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"People in Orchard Park love this place," said O.P. resident Joe, and looking around the gorgeous, classy bar at David's Grille, it was hard to disagree.

Joe and his wife, Ellen, had joined my wife, Mindy, and I at the small but intimate fine dining restaurant on North Buffalo Road, and for us, it was our first visit to the bar. We had enjoyed dinner there years before, but visiting now, and being back in the village, felt a bit like a homecoming.

As an Orchard Park graduate, I spent much of my adolescence in and around "the O.P." My grandmother lived not far from the David's site, which was, as I grew up, the venerable Orchard Downs.

It had been big news when David's opened, and it is still the sole "fine dining" spot in the village. There are other nice eateries, including Mangia across the street, but David's is the white tablecloth option.

We arrived early on this Quaker Arts Festival Saturday, around 6:30 p.m. A few of the tables lining the window around the bar were filled, but the long, varnished bar held, well, just us.

It gave us the chance to take a nice, long look, and we liked what we saw. While the restaurant half of the building was a sea of khakis and "dressy" couples, the comfortable yet sophisticated bar saw jeans, and even a dude in sweatpants and red sneakers. (That seemed wrong, especially the red sneakers.)

Mindy ordered a Riesling from the solid, affordable wine-by-the-glass list, while I surveyed the draft situation: Newcastle, Bass, Stella Artois, Southern Tier IPA, Guinness and Sam Adams Oktoberfest.

Cold Oktoberfest in hand, and with crowds suddenly spilling into the bar, I had a chat with the personable bartender. He seemed to know just about everyone.

Our friends arrived, and just in time, as the bar was now officially packed. It was an interesting mix of ages, with no one younger than 30, and the majority in the 40-50 range. This changed as the night wore on, but did demonstrate that David's clientele is composed mainly of an older crowd.

Ellen opted for cranberry and soda, while the bartender recommended a Rodney Strong Cabernet to Joe. It was a fine pick, another sign of a truly wise 'tender. (He manned the bar solo for most of the night, as well, which could not have been easy.)

We ate a bit (calamari for Mindy and me, salads for Ellen and Joe, and we all split quesadillas), we chatted (it's a loud place, but never so loud that we could not converse with ease), and I wondered why "Jeopardy" was on the flat-screen TV instead of college football. (Smartly, the channel soon changed.)

Some "Jersey Shore" types and their spangly-top-wearing dates came, as did some colorfully obnoxious O.P.ers, but the vibe remained pleasant, and never snooty. David's may be a fine dining restaurant, but the bar was fine for anyone. For drinks, a starter, and dessert, our bill only came to about 30 bucks.

Two bits of advice: If you want to make sure of either a seat by the bar or a table by the bar, arrive early, or prepare to wait. Second bit: Don't be afraid to have your full meal at the bar. We were not alone in doing so, and it was not frowned upon in the least.

Finishing things off with an ice cream sundae served in a perfect-for-shrimp-cocktail-sized wine glass it may have seemed childish to order this at the bar, but ask Joe and I if we cared we entered the outdoors with complete contentment.

David's Grille, then, has lived up to the hype that greeted it so many years ago. If I lived in the Southtowns, I might just make it my hangout, especially when craving an IPA and a sundae.

***

David's Grille

Where: 4247 North Buffalo Road, Orchard Park (662-4247)

Scene: A classy, comfortable bar that nicely complements the fine dining of the restaurant.

On tap: Newcastle, Bass, Stella Artois, Southern Tier IPA, Guinness and Sam Adams Oktoberfest.

Music: Smooth jazz. Unobtrusive, if a bit lamely mellow.

Hours: 11:30 a.m. -1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday (lunch); 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday (dinner); closed Sunday.