A chill was beginning to creep in on a Thursday when we pulled into a full parking lot outside Double D's Queen City Grill. The mood and the layout screamed jazz/blues lounge when we walked in, with hushed lighting, soft music on the jukebox and a dark red interior accenting a black and tan wraparound bar.
Joann the bartender (who turns out to be the owner) took care of us right away, pouring a generous double of Knob Creek bourbon, a pitcher of Blue Moon and a sweetened iced tea for $15. Toward the back wall, the band was going through the slow, methodical process of setting up equipment for its first set. The mirror behind the bar listed the upcoming musical acts, and it informed us we were about to catch Dirty Murphy.
Two blondes dug into a plate of appetizers at one of the dining tables, and a modest-sized group of blues enthusiasts lined the bar. Dirty Murphy wailed into a scorching harmonica intro that paved the way for the lead singer to pine away about having the blues.
The band tore into a slow, nasty cover of "Hoochie Coochie Man," and the crowd showed that it approved. The group hit its stride by the third song with a deep, soulful version of "Sittin' on Top of the World." A Sabres game played on one of the televisions behind the bar -- but nobody paid much attention.
Carrie showed up and promptly ordered a vodka tonic that came in a pint glass. Dirty Murphy continued its set by bringing the house down with a cover of Muddy Waters. Meanwhile, an older couple shared an intimate moment at one of the raised cocktail tables near the front.
During a cigarette break on the bar's front stoop, a regular informed me that Joann took over the place eight months ago, kept the Queen City in Frank's Queen City Grill and took a more aggressive approach to live music and great food. There's an open mic every Wednesday with Ray from the Rod Nickson Project, and live music happens every Thursday and Saturday with Dirty Murphy, 12 Pack Jack and Brent and the Accutones.
Having already enjoyed the music, we decided to try out that food. We gave in to the late-night munchies and ordered up a $10.99 Queen City Platter: a roast beef on weck sandwich and a single order of chicken wings with their signature tangy bourbon sauce.
At 10:30, after the band finished its set, we decided it was time to head out -- but now that we've discovered this well-kept secret, we plan to come back soon.
Double D's Queen City Grill
1051 Sheridan Drive, Tonawanda
Scene: A blues lounge right down to its foundation with quick and personable service.
Music: Raw blues and plenty of it.
Dress Code: Jeans and anything black. Berets encouraged.
Drinks: A multitude of draft beers and doubles of whiskey that look more like quadruples.