Each year I highlight a special tavern that evokes memories and feelings of a different time. These operating business still performing the role for which they were initially intended: To serve as community meeting places for hard working men (and in modern America, women). To be considered as a “Classic Tavern,” the establishment must meet the following criteria:
Curb Appeal – Genesee Beer neon sign or signage from a defuncted brewery in window…usually the first sign of great things to come.
Location – Neighborhood setting. Located on corner of block. No parking lot…time to show off ones parallel parking skills.
Name –Includes the bar owner’s first or last name….Ulrich’s, Bramer's, Gadowski’s, Arty’s, Frank’s, Wolski's. Sometimes includes the tavern’s location: Edge of Town, Marilla Grill, Shannon Bridge. Better yet… when it includes both.. Dick’s Eastside Inn.
Atmosphere – How’s the “craic?” This is an Irish term used to describe the atmosphere of a good pub -- the food, drink, music and conversation. In a classic Buffalo tavern you might hear conversation about the unions, the Holy Name bowling team or energetic debates about the Sabres and Bills.
Layout – Bar and men’s room upfront, tables for dinning and women's room in back. Sometimes the men's & ladies rooms are near a phone booth built into the wall near the kitchen. Separate door on side of building for access to restaurant portion. Small square tables...used for cards or a place for the kids to sit and drink pop.
“The Book” – A registry of daily patrons. Still a common practice in many “classic” Buffalo bars. Each day the “regulars” sign “the book” and throw a dollar in the monthly pool. At the end of the month a name is chosen to win a sizable jackpot which generally is spent at the establish purchasing countless rounds for the bar.
Décor – Signs from defunct breweries: Simon Pure, Iroquois, Manru, Pabst, Blatz, etc. Pictures of patrons and or old politicians. A “classic” tavern will have missed the modernization movement of the 60’s & 70’s. An authentic wooden “bar back” is a must. These finely crafted edifices are the single most important piece of the environment. Listen to the sound of the wooden doors and steel latches being shut. If not an “ice box” style cooler… look for a classic Bevador refrigerator (shaped like a beer bottle) near the bar (Swannie House, Bflo).
Entertainment – shuffle-bowling machine, jukebox featuring songs from our parent’s generation, old men at the bar with plenty of colorful stories. A good Irish Pub will have live music.
Food – small grill behind bar or tiny kitchen tucked off to the side. Good supply of chips and pretzels on display behind bar. Does the bar serve fish on Friday and beef on weck during the week?
Beverages – Look for a fully stocked bar of inexpensive regional brews: Genesee, Utica Club and Miller High Life. If Irish….a well used Guinness tap.
Glassware – Draft beer served in short 4 ½ inch glasses. If Irish...uses of Imperial Pint glasses.
2012 - To be Announced
2010 - CHEEZIE's LITTLE VEGAS, Kane Street, Lackawanna
2009 - PORKY'S AMBER LOUNGE, Clinton Street, Kaisertown, Buffalo
2008 - SCHARF'S SCHILLER PARK
Owner Margarete Scharf came to America in the early 1950s from Nuremberg, Germany. She decided to start her own restaurant by purchasing the former Schiller Park Tavern in 1967. Click image above to learn more.
Tucked away in a forgotten neighborhood, near Buffalo’s Schiller Park, is one of Western New York’s most storied tavern restaurants. For over 41years, Margarete Scharf and family have been serving up authentic German delicacies that include rouladen, sauerbraten, wienerschnitzel and the area’s BEST potato pancakes. It is a family owned feast that is worth the trip to the city line. More than just a restaurant, it’s a uniquely Buffalo experience not to be missed. Address: 34 South Crossman Street, Buffalo
Food Service: Traditional German Dishes
Hours: Open 7 days a week, 12Noon till close
Owner: Margarete Scharf and son Jerry
2007 - Daren's Tavern
Located deep in Buffalo's former meat packing and stockyard district, Daren's is a true forgotten icon of the classic tavern age. If you love old taverns, make a special trip to Daren's. They will meet you, greet you and treat you nice! Click image above for more information.
Daren’s Tavern, located at 514 Howard Street at Metcalf, represents one of the best-preserved, classic taverns in Buffalo. According to City records, the building was built in 1900 as a tavern sponsored by the Magnus Beck Brewing Company and has served as a tavern/restaurant ever since (107 years). Don’t let its “museum” quality interior fool you; Daren’s is a workin’ man’s joint, in a historic workin’ man’s neighborhood. Address: 514 Howard Street, Buffalo
Food Service: Traditional tavern lunches. Chili, Beef-on-Weck, Burgers, etc
Hours: Open 7 days a week, 12Noon till close
2006 - PRISTACH'S (CLOSED 2009)
Located in an industry nook of Buffalo, a well preserved bar and back bar, a history dating back to the repel of prohibition and a Polish owner in his late 80s...all add up to make Pristach’s the “Classic Tavern of the Year” for 2007. 1634 Bailey Ave at Pullman near Broadway.
Located at the Corner of Bailey Avenue and Pullman Street in Buffalo. Pristach is one of the best Prohibition era taverns still in operation in the region. The establishment has been in operation at the address by the same family since 1937. One television, a jukebox with polka music, Rolling Rock splits for $1 and one of the best bar and back bars left in use. It’s located in a part of the history surrounded by industrial history. Don’t miss this tavern as it is one of the last of its era.
Located in the heart of Buffalo's original "German" neighborhood, Ulrich's is the place to be for both St. Patrick's Day and Oktoberfest! Click image above to learn more about our 2006 winner!
Ulrich's Tavern has the distinction of being Buffalo's oldest documented tavern. Little has been done over the years to its interior which gives it an old-world atmosphere. The tavern is named after German Michael Ulrich who owned the tavern from 1906 to 1954. In 1954, Jim Daley from Buffalo's First Ward and his Bavarian wife Erika took over the business. In 2006, their son Jamie Daley runs the tavern and keeps the tradition alive with live music, a full German kitchen and a wonderful selection of premium imported and locally brewed beers.
Address: 674 Ellicott Street, Downtown Buffalo, New York
Located at 881 Oliver Street in North Tonawanda, New York. Click on image above to learn more about our 2005 winner
East Avenue Tavern ranks high in all “classic tavern” criteria including fully restored art deco back bar, the working man’s Genesee Beer on tap, men’s room up front, dinning area (for Friday Fish) in the rear. Located on Oliver Street in North Tonawanda, New York.
Address: 881 Oliver Street, North Tonawanda, New York
Located on Niagara Street in the City of Niagara, Falls. Click image to learn more about our 2004 winner.
JONFRE'S TAVERN, Niagara Street, Niagara Falls - Winner of the 2004 "Classic Tavern Award" for the most authentic gin mill in Buffalo-Niagara. Ranks high in all "classic tavern" categories: location, curb appeal, decor, layout... Jonfre's is a living museum of popular culture.
73 Hamburg Street, Buffalo, New York. Click image to learn more
GENE McCARTHY'S is nestled among industrial buildings, multi-family homes and a network of railroad tracks in Buffalo's First Ward. McCarthy's is still a favorite of grain workers (General Mills), fire fighters, police and politicians. Watch-out of the "live" train tracks only feet away from the front door! This pub was one of the first to set the standards of "Classic Taverns."
Address: 73 Hamburg Street, Buffalo, New York
Food Service: Daily from 11 to 1:30 p.m.; dinner is served Friday from 4 to 7 p.m.
Hours: Open 7 days a week, 8AM till close
Owner: Gerhardt Yaskow (Gene McCarthy retired in Spring 2006)