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Good old friend Otto's retains its great qualities through the years

A long time ago (10 years) in a township pretty far away (Cheektowaga), I used to frequent Otto's every Tuesday. You may have noticed by now that I prefer to go out on Tuesday nights for my assignments. It all started at Otto's in the fall of 2001 back when I was under the erroneous impression that I had some sort of "lure of the animal" with women. I didn't, and now that I'm married I can look back at those years fondly and laugh loudly at the person I was. I can also go back to Otto's and find the same qualities that I loved about it then still alive and kicking.

The heat beat down on a blistering sun-soaked Saturday when I wandered back to Otto's for the first time in almost seven years. My bartender came up to me instantaneously and whipped up a double of Bushmill's on the rocks and a pitcher of Budweiser for $14.75. My palate has been so overloaded with Jameson in one lifetime that I often opt for Bushmill's when it's an available option. It's strong in terms of flavor, but the taste is certainly there.

The cool interior provided much-needed relief for the madding crowd clinging on to the rail of the L-shaped bar. After my first gel pen died a horrible death, I retrieved an ink replacement from my car and enjoyed a smoke on an enclosed concrete patio with two wooden benches facing each other. The preposterous traffic on Union Road continued despite our detour from it.

Back indoors, two identical redheads observed identical roses on an ornate mirror behind the bar below a Smirnoff disco ball dead center from the ceiling. A fleet of trivia machines and scratch-off tickets lined a far wall flush against the stairs leading to a dormant second floor that thankfully can't tell any tales. Four televisions broadcast nonstop sports news and baseball games. A cozy island with beams afforded some small privacy away from the bar while there was a long stretch of a modified bar facing spacious picture windows with a 1,000-word view.

I couldn't discern if a neighboring couple was arguing or forming a relationship or both, but their banter was delightful in a way that would perk up Raymond Chandler's ears.

Toward the back half of the evening, my lifelong pal Jen showed up with her husband, Todd, for dinner along with my co-worker Scott. The four of us closed out the evening pleasantly and peaceably. You can set your watch to the service, decor, pricing and overall satisfaction you'll have on any given evening well spent at Otto's. It's a great comfort to know that I've grown by some small leaps and bounds as a person, yet some things and some places never change. Otto's is one of those places.

> Otto's

3972 Union Road, Cheektowaga (632-2035)

Scene: Thirty- and fortysomethings having fun as if they were 10 years younger.

Drinks: More than a dozen beers on tap including Stella Artois, Budweiser, Blue Moon and Sam Adams. Happy hour specials from 4 to 7 p.m.

Dress code: The muscle shirt is king. Shirts, jeans and around the house comfort clothes are also welcome.

Music: Frequent jukebox choices in the hair metal and grunge categories.

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