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The Daily Five – Top Dive Bars In Buffalo

Neighborhood bars, pubs, and taverns are part of the connective tissue in any great city. They serve as the “third place” between home and the workplace and grease the wheels of a cooperative society. In Buffalo, our bars and taverns have become “public characters” as they are part of the city itself, as familiar and necessary as the people who patronize them.

I’m a person who believes that many of society’s problems can be solved while bending an elbow over an oak bar, so I asked Josh Potter, a fellow connoisseur of bars and taverns, to give us a list of his favorites.

Josh Potter is a Comedian and Radio Personality from Buffalo, NY.  He has performed with likes of Nick DiPaolo, Jim Florentine and Ari Shaffir and at a variety of clubs and colleges. You can hear Josh on the “SHREDD & RAGAN” Show every afternoon from 3pm – 7pm on 103.3 The Edge and playing tunes through the night from 7pm till Midnight. Follow Josh on Twitter to keep up with performances and general ridiculousness @J_Potter.

Up until 5 months ago, I lived in Buffalo my entire life. Elmwood Village and Allentown became my home, and it is where my heart remains to this day. The reason I say “up until 5 months ago” is because toward the end of the summer I accepted a job to work in radio in Cleveland, Ohio. It was somewhat lonely, and I missed our City of Buffalo in a way I never thought I would. Upon getting an offer to come back to 103.3 The Edge and The Shredd and Ragan Show, I jumped on it. Another opportunity to do what I love, in the city I love, at a higher level? Yes, please…

Now that I’m back in Buffalo, I’m realizing how much I really missed my old friends, and more importantly, my old haunts. With that, I give you my humble (and dare I say, well versed) opinion as to some of the best “Dive Bars” in Buffalo and WNY.

While mulling over the criteria as to what some consider a “Dive Bar,” I realized that everyone has a different idea of “Dive.” One fellow even mentioned to me that it “can’t be a dive bar unless you’re scared to walk in.” I don’t know that I’m that extreme, so I will mention that I am basing this list off of aesthetics and the fact that I have had some of the greatest times of my life in these places.

5) The Ellicott Manor: 16 Ellicott Place in Depew, NY

The Ellicott Manor is the quintessential “Blues” Dive bar. Not only can you find a great, local Blues act playing on any given night of the week; but they also have one of the most unique open mic experiences in the WNY area. The Ellicott Manor Blues Jam happens on the first Saturday of every month and runs from 2pm-5pm. The host band, “Five Shades Of Blue” provides the backing and allow musicians of all instruments to hop on stage and take a feature run, jamming with the band. You can hear musicians of all types ripping it up on stage, from Sax players, to guys on the mouth harp, and of course guitar players a plenty. It’s a great show to see people try and play on stage for the first time, at the same time having some fantastic musicians scorch the stage.

The beer selection could please anyone at The Ellicott Manor, and I highly suggest their Fried Bologna Sandwich, you won’t be able to resist it as the smell will infiltrate your nose the second you walk through the door.

4) Essex Street Pub: 6 Essex Street in Buffalo, NY

The Essex Street Pub may be the closest thing Buffalo has to The Mos Eisley Cantina from Star Wars. Not that some intergalactic gangster is going to rough you up, but you can never go to Essex without meeting a colorful character who may or may not have a sordid past to share over some very affordable pints of Rusty Chain. I always see or meet someone interesting at Essex Street.

Mackey (the owner) has reached out quite a bit to the biker community, but not the bikers you would think. I’m talking about CYCLISTS. He holds many benefits for the cyclist community and acts as a meeting place for many of them who take part in the Sunday night runs during the summer. Essex Street also has THE best non-internet connected jukebox in Buffalo. It’s easily the purest jukebox left in town (that I know of.)

3) Kelly’s Korner: 2526 Delaware Avenue in Buffalo, NY

I’ve been to Kelly’s Korner dozens of times, yet every time I go in I feel like the “new guy,” which isn’t a bad thing in my opinion. It’s just that it always seems as though everyone who is in there has been there drinking for days on end. Always full of eccentric regulars, it’s another one of those places where you can’t leave without over hearing some hilarious story, or having some words of wisdom accidentally bestowed upon you. I once met an old blind man there, who introduced me to art of keeping your beer really cold, by putting ice in a plastic baggy before putting it in your beer. This is stuff you can’t learn at home with mother. (If you can, you have an awesome mother.) Kelly’s Korner also has THE best wings in Buffalo (again, my opinion, but I challenge you to not agree. Extremely underrated.)

2) Nietzsche’s: 248 Allen Street in Buffalo, NY

Nietzsche’s holds an unbelievably special place in my heart. Not only is it a great dive bar, but it has a heritage as one of the best music venues in Buffalo, NY. Their stage has seen some of the most exciting and eccentric acts the city has to offer play into the wee hours of the morning. Often times you can stumble in on an off night and catch a musician who is passing through town playing on stage.

