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The Protocol keeps the old-school bar ambiance going

Newfangled cocktails, craft beer and hipster crowds have a place in this world, but today we pay homage to old-school joints that keep the classic traditions going — like The Protocol Restaurant.

Opened in 1971 and still owned by the Pelczynski family, The Protocol has 45 years of staying power because of a focus on good food and service. (We applaud the attitude that if it isn’t broke, no need to fix.)

The décor is classic and understated. The staff wears black and white. The ambiance is relaxed. The bar is a simple “L” shape with stools. We are thankful, because sometimes the familiar is just what’s needed after a long workday.

Protocol Restaurant  at 6766 Transit Road in East Amherst. Blair Ragan, left and Alex Novotny of Williamsville, enjoy a drink at the bar. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

Protocol Restaurant at 6766 Transit Road in East Amherst. Blair Ragan, left and Alex Novotny of Williamsville, enjoy a drink at the bar. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

Here you can order a Dewar’s Rob Roy and they will know exactly what you want. The only questions they might ask are “Sweet? Dry? Up or on the rocks?” If you are a regular, they already know.

Unwind with a classic Kir Royale, Negroni, champagne cocktail or Moscow mule.

Or sip a cocktail with a nod to the past and an eye to the modern, like the Manhattan Protocol. Noted as “a proper Manhattan” it adds the zest of a flamed orange peel. The Western New York Sour is a classic concoction layered with Cabernet Sauvignon.

Protocol Restaurant at 6766 Transit Road in East Amherst. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

Protocol Restaurant at 6766 Transit Road in East Amherst. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

Flavored martinis — espresso, lemon drop, Key lime, Mai Tai and raspberry chocolate — are available, yet we bet the straight-up chilled Beefeater version with an olive is just as fine.

The Protocol has plenty of wines by the glass and bottled craft beers, including three Flying Bison choices along with the usual domestics. Sam Adams, Southern Tier IPA, Stella Artois, Blue Moon and Guinness are on tap.

Appetizers are half-priced during happy hour. This is the place to get vintage dishes like clams casino, sea scallops, deviled eggs and crispy calamari. (Lobster nachos with avocado, chilies, mozzarella, cheddar and pico de gallo is about as wild as it gets.)

A look at the dining room in Protocol Restaurant on Transit Road in East Amherst.  (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

A look at the dining room in Protocol Restaurant on Transit Road in East Amherst. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

The best bargain may be the Protocol Sampler Platter with stuffed banana peppers, barbecue ribs, clams casino and crispy coconut crusted shrimp. Ordered for two or four, it clocks in at discount prices of around $8 and $14 during happy hour.

If you’re lucky, longtime bartender Kenny will be working. A quintessential barkeep, Kenny will be ready to whip up a drink, flame an orange peel and carry on a conversation, a dying tradition in this cellphone era. Kenny will tell you he has avoided all technology and is doing just fine. For kicks, he’ll pull out his “Digital Personal Communicator” to show you.

We won’t tell you what that is, so you’ll just have to stop in and see for yourself.

BAR TAB

The Protocol Restaurant

Where: 6766 Transit Road, East Amherst

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Happy Hour: 4 to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday with discounted cocktails and beer; $5 glasses of wine. Half-priced appetizers (excludes shrimp cocktail).

Atmosphere: Retro vibe. Patio in summer.

Location: Just off Exit 49 of the Thruway, a good meet up place from most directions. Ample parking.

Yum: Clams Casino

Accessible: Yes

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