The 189 Public House Facts
189 Main Street, East Aurora / (716) 652-8189
Hours: Mon – Fri 12pm – 12am, Fri – Sat 12pm – 2am, Sun 12pm – 12am
Price: $$ / Cuisine: American, Southern
As of October 2014, 189 is still the newest restaurant in East Aurora after opening in July. Nestled between two of my happy places, Aurora Brew Works and Bar Bill Tavern, the Public House is a welcome addition to the small section of West Main Street.
Owner Clark Crook is a veteran in the industry. As the owner of the beloved Bar Bill next store, it’s safe to say he knows what he’s doing. From my perspective, he’s taken what makes Bar Bill lovable and run with it, creating a fantastic mix of tradition, cuisine and camaraderie. You may think they’re too cool for you at Bar Bill, and “they” probably are, but once you arrive and exercise a bit of patience, you’ll find yourself fitting-in in no time. The continued success of Bar Bill gives me complete faith in the future success of 189.
As you enter the restaurant/music venue (we’re here for the food), you’ll immediately find a small collection of tables huddled around a stage. The space looks as though it’s been around for years. Head towards the bar to find a hostess, and if you don’t mind sitting in a quiet area (assuming you’re here on a night with no act), ask to be seated upstairs if possible. The downstairs is nice, but looks like it tends to get crowded. Upstairs is what makes this place cool. If you don’t happen to sit up there, make sure to check it out at some point.
If you have time for a drink, grab a seat at the bar in the back – a pretty but odd space that can only be described as unfortunate thanks to the lack of standing room and a busy traffic pattern. (I blame government.) Have a taste from a vast selection of whiskeys, or a beer from a short list of drafts and a long list of bottles. Try not to bump the servers as they squeeze past.
Upstairs is adorned with brick and dark wood. Railings with coat hooks and stools fill most of the space, creating a balcony around the stage below. There aren’t more than four tables at which to eat on this level. Peek in the windows on your way up to see the start of 189’s micro brewery.
We started with a couple cocktails, eager to fulfill a recent desire to increase our knowledge on the subject. The menu lists six whiskey drinks including a Flamed Old Fashioned and a Whiskey Sour, and six options using other spirits like La Paloma and Moscow Mule.
We ordered a Manhattan – Bullet Rye Whiskey, sweet vermouth, orange bitters, $10 and an Aviation – Bombay Sapphire Gin, Maraschino Liqueur, fresh lemon juice, Creme de Violette, $10 with a little help from our server. To be honest, our newbie palates had a hard time elaborating beyond “the Manhattan is really strong” and “the Aviation is good, not too sweet or sour.”
The wine list is limited to a dozen, half red, half white.
The menu is small and leans slightly southern seems to me. You’ll find appetizers like Grilled Shrimp with bacon vinaigrette ($14) and Moules Frites (mussels) in curry sauce with fries ($14), Deviled Eggs and a Basket of Bacon (both $7).
We decided on Hot Fries with hot peppers and hot sauce ($6). The fries were of the potato wedge variety, good and thick with the skin still intact. They were topped with hot banana peppers and a green homemade hot sauce that we enjoyed very much. The dish is simple, yet heated and flavorful. We asked for a cup of Ranch to balance the heat based on a tip from our server.
For the salad fanatics, 189 offers a Pear and Walnut with shaved parm and molasses vinaigrette ($9), a Roasted Sweet Potato & Feta with olives, onion and greek dressing ($9), and a Strawberry & Proscuitto with goat cheese and poppyseed dressing ($9), all of which I will be back to try.
The collection of sandwiches proves somewhat random, but comforting and inclusive all the same. The list is full of hearty options like the Bullet for example- eggs, hot sauce, fries, black beans, corn and grilled pineapple in a burrito shell ($9) or Pastrami with mustard on Rye ($10). I chose the Pork Belly Po’ Boy with Vietnamese slaw, mayo and currant jelly on a baguette with a side of Brussels sprouts ($11) because, well, how can you possibly turn that down. Overall, the Po’ Boy was good and hefty. The pork belly plentiful and hard to eat at times, but tasty. Mayo was heaped onto the dense, toasty french bread, accompanied by a nice unique jelly. The combination of thick bread, fatty meat and oily mayo proved to be too much for me. However, I’m confident someone would find happiness in this huge sub. The whole thing was a tad messy, probably not your best bet on a date or dinner with the in-laws. The Brussels sprouts were a nice change of pace, lightly roasted and simple.
As you get to the entree portion of the menu, the fact that this is a comfort food kind of place really sinks in. All of the options have you feeling warm and fuzzy inside before you’ve even read the description. The selection includes Shrimp & Grits ($17), a Fried Chicken Dinner with mashed potatoes and corn on the cob ($15) and a Bratwurst Platter with mustard, rye bread and sauerkraut ($13).
My dining partner went for Short Ribs with German Potato Salad and collard greens, which he substituted for a side of mashed potatoes ($20). Let’s just say we had our fill of starch that evening. The short ribs were good, tender and juicy, but not the best we’ve had. The mashed potatoes were standard. The German Potato Salad was excellent, full of flavor and expertly balanced. What I wouldn’t do to have some of that next to me now…
For dessert, we tried the Banana Cream Pie, a soupy version of what I’m used to pooled in a less than flavorful crust. If you’re looking to pair down the bill, this would be my suggestion.
After returning a few times for drinks and inquiring with the staff, I’ve learned that a specials menu will surface soon – another excuse to prompt a return visit. Each time the service has been friendly and the wait for food adequate.
While food is certainly an important piece of the tavern puzzle, I believe music to be the driving force of 189. Keep an eye on their website to find out when national acts are gracing the stage.
The uncommon menu items and cozy atmosphere make this restaurant a fun addition to the South Towns restaurant scene for lunch, dinner or drinks.
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