Keeping true to its name, Nietzsche’s breeds other forms of art as well, including the best night of comedy the city has to offer. Every Tuesday, Kristen Becker holds the “Doin’ Time Comedy Showcase” at 8pm, (which I have been known to perform on from time to time.) It showcases amateurs as well as pros, generating plenty of laughs…whether they are intentional or not is another story.

1. The Old Pink: 223 Allen Street in Buffalo, NY

The Old Pink is my favorite bar, hands down.

So many stories that I’ll never forget, and so many stories I’ll never remember. It was the first bar I ever went to, and I fell in love from the start. The funny thing about The Old Pink is its actually called “The Allen Street Bar & Grill,” yet I’ve never met a soul who calls it that. I’d imagine if you refer to it as “The Allen Street Bar & Grill,” you’ve never actually been there. Also, if you’ve only gone prior to 1AM, you have also never REALLY been there. Everyone knows the Pink doesn’t start cranking up till after one in the morning, though I challenge you try and figure out the time of day while being in the ever-dark structure. I’ve gone in during the day, and when busy enough, you would think it was 3am, putting you into an alternate universe of booze and debauchery.

I think everyone has a make out session story they forgot, regretted, or revered from the Old Pink, if you haven’t; you need to start living my friend. Like The Jersey Shore, I too have a rule, “never fall in love at The Pink.” This is because, most likely, the girl you found enchanting enough to make out with will probably is jamming her tongue down a different guy’s throat over by the old-timey bowling video game before the night is through. Last call is a unique experience at The Pink. It’s both interesting and terrifying to have the lights come on and see what ne’er do wells you’ve been chilling with the last few hours. The Old Pink’s Steak Sandwich is another “must have” for any Buffalonian. Go get one right now.

I hope you accept these unique establishments as merely my favorites from over the years of experience of alcohol consumption and the quest for a good time. If you haven’t been to one or any of these, I suggest going, and maybe we’ll run into each other along the way. Cheers!

– JP


  • The Ellicott Manor is not in Buffalo. It’s in Depew.

    And how could you leave out The Tudor Lounge?? Or McGarrett’s (formerly The No Name)?

    Other than that, great list.

  • Liana

    Hahahahaha the Ellicott Manor! Always a dive but they’ve managed to stay afloat for so many years!!! And hey dumbass it says Buffalo and WNY if ya read the whole article and not just scrolled through the list!! Potter glad you’re back!! :o)

  • No need to call anyone a dumbass. Depew is in Buffalo if you squint hard enough…also, I prefer the royal use of the word Buffalo. Meaning, anywhere within the metro area, the WNY thing annoys me.

  • Jay

    1am? Everyone knows that the time to be at The Pink is 3am. They don’t call 3am Pink o’clock for nothin’….

  • Craig Gawlak

    Where’s the love for South Buffalo?! You can find a dive on every corner, probably with a calendar that begins on March 17.

  • mike

    I feel old, but this dive bar list has been done about a billion times. And there is always a shout out to the star wars bar. What ever happened to Eva? She was always a fun read and really had the pulse of the city. Is anyone interested in comp passes to the Icon? Or a Continental tee shirt with the sleeves ripped off? I still two free drinks coming from Ray Flynns, plan on cashing them in someday when I see Tommy again in the afterlife.

  • tim

    I would like to see five worst (best) bathrooms at bars rated.

  • I only could pick 5… So I did “my” 5… Tudor Lounge and “The Place” were on my honorable mention list for sure. Let’s be honest, it’s Buffalo… There could be a List of 500 awesome Dive Bars. With that said, the feedback is awesome. Thank you for reading.

  • I received my degrees in Buffalo and am proud of them…..but I am just as proud that I worked at the Pink during that time as a bartender and part time DJ. I was priviledged every time I got to be behind that bar with so much history and the chance to Dj in a place where music was so important. If your music sucked they let you know it quickly….it was a constant challenge not to suck. It is the only bar I have ever known where I got in a fight with a patron over a song choice….we exchanged fists across eachothers jaws….the person was thrown out and then brought back in the bar so we could drink together the rest of the night to 5am……thst is the Pink in a nutshell for me. Great memory…great article thanks

  • kris

    you missed a few. 5 is a short list.

    del denby’s, great dive – nice backyard oasis tho.

  • Dan Underhill

    What about Checkers?

  • hanne

    I have to agree with the comments, Tudor Lounge should have definitely beat out The Ellicott Manor…. what about South Buffalo? and my personal favorite dive bar Central Park Grill?

  • cj

    Gabriel s gate, holiday house, brick bar all great dives

  • Joe

    You haven’t been to Talty’s in South Buffalo. There’s entertainment on weekends too. The 911 on the corner of Boomfield and South park has the best wings in town…but it’s a secret