Cowboy hats. Boots. Line dancing. These aren't the kinds of things you expect to see at the Nutty Irishman in Bay Shore on a typical Wednesday night. This has always been dance, pop and hip-hop music territory, after all.
But all that changed last month -- at least, for one night a week. Now come Wednesday, country music lovers (and the merely curious) are turning out for an evening of line dancing and live music.
"We were looking for something new for one of our nights," says owner Michael McElwee Jr. This was around the time 96.1 FM flipped to an all-country music format. Playing hits from popular artists such as Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood and Kenny Chesney, the station quickly gained notice.
"Everybody was talking about 96.1," says McElwee. "We decided it was worth a shot."
WHAT TO EXPECT
One a recent Wednesday, a crowd of many obviously adept line dancers (and some newbies) stood in rows across the dance floor. The steps aren't any more complicated than basic turns, kicks and sweeps -- but there are many combinations, some with names like "Knee Deep," "Stuck on Brooklyn" and "Save the Horse."
Not that you need to know what you're doing.
Frank Spano, a construction manager from Brentwood, was lighting up the floor, despite it being his first night ever line dancing.
"My wife came earlier for the lessons, but I'm just learning by watching," says Spano, 56.
Indeed, the more experienced dancers seemed to enjoy helping the others along.
"Everybody is very friendly every time," says Carisa Mannix, 39, of Northport. "And this is really the way to learn it."
When dancing moves call for a partner -- say a two-step or promenade -- the single or spouse-less spontaneously find a free man or woman on the dance floor to join forces with.
"It's almost old-fashioned, but this is how it works," says Mannix. "But every guy here is a perfect gentleman -- it's all good, clean fun."
Of her partners this evening, Richie Koester, agreed.
"I like meeting people, but I am here for the dancing," says Koester, of West Islip.
WHAT THEY'RE WEARING
Truth be told -- this is still Bay Shore, not Nashville. Sure, you'll see a smattering of wide-brimmed Stetson hats, heeled cowboy boots and bolo ties -- but for the most part, the guys are wearing button-downs or T-shirts with jeans, and the women tend to stick to jeans and clothes that allow for movement.
American flags, barrels of unshelled peanuts and sawdust swept around the room help the bar feel more authentically country. The kitchen offers a menu of Southern fare such as wings and fried mac-and-cheese.
A live band takes the stage at 9 p.m., delivering big country-western songs that keep the line-dancers hopping.
"Not all my friends love country, but they are warming up to it," says Danielle Barhold, 21, of Holbrook, a self-proclaimed aficionado of this music all her life. "I say give it a try -- it's going to blow up!"
WHEN | WHERE: Wednesdays, with line dancing lessons 7-9 p.m. and live music until late, 60 E Main St., Bay Shore
INFO: 631-969-9700, thenuttyirishman.com
MORE COUNTRY ON LONG ISLAND
INFO: 631-667-6868, mattyts.com
Open since 1972, Long Island's much loved "honky-tonk" bar continues to host live country bands and dancing several nights a week. Line and partner dance lessons are held Tuesday and Wednesday nights ($10), with karaoke on Thursdays and live bands on Fridays-Saturdays ($9-$10 cover).