For those of us approaching middle age, there’s something deliciously wicked about going out for a Tuesday happy hour. (Isn’t there laundry to do or a library book to return?)
Throwing caution to the wind, Good Friend Joe, the Sig Other and I ventured to Colter Bay Grill, the iconic Allentown institution that sits smack dab on the corner of Allen Street and Delaware Avenue.
The Brinkworth family opened the place in 1987, taking over a window-covered bar called Westlake. At the time, the Allentown neighborhood was getting hot, but Colter Bay’s end was still sketchy. The gamble paid off, and now Colter Bay is established in a prime location.
The name pays homage to the real Colter Bay on Jackson Lake in the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. The family loved the area and thought the name had a nice flow. Somehow it’s worked. And hey, there is a Buffalo, Wyo.
Inside, flags from flyover states like Montana, Utah and Idaho hang over the square bar that’s decorated with sundry booze relics and stickers.
The place is packed on the weekends, so the advantages of a nondescript Tuesday are your pick of parking and bar space (the older you get the tolerance for these goes exponentially down).
Beer, beer and more beer is the name of the game at Colter Bay. Forty-one on tap to be exact (21 from New York State). Owner Ellen Brinkworth shifted Colter Bay’s focus to follow the craft beer movement she saw growing in Seattle and New York City. Again, taking a gamble – especially when distributors were telling her she was nuts for trying to fill all the taps) – the risk paid off.
And so we drank beer (the monthly special Ithaca Beer Co.’s Apricot Wheat).
To our right sat an older guy reading his USA Today, eating jambalaya. To the left, a couple of law types, slugging beers and talking court.
We laughed when the younger cellphone set arrived and ordered beers. The bartender (like a mom) said, “Are you going outside?”
Plastic cups, and then their plastic cards – they all started tabs.
We old-schoolers had money on the bar, in piles, and our feet slung up on the brass bar below. Old habits are hard to break.
Of course, our “wild afternoon out” crossed over into “dinner hour.” A great menu of inexpensive food let us chow down without breaking the bank (items range from $7-$14). I loved my Campfire Wrap of grilled chicken, black beans, cheddar, onion rings and barbecue sauce.
Our bartender was on the ball serving food and drinks, and making sure the hockey playoffs were on. His Hawaiian shirt added to his charming personality.
The law types left, and we watched with interest as one helped the other negotiate a big SUV out of a tight parking space. In their place, two Brits on vacation showed up and ordered Buds. (Curious, coming from the land of the pub.)
It wouldn’t be Allentown without the strange (but polite) guy asking patio customers for money or the motorcycle rider who rode right up along the sidewalk.
The Teton Range might be hundreds of miles away, but the scenery in Allentown was just as interesting, even on a run-of-the-mill Tuesday.
Colter Bay Grill
Where: 561 Delaware Ave. (882-1330, colterbaygrill.com)
The Scene: Allentown charm
Atmosphere: Easy come, easy go
Attire: Flip flops to peep toes.
Happy hour: 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday with $3.50 bottles, $1 off drafts and $4 tall drinks.
Prices: Drafts from $3.50 (beer of the month) to $8 pints. Bottle beer, $4-$6. Wines $5-$6 (New York State wine features start in June). Mixed drinks start at $5.
Extras: On-site ATM. Digital jukebox. Flatscreens.
Quiz: Can you find the misspelling of “Colter Bay”?