Some bars never go out of style.
The Tudor Lounge (also known as Frank's Tudor Lounge) has been in business for decades, catering to club-hoppers, trend-dodgers and the singles scene consistently while their neighbors on Chippewa continue to strive for the latest hip trend or fad. While I hadn't been to the Tudor in almost 10 years, it remained untouched and unchanged by the passage of time, save for a few small cosmetic upgrades in the periphery, lending credence to the adage that if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
At 9 p.m. on a Thursday, there was already a decent crowd congregated around the horseshoe-shaped bar. Jeff and I found a couple of vinyl stools and carried them over to secure a spot at the rail. Chris, our easygoing bartender, spotted us the minute we sat down. We ordered a pint of Pabst Blue Ribbon, a pint of Magic Hat (at the doorman's suggestion) and a double of Tullamore Dew whiskey for $12.
Two couples traded anecdotes near a powered-down jukebox, old blues played over the loudspeakers and two bikers took turns at a leisurely game of pool. Dry erase boards punctuated the walls with microbrew, wine and unusual shot specials. A giant flat-screen TV aired local programming over the bar between two smaller televisions playing basketball. A brick wall lined the perimeter with framed black and white sketches of guitar legends Eric Clapton, B.B. King and Stevie Ray Vaughan along with a portrait of Frank Pandofino Sr., who opened the bar more than 30 years ago.
After a soundcheck, the Jony James band opened with a powerful blues instrumental heavy on guitar with strong supporting drums. Dave, our neighbor at the rail, said the band has been playing every Thursday at the Tudor for more than a decade. The band jams out on a small, but well-situated raised stage with a spacious picture window behind it. Seven mammoth amps reverberated through the interior while James pined about being "wild and restless/way down in Texas."
We talked local music outside with the bouncer while a gaggle of motorcycles gunned their engines through the nearby intersection. A steady crowd continued to trickle in after Thursday in the Square finished up. By 10 p.m., there wasn't a spot left along the bar and the majority of us were hanging on every note the band hammered out. During his down time, Chris rinsed out pint and shot glasses to prepare for the next wave of thirsty patrons. Coincidentally, the bartender and the bouncer are also members in separate bands.
James launched into "So Are You And Me," another original composition that's an honest and rugged examination of a doomed relationship. The unmistakable scent of patchouli oil permeated the air and a trio of groupies danced and grooved to the band in front of the stage while the rest of us nursed our assorted beers and shots. A group of onlookers in tie-dyes lined the back wall side by side with three women in smart business suits unwinding after work.
As midnight crept up on us, we decided to make the long trek back to the suburbs via the 33 East and said our goodbyes. The Tudor Lounge has the spirit of a great corner bar situated in a convenient downtown locale with free parking across the street. These are all rare, wonderful qualities (especially the parking), and the stellar live music lineup is the icing on the cake. If it ain't broke, it's a Buffalo treasure.
Tudor Lounge, 335 Franklin St., Buffalo. 855-9643
Scene: All ages and walks of life mix seamlessly into a downtown hotspot revered for its unpretentious charm and engaging live music.
Dress Code: Jeans, T-shirts, tie-dyes, flannels and comfortable baseball caps.
Drinks: Pabst, Yeungling, Blue Moon, Guinness and Miller light on tap. An impressive hard-liquor selection with an emphasis on whiskey and vodka.
Music: The "official" home of Jony James, the band plays Thursday and Sunday nights. Open mic on Wednesdays. Additional performances throughout the week.