“I don’t see a lot of single women at the bar,” said one member of our trio at Zebb’s Grill & Bar in Orchard Park.
He was right, but considering that all three of us are married fathers who no longer go out to count the number of single women at the bar, we were not particularly perturbed.
These days, we go for three things: an adequate beer selection, relatively cheap fried food and several TVs lit up with some manner of athletic competition. (Push comes to shove, we’ll even accept curling, pingpong, or that strange late-night monstrosity on ESPN with large Germans pulling trucks and lifting rocks.)
Lack of single women notwithstanding, Zebb’s did well on all three.
It’s not quite a Southtowns institution, but it has certainly stood the test of time. Since it first came to life on Southwestern Boulevard, nearby bars and restaurants, especially around the McKinley Mall, have come and gone.
But Zebb’s is still there, and its burgers and cookies, especially, draw raves. Its bar has always been rather ignored, more than likely because first and foremost, Zebb’s is seen as a restaurant. But this view is a bit shortsighted.
For starters, there is the pleasant, easygoing nature of the scene. I was the first of our group to arrive on a busy Saturday night, and a friendly hostess took my request for a booth in the bar and let me know I was second in line.
I happily caught one of the last stools at a crowded, jovial bar, one lit with easy-on-the-peepers fluorescent tube lights. I counted nine TVs viewable from all angles, and with stellar sound, along with many, many nonsensical old Hollywood 8-by-10s (Jimmy Stewart, Steve McQueen. Cool, but … why?).
In the past few years, it was noticeable that Zebb’s had put a real emphasis in featuring craft beers on tap; cards on each table in the restaurant area heralded this news. The craft beer selection remains strong, now featuring, among others, Flying Bison Blizzard Bock, Wolaver’s Oatmeal Stout and Southern Tier IPA. I opted for the Flying Bison.
As member two of the party arrived, our table was ready, and soon our third compatriot showed up. The table wait was barely five minutes, quite good for a busy Saturday night.
We all ate, but really, we were here for the beer. Even though this was the weekend, I was pleased to see that a happy hour is offered from 3 to 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. to close Monday through Thursday, with draft specials and half-price appetizers at the bar. (The specials include $2 16 oz. and $4 22 oz. Blue, Blue Light, Miller Lite, Molson and Coors, and two-for-one well drinks.)
It was, to put it simply, a nice scene. Our view of hockey was unobstructed, the food was fine, the beer was good, the conversation even better.
In fact, I’d say there was only one annoyance. There is a sign above the bar with a Magic Hat logo that reads, “$4 pints.” I ordered one, but was told the sign did not mean MAGIC HAT pints were $4 … Only non-craft domestics. But the sign said … Whatever. That’s confusing.
And we did notice something that was not annoying, just odd: By 8 p.m., there seemed to be a bar exodus. People were exiting faster than 17-year-olds at a party after a cop knocks on the door.
By 9 o’clock, it was even quieter, which made the sight of an 8-year-old casually strolling up to the bar look even funnier. I think he just wanted a straw.
Why so quiet? Hard to say. One of our group offered a theory: “I don’t think of this place as a neighborhood for anyone.” I know what he meant; in some ways it’s off on its own on Southwestern. But who knows? And really, who cares?
If you’re searching for a packed bar vibe, Zebb’s is not your choice. If, like me, you’re a man (or woman) of a certain age, the semi-quiet might be just right. And don’t forget to buy some cookies for the road.
Zebb’s Grill & Bar
Where: 3349 Southwestern Blvd., Orchard Park (674-3700)
Scene: Feels more like a restaurant than a bar, but spacious and friendly.
On tap: Zebb’s changes its beer selection regularly. Choices at the time of visit included Flying Bison Blizzard Bock, Wolaver’s Oatmeal Stout, Sam Adams (Boston Lager, Cherry Wheat and Alpine Spring), Southern Tier IPA, Blue Moon Belgian White, Magic Hat No. 9, Killian’s Irish Red, Labatt Blue and Blue Light, Coors Light, Miller Light and Molson Canadian.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday; and 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.