Walking up to Dock at the Bay, I was struck by déjà vu, albeit summer of about 27 years ago. It was here my friend and I made a pit stop from downtown heading out to “the lake.”
Known then as The Bayview, the crowd was rough. We were in and out of the bathroom in no time flat, lest we re-enact “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” biker scene and find ourselves dancing to “Tequila” on the bar.
Several years later, the building was sold and renovated, and in 1993 the kinder, gentler Dock at the Bay was born. Thankfully, the bikers (maybe a little grayer) still come and park their hogs out front.
Friend “J” and I paid the $3 cover and passed a sand volleyball game on the way to the huge patio area. While the cover is for live music, the view is the real star. It was one of those perfect Western New York summer eves — sparkling water, a setting sun and views of Woodlawn Beach and the city skyline. A jet-skier buzzed around. Even the Route 5 windmills looked spectacular.
Diners enjoyed meals above us on the restaurant’s porch. Indoor seating also is available, making it a nice place to have a meal and hang out.
We sidled up to the covered bar and claimed stools. The place was hopping. After a little wait, a 16 oz. can of Coors Light and a nostalgic summer drink — a vodka tea — arrived. The TV was tuned to the NHL Network, a sad reminder of how short summer really is.
Dock at the Bay’s crowd skews older, but that’s not a bad thing. No fear a fight would break out as in the old Bayview days.
We could hear (but not see) Wide Right, the live band playing on the lower patio. Classic rock and blues, every tune was familiar and fun. The music isn’t so loud that you can’t carry on a conversation, though.
People-watching is our specialty, and there was plenty to see.
We had a good laugh after noticing a particularly animated fella at the bar in an emerald green shirt, shaggy locks flowing in the breeze. Twenty minutes later he was winding his way through the crowd with a microphone, singing an Earth Wind & Fire tune. He was Wide Right’s singer!
While the crowd might be mature, the dynamics are the same. Chatting groups, flirting couples, tattoos, interesting dance moves and some questionable wardrobe choices. All good.
We loved the senior couple next to us. Him in a snappy Hawaiian shirt, her in a pink summer frock, just having fun.
On the lower level we saw even more folks than we imagined filling tables and chairs, including some lounging in Adirondack chairs watching the sunset. Despite the large number, Dock at the Bay didn’t feel crowded. The dance area in front of the stage is large enough to keep people flowing around those rocking out.
You can pick any lovely night to hit Dock at the Bay with one caveat: “Summer is short, so gather ye patio bar nights while ye still may.”