in or sail away.” Throughout our meal, boaters came whirring to shore, where they docked for a bite to eat. A reunion was underway on the deck, where a large group of people gathered for laughter and reminiscing. Mostly couples occupied other tables, where the relaxed vibe lends itself to the casual food and easy conversation.
We visited on a Monday following a particularly beautiful, warm-weather weekend, and they were sold out of both fish and chicken, but a shipment was expected later that day. Sometimes the food takes awhile to arrive at table, but, with a view like the one you have at Lumberjack’s, who’s counting minutes, anyway?
At Lumberjack’s, it’s not about perfection. It’s about wearing flip-flops, settling in and enjoying the best of a Buffalo summer.
1000 River Road, North Tonawanda (693-4349)
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day (Memorial Day through Sept. 30)
Gluten-free options: french fries, lettuce wrap, grilled chicken salad