Where do you go to enjoy a beer without all the drama? To unwind after a long work shift without having to worry about running home first to get all gussied up? To enjoy conversation with a neighbor over a drink, not over the fence dividing your properties?
The Nite Cap Grill in the Town of Tonawanda has answered by offering a true neighborhood bar with cheap drinks, great comfort food and the bare essentials to unwind after a long day.
The regulars are easy to spot. They peer over a shoulder toward the door, eyebrows cocked, examining whether it’s their favorite drinking buddy or a stranger entering. A familiar face draws quiet welcomes, while a new patron elicits a longer, inquisitive glance before attention returns to the beer at hand. Newcomers, just take it in stride – even the most comfortable regular was the stranger at one point.
The crowd is proud working-class. Some are friends from the adjoining streets that stretch deeper into the town, while others are the hardworking folks from the many factories that populate the area. At least a dozen signs around the dark, paneled room advertise what everyone desires – $2 pints, all day, every day.
The décor tells a tale of two generations. Above the bar, flat-screen televisions feature baseball and playoff hockey, while the nearby Internet jukebox leads several patrons in a chorus of Chicago’s “You’re the Inspiration” followed by countless classics that span the decades. The dining area, however, features older relics, including tube TVs and a pay phone that, to our disappointment, offered no dial tone. That would have been true music to our ears.
One drinking companion, Mike, said it best, “This place is like something out of the ’80s or ’70s. All that’s missing is the smoky haze.”
Flanking the phone are the restrooms, which are whimsically designated with signs featuring hand-drawn bubble letters and gender-specific stick figures (dress vs. no dress – get your mind out of the gutter).
With pool, darts and a full menu of American cuisine – burgers, fries, wings and subs, all for under $10 – Nite Cap boasts a relaxing atmosphere to enjoy that much-needed down time without spending a huge chunk of your paycheck. Two hours, four appetizers, three mini-pitchers and many laughs later, the bill came to a surprising $26.10. You can’t beat that. While the bartender will run a tab, credit cards are not accepted, so bring cash or a debit card for the ATM.
As larger bars with expensive specialty drinks, elaborate themes and loud sound systems continue to surface, it’s refreshing to still find quiet, homey neighborhood establishments that continue to cater to the customer who just wants to relax with a beer without being bombarded with gimmicks. Nite Cap remains true to its regulars while welcoming new friends daily. You’re greeted with a smile, a “What’ll you have?” and an attitude of, “Hope to see you again soon.”
“We’re all neighbors” is the image sold at the Nite Cap, and it’s a theme that hopefully never will go out of style.
Nite Cap Grill
Where: 675 Sheridan Drive, Town of Tonawanda (877-9527)
When to go: Lunchtime through midnight Monday to Saturday (open later if it’s busy).
Dress: Casual, come as you are.
Prices: $2 pints of Labatt Blue, Yuengling, Miller Light, Coors Light and Molson Canadian. Full menu of American classics, from $2.50 cheeseburgers to $6.49 whole steak hoagies (all food under $10); $4.95 Fish Fry Fridays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; takeout specials add 50 cents.
Note: Cash only, but ATM is available.
Parking: Lots in front of and adjacent to building.