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Tony Rome’s remains a West Seneca institution

I didn’t realize it when I was a small fry playing with G.I. Joe figures and chomping on chicken fingers, but West Seneca has its share of “institutions” – iconic establishments known throughout Western New York, and even beyond.

There is the beef-on-weck mecca (weck-a?) that is Schwabl’s, of course, and Antoinette’s, the ice cream and chocolate favorite.

Does Tony Rome’s make that list? Possibly. Growing up, we heartily agreed that it was “the place for ribs,” as it likes to call itself. Its location – literally across the street from a Route 400 exit, on Union Road – only added to its iconic status.

But I haven’t lived in West Seneca for many, many years now, and I can’t say Tony Rome’s has been on my radar, as a restaurant or a bar.

After visiting its bar for the first time, I can safely say its on my radar now. Appearing to be recently renovated, the large, barnlike bar was clean, comfortable and very appealing.

Let’s be honest: Some Western New York bars that have been around for decades are dives, and not in the ironic, enjoyable way. Tony Rome’s is anything but a dive – it’s not stuffy, it’s not grimy and it certainly does not feel “old.”

The atmosphere on the restaurant side of Tony Rome’s has always been pleasantly casual, and the bar is similarly down-to-earth. The crowd seemed a mesh of blue-and white-collar clientele, and that was appropriate – that’s Tony Rome’s. Boisterous, but not obnoxious; crowded, but not overstuffed; it felt jovial and friendly.

The bar is large and spacious, with some cool day-glo lighting, and it’s matched by a killer draft beer list. On top of the list is one of my favorites, Flying Bison’s Rusty Chain. Other selections included Long Trail IPA, Great Lakes Burning River Pale Ale, Sam Adams (original, Octoberfest and Cherry Wheat), Guinness, Shock Top, Mackenzie’s Hard Cider, and then the usual suspects: Molson, Coors Light, Labatt Blue and Blue Light.

TVs, there are plenty: three behind the bar, one in the corner next to the bar, three on the back wall and two giant projection monsters which must be great for football.

And I was especially impressed with the AMI digital jukebox. This baby is current, with new albums from the Killers, Band of Horses and even Dinosaur Jr. (Seriously!) And yes, I also noticed the Carly Rae Jepsen album – play her, maybe?

Also noticeable were the deals. Lots and lots of deals.

I spotted several: Five for $12 Buds on Mondays; 20 cent wings on Tuesdays; a “beef and brew” special for $9.99, daily.

Football specials? Five for $12 buckets of Blue, Blue Light, Bud, Bud Light, Coors Light or Molson. Pitchers for $7.50. Pints for $2.50. A 100 ounce Blue Light beer tube for $12, or with a double order of wings for $19. And 35 cent wings.

I haven’t even brought up the “Bud Girl” specials … I’ll let you investigate that one.

There’s a twinkly star thing-y dangling from the ceiling, vintage posters (Woodstock, Johnny Cash), the de rigueur darts and Big Buck Hunter, and, of course, the steady sound of cars racing off the 400.

So it’s not your father’s – or grandfather’s – bar, and that’s a pleasant surprise. Tony Rome’s 2012 certainly does skew younger, yet there’s nothing here to turn off the cagey veterans of the West Seneca bar scene, either.

So let’s call it an institution, and, happily, an ever-changing one.

Tony Rome’s

Where: 1537 Union Road, West Seneca (675-4351)

Scene: Large, comfortable, mixed ages.

On tap: Flying Bison’s Rusty Chain, Long Trail IPA, Great Lakes Burning River Pale Ale, Sam Adams (original, Octoberfest and Cherry Wheat), Guinness, Shock Top, Mackenzie’s Hard Cider, Molson, Coors Light, Labatt Blue and Blue Light.

Music: A wildly diverse digital jukebox

Hours: Opens at 11 a.m. Monday through Friday; 4 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday (noon during football season).