Perhaps it's wrong to consider kid appeal when pondering the success or failure of a bar -- just doesn't seem right, does it? But it's probably realistic for many of us. After all, a "bar" is not necessarily the dingy corner pub with a chipped shamrock mirror and Icehouse on draft.
It can be a well-lit restaurant with TVs pumping football, and four or five draft beers. So let's get real, and admit that you can take a family to a "bar," if you choose wisely.
As anyone who has ever hit the Warehouse in Blasdell knows, the restaurant/bar is, indeed, a very wise choice. Either as a place to bring the fam for lunch or to do some shots each time the Bills give up a run of 10-plus yards, it's a well-designed, downright fun establishment.
Set back from Milestrip off a wind-y driveway, the outside betrays its former denizen, the Cracker Barrel, but that's rather charming. Upon entering, one quickly discerns this is a Cracker Barrel no more.
In fact, it's a close cousin to Orchard Park's Duff's (which has the same owners), with typical knick-knacks on the walls, bloopers and sports on the hanging flat-screens, a young, female serving staff (at least it was all female during my visits), lots of games for the wee ones, and deals aplenty.
For my "Is It Family Friendly?" test, I brought a large crew of beer-and-wing-ready folks. Well, minus my 17-month-old son and 3-year-old niece. They were stuck with juice and pizza, and they were cool with that.
The adults were my wife, my in-town-from-Ithaca sister-in-law and her husband, and, from the U.K., my younger sister-in-law and her British boyfriend. (International flavor!)
Before we even sat, time was spent exploring the games, and they were a big hit with my niece. Older folk may find them amusing, too. (We're talking air hockey, arcade games, a bowling thingy, etc.)
Upon being seated, we noticed that TVs are plentiful. Whether you're in the seating area or the bar, you can see a screen -- or several -- from every chair.
The menu had some surprising dining options for this type of joint (calamari, monkey bread, pot roast), but our order was simple: wings, wings, wings. Our beer choice was Sam Adams Winter Lager, and another pleasant discovery was the longgg happy hour: noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. This meant two-for-one Sams, and that was a nice bonus.
While the beer selection is not vast, it's more than sufficient, and with so many deals -- on Heineken, Cornitas, Coors and more -- you'll find something, and for a good price.
Our British attendee was quite pleased, comparing the Warehouse favorably to some of his across-the-pond favorites, and we all emerged full and satisfied.
With the family test completed, I decided to return once more that evening, interested to see if the nighttime, Sabres-game vibe was different. It was a bit more crowded, and a tad louder, but it still felt welcoming and fun. Five to $12 bucket specials are offered during all Sabres games, and Sunday through Thursday evenings also feature half-price appetizers from 9 p.m. to close.
The crowd was excitable and gregarious, and I didn't see kid-one around the bar. So don't fear. If you're heading to a bar to avoid children, the Warehouse will be fine for that, too.
Consider the Warehouse that rare commodity -- a bar-restaurant that can please all ages, at an affordable price, to boot. Just be careful not to dump too much coin in the mechanical claw. I never did fetch that stuffed bear.
4360 Milestrip Road, Blasdell 823-5000
Scene: An older crowd in a casual, comfortable setting.
Happy hour: Noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
On tap: Usual suspects, but good deals.
Music: Unobtrusive; the bar area features sports audio from an array of TVs.
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday; and noon to 10 p.m. Sunday.