Buffalo bars are changing.
The days of affordable beer lists starting with Budweiser and ending with a bartender’s shrug are over. Most local cocktails now feature more than two ingredients, and bars boasting more jukebox play for Merle Haggard than Imagine Dragons are as rare as a replica Ernie DiGregorio Braves jersey.
In some instances, this is a good thing. Variety keeps things interesting. But what about those nights you yearn for the shocking affordability of a $2 beer amid friendly corner bar comfort? What about the Fridays you’re looking for Herculean pours of Canadian whiskey to complement frog legs, lake perch or a strip steak as big as a biker’s forearm? And what about the hours you would like to spend cloaked in outlaw country stompers while surrounded by Buffalo’s most random collection of African lion-themed artwork?
For these necessary evenings, there’s Barry’s Bar and Grill, the nondescript neighborhood favorite nestled comfortably in the heart of Black Rock.
Despite its discreet appearance at the corner of Amherst and Military (right before foodie haven the Phoenix), the locale is as well-known for its jungle-accented barroom appeal as it is for its savory, throwback-priced feasts. Looking for seafood? The Captain’s Platter – with haddock, scallops, shrimp and frog legs – will set you back $12.95. If you’re more of a steak man, no sweat. A 16 oz. New York strip with toast and potato is a recession-sensitive $11.95. These are costs not seen since your parents’ Nickel City date nights, alive and deliciously kicking as the millennium’s second decade races forward.
As for its bar fare, Barry’s offers the same hilarious affordability with its bare-bones drink menu, available amid echoed rock classics and no-frills confines.
Draft beer – with six selections that only get as sexy as Yuengling – top out at $2.50 every night. Most bottles are $2, the majority hailing from no further than St. Louis. Shots of Jameson, Jagermeister or Stoli are each $2.50, whether in a shot or cocktail glass. Two songs on the juke cost $1. Confused analysis of the bar’s cat-associated interiors is free.
On a recent Saturday night, I walked into the dimly lit Barry’s to find 10 patrons taking advantage of the bar’s affordability under the rasp of Steve Earle’s “Copperhead Road.” Elevated televisions showed sports as one customer punched a string of salty David Allan Coe hits into the juke. I ordered a Crown Royal and ginger, laughed when the bartender charged me $2.50, then settled into a spindle-backed chair in front of the bar’s front window – an arm’s length away from one of the framed and mounted jungle kings.
Barry’s barroom boasts lion-accented clocks, mirrors, statues, posters and paintings. When I approached the bar for a second Crown and asked the bartender for answers, she claimed the trend started with the brass pole under my elbows. It’s connected to and borders the bar top in the clenched teeth of six separate brass lion heads, acquired secondhand by the owner. First came these attachments, then the numerous manes that enhance the utilitarian bar’s built-in, unconventional charm.
Yes, Buffalo bars are changing. But as they do, Barry’s will keep attracting customers by not changing. The bar will continue to offer succulent steaks and seafood at Clinton presidency-era prices. Its bartenders will serve up cold beers and hard drinks, all for less than the cost of a large Starbucks coffee. And while surrounding patrons with the city’s only barroom homage to one of nature’s greatest predators, the locale will remind you that, sometimes, scaled-down comforts can make for a roaring night out.