It’s easy for a small neighborhood bar to add live music. Find electrical outlets, construct a stage and solicit any local guitarist who can play semi-competent covers of Tom Petty favorites. But for reference on how to do it right — complete with rich sound, sight lines and confines comfortable to diners and drinkers who plan on settling in — one should poke their head into East Aurora’s 189.
With its illuminated wall of top-shelf whiskey, popular and house-made craft beer selections, and two levels of seating surrounding its side stage, the rustic Main Street roadhouse acts as the Southtowns’ scaled-down answer to Black Rock’s legendary Sportsmen’s Tavern. And with its summer schedule of hometown and visiting musicians, it has the bookings to insert its brick-lined bar venue into the regional conversation of must-visit music venues.
The beer: Ommegang Hennepin
The breakdown: Yes, 189 hosts the work of Crook Malting and Brewing Co., a small nano effort that produces small batches of craft beer — such as Outlaw Pale Ale and a variety of seasonal selections — off its second-floor seating area. But if these selections run dry (which was the case when I stopped by), one could do worse than a $5 pint of Ommegang’s delicious farmhouse-style saison.
A favorite of New York craft enthusiasts for years, Hennepin’s hearty and rustic like its host, but also deliciously crisp to enjoy with 189 appetizers like calamari or a basket of candied bacon. But if you decide to inhale a few amid the music of local live favorites like the Informers or Folk Faces (both scheduled in July), take it slow. At nearly 8 percent ABV, each packs nearly double the punch of a can of Coors Light.
Blues from above: Those who have taken in shows at Sportsmen’s Tavern and settled in its upstairs seating know what it’s like to hoist a few while hovering over national touring acts.
At 189, its second floor seating is akin to dangling over the ledge of a barn loft, with blues, rock and country acts playing on the intimate longhorn-accented stage below. Patrons unfamiliar with acrophobia can straddle barstools or lean against the angled bar top and look downward at the night’s performance.
For those wary of even the most manageable heights, rest easy. There’s seating at stage level, and venue’s second floor also hosts table seating for those not intent on staring at guitar solos, but still interested in Fender amplification.
Pair of good neighbors: Visits to 189 are not only opportunities for dining, drinks and live music. It can also function as the finale to a scheduled trifecta, with preceding stops at neighboring Aurora Brew Works and Bar-Bill. Visitors can start with a series of craft tastings and six-pack shopping at Brew Works before shuffling over to Southtowns wing Mecca, Bar-Bill.
After a double-order of hot barbecue, full facial wash and questions to your waitress about how to get your own hanging mug, you’ll be ready to slide on over for a full night of music at 189. It’s village synergy at its finest, as well as allows for travelers or nearby residents to get the most out of their day or night out in the enclave of Elbert Hubbard.
189 Main St., East Aurora (652-8189)
Beers on tap: 8
Beers in bottle: 36
Tell your friends it’s: Sandwiched between Aurora Brew Works and Bar-Bill.
Great place to: Settle in for local and national touring acts with an array of whiskeys or house-created craft selections.
On the strip: Nestled along the spine of East Aurora’s Main Street, visitors can patronize various walking-distance locales — including Elm Street Bakery, the Aurora Theatre or Bar-Bill — before settling in for time at 189.
Do it live: Bar boasts packed schedule of local and national touring acts throughout the summer.
Patio pause: If music gets too loud, patrons can choose a spot on 189’s side-alley patio for a quaint escape.
Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to midnight; Sunday, noon to 10 p.m. Closed on Monday.