Remember when the bar description “dive” was derogatory?
A dive was a place you didn’t want to bring a date. It was a place with dark corners, cheap rye and the omnipresent possibility that, if you looked at the wrong guy the wrong way, you might get a pool cue cracked across your head. But those days have softened. Dangerous taverns still exist, but the term “dive” has been weakened by a Pabst-toasting generation that has renewed appreciation for clandestine barrooms, one featuring minimalistic menus and manageable prices. Now, the dive is desired.
West Seneca’s Blue Wall is definitely one of these suddenly preferred destinations.
The nondescript Seneca Street bar – hidden in plain sight just over the South Buffalo border – has been offering blue-collar beer-and-a-shot fare under its current owner for the past 10 years. Its relative anonymity changed in August when popular men’s magazine Maxim honored the locale as its “Dive Bar of the Month.” A quick drive past its log-paneled exterior and illuminated blue sign won’t generate much interest. (Actually, you could miss it. I did.) But, once you walk through its front door and find a bar stool amid its neighborhood clientele, you’ll understand how the Blue Wall earned national recognition for its dive-tastic presence and presentation.
First comes the presence. Its barroom – whose appropriately blue-bricked left wall joins others that appear to consist of Lake Erie driftwood – welcomes patrons into a low-key, local tavern environment. Classic Genesee beer signs join Yankees and Red Sox emblems around the front area’s dart boards and pool table, which hosts coed league play on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Walk past the bar’s wooden stools, NHL Ticket-hosting flat-screen televisions and flip-page jukebox to the dining room. Lined with booths and secondhand tables, the intimate space welcomes lunch and dinner customers eager for a deep-fried taco ($4.25), Blue Wall burger ($6.95) or its buy-one-get-one Friday night fish fry ($10.95). And, as a bonus, diners can enjoy such deals surrounded by a hodgepodge of celebrity photos, including such luminaries as John Wayne, Ronald Reagan (the actor) and Stooge outcast Samuel Horowitz – also known as Shemp Howard.
But, despite its dive-worthy decor, the Blue Wall’s Maxim close-up was likely earned by its utilitarian and affordable drink presentation within these surroundings. Daily specials – from $2 well drinks on Saturdays to $5 Labatt pitchers and two-for-$3.50 Molson Canadian bottles on NFL Sundays – cater to those who prefer two-ingredient cocktails, domestic beers and retro bar tabs, circa 1993 pricing.
For the white wine lovers who like their selections boxed, good news: $5-a-glass options are available, served ice cold and straight from the spout. And, for those who eschew the swill for a straight warm burn, no problem. The bar’s attentive staff serves Crown Royal-level shots for $3 and, on Sundays, manager-selected options are poured for $1. At those prices, you could buy the house a round with a 20 – and still have quarters left for the Tuesday night billiards league.
Or, save your coins to enjoy more of what the West Seneca locale subtly features on a day-to-night basis. Classic interiors. Friendly clientele. Pre-millennium prices. Is this all it takes to be considered a dive bar in 2013? If so, it’s no wonder the Blue Wall is now designated as one of America’s finest.
The Blue Wall
Where: 2720 Seneca St., West Seneca (822-2205)
When to go: Stop in for daily lunch specials; after work for nightly drink specials and NHL action; Friday nights for buy-one-get-one fish fry; and Sundays for NFL football.
Dress: Casual, with jeans, New Era cap and an old T-shirt recommended (for men and women).
Price range: Starters, $3.95-$9.95; sandwiches, $3.95-$9.95; fish fry ($10.95); wings, 25 cents on Mondays; drink prices – while always ridiculously affordable – are dependent on the day’s special.
Cash only – no credit cards accepted.
Parking: Lot next to building.