Have modern bars and taverns become too tame?
Refined décor, reserved clientele and an abundance of natural light have concocted a new breed of barroom, one hospitable enough to accommodate any demographic of drinker—including craft draft-thirsty parents, toting their newborns in bjorns and City Mini carriages while sipping $7 pints.
But what about the dank roadside watering holes, with heavy blinds to keep out afternoon sunbeams, an omnipresent aroma of spilled Budweiser, and enough Allman Brothers on hand to serenade an entire night of irresponsible decisions? There’s a delectable seediness about these locales, and they operate as friendly oasis for no-frills boozers begging to let loose.
If you long for the aforementioned, rest easy. Tonawanda's Slick Willie's Sports Bar still exists, adherent to its refreshingly freewheeling motto of, "What happens at Slick Willie's never happened … deny everything."
And within its plaza-hosted confines off Niagara Falls Boulevard, Slick’s has orchestrated its share of wild nights, all while offering an environment conducive to pool sharks, power drinkers, and Baby Boomers looking for banter over discounted beers and bites.
Decorated like a massive college dorm room—complete with random movie posters, novelty signs and a mishmash of Bills and Sabres paraphernalia—the red-hued front barroom and back billiards hall is an ideal gathering space familiar to anyone who once cherished the “rally point,” a necessary meet-up to find anyone of interest before you settle in for the evening or head elsewhere. (See: The Emporium from the 1993 film “Dazed and Confused.”)
And whether you want to pass time at dollar-operated billiards tables, tossing darts or slugging $2 Miller Lites underneath a picture of Paul Newman in “The Hustler,” Slick’s space accommodates.
However, let’s be clear: The benefits of the bar aren’t solely dedicated to its existence as a schnapps-soaked weigh station strategically situated within walking distance of a night’s next chapter.
Yes, it’s a short Uber cruise from UB North and within steps of Ted’s, Franco’s and Anderson’s, but the Northtowns favorite provides plenty of reasons to find a stool and stay for an evening.
The locale boasts six nights of impressive beer and food specials, with Sunday’s single order of chicken fingers ($5), Wednesday’s two draft pints or well drinks ($4) and Friday’s draft pitchers ($6.75) a mere introduction to nightly possibilities that would permit any patron to affordably dine and drink at Slick’s.
Sure, there’s a full menu full of salads, burgers and specialty pizzas for the lunch and dinner crowd, but specials like Tuesday’s $3 personal pizza are too tantalizing to pass up. Such deals have been phased out of many bars now transitioning from utilitarian lager slings to style-focused gastropubs.
Aside from a modest diversification across its draft taps, you’ll find no such march toward mature refinement inside Slick Willie’s. It’s still a spot where you can take a load off, laugh and drink beer before liquor. It’s a joint where you can sing out loud, stay late, and stumble across acquaintances lost or forgotten.
And if you so choose, it’s a place to party—just like the wildest bars of yesteryear were established to be.
2316 Niagara Falls Blvd., Tonawanda (743-8155, on Facebook)
Hours: 11 a.m. to 4 a.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 4 a.m. Sunday.
Scene: Boulevard bar and billiards hall that’s part dank watering hole, part pool palace and part college clubhouse.
Pool tables: 8
Parking: Lot in front
Don’t forget to: Pose with the bar’s Doug Flutie or Bruce Smith height charts, both mounted on the rear billiards hall’s wall.