It is rare for a bar’s website to effectively capture the vibe of the establishment, but dang it, the site for East Aurora’s Bar Bill Tavern (www.barbill.com) pulls it off.
Specifically, I am referring to the first line on the “First-Timers” page: “The Bar Bill can be an intimidating place to walk into for the first time. Any bar with such passionate and dedicated regulars can feel overwhelming.”
I love that matter-of-fact, relaxed, slightly winking tone. And that is part of the reason I love the Bar Bill.
It was a Sunday afternoon, and to celebrate the completion of an epic task – cleaning our basement – my wife and I made a return visit to the Bar Bill, a place I had not visited in several years. I had enjoyed their wings not too long ago, thanks to the kind souls at Aurora Brew Works next door. They let my brother-in-law bring in some Bar Bill food to enjoy with our Founders Pale Ale.
But an actual sit-down at 185 Main St.? It had been awhile. So it was exciting to return to a bar that ranks among the area’s most beloved.
It was a pleasant Sunday, warmish and cloudy, and the front patio was predictably packed. Entering the bar proper, I realized the website was correct: It is a bit intimidating.
Every seat was taken, servers hustled to and fro, a football game blasted on the television, and everyone seemed utterly entrenched. But I thought back to one of the website’s tips – “To get a table or your name on the list, talk to our bartenders” – and sure enough, that did the trick.
We were directed to a tiny table near the back, and while quarters were “Das Boot”-tight, we were thrilled to sit so quickly. I ordered a Flying Bison Bisonfest beer, and noticed what a cross-section of humanity was at the Bar Bill. Couples, families, seniors and a baby were packed inside, and no one seemed out of place.
In fact, the small size is part of the Bar Bill’s charm. It is a dark, atmospheric place with an old popcorn maker in the back, a wall of glasses and a carving station behind the bar, a few well-placed TVs (with a biggie in the back), assorted signage and an unstuffy, humble feel. It is “the local” on steroids, a small bar bursting with life.
Perhaps they knew I was coming, because the music on that day seemed to come from my own playlist. In a span of one hour, I heard such greats as Wilco’s “What Light,” Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” Beck’s new single “I Won’t Be Long,” Kings of Leon’s “Super Soaker,” and some standard pub fare from Van Morrison and U2.
The food only adds to the charm. The Bar Bill is considered by many to offer Western New York’s finest wings (spicy, if not particularly saucy) and beef on weck (sizable). We ordered, and loved, both. Tragedy struck when I knocked over a plate of fries, but that was the only disappointment.
The beer selection won’t knock you out, but there always is at least one craft beer on tap, and the selection seems to change frequently. (I propose a partnership with the Brew Works next door.) Also, a craft beer event is held every Monday.
As we prepared to leave an hour or so after arrival, the crowd was just as strong. Our bill came to about $35 for three beers, wings, beef on weck and fries. We agreed that was about right, and made a vow to brave the nearby traffic circle and return to the Bar Bill very soon.
One last note, from the “First-Timers” page: The Bar Bill is cash only. Act accordingly.
Where: 185 Main St., East Aurora (652-7959)
Scene: A long, tight space that throbs with life. The Bar Bill is a comfortable place to eat dine and drink – if you can get a seat.
On tap: Molson Canadian, Labatt Blue, Sam Adams seasonal, Stella Artois, Guinness, Yuengling, Bud Light, Coors Light and a changing seasonal craft beer.
Hours: 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday; noon to 2 a.m. Sunday