The Best Bars in Buffalo

For decades, Buffalo was home to several corner pubs and a handful of breweries, but as the population shrank, so did the bar count. Thankfully, with the city’s resurgence came a slew of local taverns, high-end cocktail bars, cozy coffee shops, and late-night clubs that, together, have created a better-than-ever drinks scene. From Elmwood Village to Hertel, there’s no shortage of places to imbibe in Buffalo these days.

674 Ellicott St, Buffalo, NY 14203, USA
The oldest tavern in Buffalo, Ulrich’s has been serving up pints since 1868—and continues to be the ideal spot for an afternoon drink and quick bite to eat. Decorated with an eclectic mix of vintage pieces, the historic watering hole offers a full-service bar alongside classic pub fare like chili, chicken wings, and pastrami sandwiches. Cozy up at the counter and order a draft beer, then soak it up with one of the warm soft-pretzel sticks, served with mustard and homemade cheese sauce.
333 Franklin St, Buffalo, NY 14202, USA
Located in Buffalo’s booming Theatre District, Buffalo Proper is a great place to stop before or after a show. Guests can look forward to nearly 30 specialty cocktails, plus seasoned bartenders ready to mix all the classics. Favorites include the BFLO Bramble (vodka, blackberries, mint, lemon) and the Bare Knuckle Boxer (whiskey, lemon, honey, and strawberry), but there’s also beer and wine should cocktails not be your thing. While the two-story, lofted space is massive, it fills up quickly on weekends, so go early to secure your spot at the bar or one of the high-top tables. Then, put in an order for your favorite drink, along with elevated bar fare like Japanese-style fried chicken, white bean burgers, and grits with crème fraîche and cheddar.
55 E Huron St, Buffalo, NY 14203, USA
When Downtown’s Big Ditch opened in a converted garage in 2014, it helped turn a formerly sterile area into a hot spot for locals. Today, it continues to draw fans with a range of pints brewed in-house, plus a two-level taproom with seating for 200 and garage doors that open onto the sidewalks. Anywhere from six to 12 beers are on tap at a given time, with options ranging from IPAs and saisons to stouts and ales. If it’s available, be sure to try the Make Me Want to Stout—a coffee-and-cream brew that’s one of Big Ditch’s most popular offerings.
492 Elmwood Ave, Buffalo, NY 14222, USA
Among the small shops and restaurants that line Elmwood Avenue, Thin Man Brewery stands out in more ways than one. In a literal sense, its second-floor balcony extends over the street, offering guests the perfect place to sip pints in the sun. More figuratively, its beer selection is among the best in the city, with more than two dozen brews on tap, including the Prairie Paradise (a coconut-and-vanilla imperial stout from Prairie Artisan Ales in Oklahoma) and the Taras Boulba (a pale ale straight from Belgium). Thin Man also brews a few of its own beers on-site—if they have it, be sure to try the Pills Mafia pilsner. Since opening in 2016, the brewery has become so popular that there is now a second location in Black Rock, in a collaborative space with Tappo Pizza.
1503 Hertel Ave, Buffalo, NY 14216, USA
While Lloyd may be best known for its inventive Mexican fare, it’s also one of the most forward-thinking cocktail spots in Buffalo. What started as a food truck catering to the business lunch and weekend festival crowds became a North Buffalo staple when it opened its first brick-and-mortar location on Hertel Avenue in late 2015. Today, it continues to be a go-to for classic cocktails like margaritas and palomas, made with fresh ingredients and quality spirits. The mezcal drinks are delicious, especially the Green Hornet (mezcal, honey simple syrup, spicy tomatillo shrub, lemon, cucumber), but if you’re not into smoky spirits, try the Midsummer’s Daydream (rum, strawberry-peppercorn shrub, aloe liqueur, lemon, pineapple, rosé).
73 Hamburg St, Buffalo, NY 14204, USA
Opened in 1963, Gene McCarthy’s is a Buffalo institution. Nestled in the shadows of towering grain silos next to long-abandoned railway tracks, it’s a snapshot of the city as it once was, done up in pub tables, Irish tchotchkes, and photos of favorite locals. While not much has changed in the past five decades, the tavern did switch hands in 2012, and new owners Bill Metzger and Matt Conron decided to expand the business by adding a brewery. Now, Old First Ward Brewing Company produces more than 40 different beers on-site, then offers some on tap in Gene’s. The whole operation is the opposite of flashy, but it’s exactly what you want from a Buffalo dive bar. Visit in summer and you can even sip your suds in the seasonal beer garden, which features live music every Saturday night starting at 7 p.m.
220 Grant St, Buffalo, NY 14213, USA
Housed in an elegant Victorian building, this bohemian coffee house sits in the heart of the Grant Street corridor—one of Buffalo’s most diverse neighborhoods, with a community of immigrants, scholars, and artists. Since opening in 2008, it’s been a driving force in encouraging new businesses to put down roots in the area, proving that if you build it, they will come. Here, guests can grab a table outside with their café au lait and freshly baked pastry and take in the sights and sounds of Buffalo’s West Side. Should you be looking for something more substantial, however, head next door to owner Prish Moran’s newest project, The Tabernacle, where you can indulge in everything from Spanish to Irish cuisine in a kaleidoscope-like space filled with Renaissance paintings, Space Age murals, and bright pops of color.
75 Edward St, Buffalo, NY 14202, USA
If you find yourself at Founding Fathers Pub, you should know it’s going to be a late night. Open since 1968, the hole-in-the-wall tavern is a local favorite, but generally flies under the radar of travelers visiting the area. It’s the type of no-frills spot where you meet old friends to catch up, or get quizzed on Buffalo’s rich history by owner and former social studies teacher Mike Driscoll, who decked out the space in presidential memorabilia. Grab a seat at the bar and strike up conversation, then order a pint or two to pair with the free popcorn and nachos served nightly.
228 Allen St, Buffalo, NY 14201, USA
Billy Club opened in Allentown toward the end of 2015 in a formerly boarded-up apartment building turned contemporary hideaway. From the start, owners Dan Hagen and Jake Strawser focused on cocktails, in part inspired by the speakeasy that operated out of the building during Prohibition. Drinks here are creative and delicious, made with top-notch spirits and local ingredients. There’s also a strong focus on whiskey, as well as a full food menu with dishes like house-made pasta, whole trout, and aged duck breast with figs. While you should definitely try one of the whiskey cocktails, you should also visit during Sunday brunch for the Bloody Mary—it’s one of the best in Buffalo.
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