Last call for alcohol
The 10 best places to end up at 4 a.m.
The Old Pink
223 Allen St., Buffalo, 716-884-4338
You know it. You love it. If you lived in Buffalo between the ages of eighteen (ahem, twenty-one) and thirty, you know that ending up at the Pink is a nightlife tradition, and this classic Allentown dive is home to an alcohol-soaked part of every native’s (or UB/Buff State grad’s) psyche. How did the Pink come to be Buffalo’s number-one dive? It’s dark. It’s surly. It’s grungy. And in this small town, that’s the comfort food of bar scenes. “It’s quintessentially grimy,” says Matthew Licata, webmaster at the Center for Inquiry and seasoned Allentown drinker. There’s comfort in consistency, and the Pink’s reliability—it’s open when everyone else is closed and you’re guaranteed the same experience every time, complete with drunken dart-throwing, run-ins with old friends and awkward exes, and gruff yet efficient service—is the key to its longevity as a last-call destination. “It’s always there and it always is exactly what it is,” says Licata. “There are no surprises with the Pink.” And at 4 in the morning, that’s just exactly what you want. Our memories of the Pink may be as cloudy as the pint glasses, but its legendary status can’t be argued.
Buffalo Brew Pub
6861 Main St., Williamsville, 716-632-0552
For anyone who has ever worked at one of the hundreds of businesses on Transit Road in Williamsville, the Brew Pub represents myriad memories of post-work good times. But its significance to Buffalo’s beer culture goes beyond convenience. It’s the city’s oldest brewpub; it opened in 1986 and produced the first commercially brewed beer in Buffalo since Simon Pure and Iroquois closed in 1970. Through a recession and a severe kitchen fire the Brew Pub has survived to its twenty-fifth birthday and become one of the town’s most beloved watering holes. Thirty-four taps, great wings, and darts make for a pleasurable experience (you’ll need to get there before last call to enjoy the wings, but if you don’t, the Brew Pub also offers free popcorn and peanuts—perfect for soaking up alcohol) and sassy bartenders make everyone feel like a regular. Take a cue from the Transit Road restaurant servers and kitchen staff who routinely make this their post-shift home—they know a good bar experience when they see one.
946 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo, 716-883-4913
Out with a group of friends who aren’t ready for the night to end? You can’t do better than McGarret’s. It boasts a chilled-out Deadhead vibe, an excellent selection of fairly-priced beer, pool, darts, and the friendliest and most peaceful last-call crowd around. The joint has changed names a few times over the years (including a stint as “No Name’s”), but its popularity has never wavered thanks to a killer location for Elmwood Village dwellers: right in the middle of the people-watching mecca of Bidwell Parkway. Most of the time it’s quiet enough for great conversation and catching up, but on Tuesdays the two-for-one special keeps it packed and wild all night—and live jam music and a Sunday potluck ensure a hippie vibe the rest of the time. “The craft beer selection, bartenders, music, and relaxed atmosphere are reasons to go to McGarret’s anytime,” says Chris Miller, local beer and bar connoisseur. But why go late? “The fact that it’s right by both Jim’s Steakout and ETS makes it a perfect last-call destination. Late night food is inevitable if you’re out until last call.” The ultra-friendly bartenders will even let you eat your takeout at the bar.
Essex Street Pub
6 Essex St., Buffalo, 716-883-2150
A haven for hipsters in the heart of the West Side, Essex Street is happening no matter how late you walk in, and with a good mix of young and old patrons sporting styles from punk to cool to casual, Essex is a hidden gem with a spot for every personality. “Our clientele is very eclectic,” says bar manager Chris Scott, “which is good.” He says it’s a neighborhood-oriented crowd, but with enough new faces to keep it fresh: “About half to three quarters are the same people, but we get a new wave of students every year.” The great jukebox, appealing layout (picture the cool den-like basement you’ve always wanted), and tucked-away location are all part of the appeal, along with another crucial element of any great last-call destination: sympathetic staff. “I never kick anybody out at 4,” says Scott. Not finished with your last pint of the night when the clock strikes? No worries. Essex wants you to relax and enjoy it.
73 Hamburg St., Buffalo, 716-855-8948
McCarthy’s isn’t a traditional 4 a.m. last-call spot: it usually closes around 1. But the fact that it’s one of the quieter and friendlier places to enjoy a pint late at night in South Buffalo put it right at the top of my list—and, of course, there’s the option to keep barhopping after it closes, should you feel the need. An outstanding tap list and old-school character make this a jewel of a spot in the Old First Ward. Open since 1963 and housed in a century-old building, the bar is surrounded by grain elevators and railroad tracks, giving it a wonderful sense of historical Buffalo. It became popular in the 1960s and ’70s as an after-work destination for Irish industrial workers and fills that role even today, serving locals with the same Irish pub décor and blue-collar charm. What has changed is the beer selection: McCarthy’s is now one of the finest craft beer spots in the city. Beer geeks know the monthly Monday “Better Beverage Society” as one of the best ongoing craft brew events around, featuring renowned breweries and fantastic drink specials. You don’t have to be a regular to get treated like one—but after a last pint of a great IPA, dopplebock, or stout, served up with the right mix of South Buffalo attitude and Irish warmth and the whiff of Cheerios in the air, you may make this your new standby Irish pub.
75 Edward St., Buffalo, 716-855-8944
Between TRIVIA quizzes, free nachos, and the most fun, friendly, and relaxed vibe in Allentown, Founding Fathers is everything a late-night drinker could want. Whether you’re soaking up the presidential factoids on the walls and placemats, cuddling with your sweetie in a corner, or talking philosophy with your drinking buddies, it’s a Buffalo tradition for good reason. The building dates back to 1874, and from the hitching posts to the presidential portraits on the walls and the international flags on the ceiling, this is a history buff’s dream watering hole. Sit at the bar and have a chat with bartender and owner Michael Driscoll; he epitomizes the last-call bartender with his charm and interest in conversation (see if you can stump him in American history trivia!). For its intellectual bent and clean, cheerful ambiance, this may be Buffalo’s classiest last call—but there’s nothing snobby or somber about it. For those who like a little whimsy with their pint and don’t mind an educational drinking experience, Founding Fathers is always right.
257 Franklin St., Buffalo, 716-853-3600
Even anti-Chippsters can’t naysay the glory of a Buffalo summer night at Skybar. After dancing to an excellent and versatile DJ under the stars, stick around for last call and you may just be tempted to stay up a little longer and watch the sun hit the downtown skyline. “Where else in Buffalo can you enjoy libations while elevated several stories above the insanity of nearby Chippewa?” asks Drew Kline, wine associate with the Premier Group, UB student, and late-night man about town. “Skybar offers a view of downtown while providing both ample dancing room and conversation-friendly alcoves; plus it’s a short walk from the clubs no matter how high your heels are.” Summer in Buffalo means taking advantage of every opportunity to be outside, so it’s no surprise this remains one of the Chippewa area’s most beloved clubs.
4543 Main St., Amherst, 716-839-0283
There’s a reason the neighborhood pub is often the best last call scene: everyone knows your name, the servers are like family, and for Amherst and Williamsville natives, homey Loughran’s is the place to meet old friends back in town for a visit. “Loughran’s combines a cozy pub setting with an extensive jukebox, top notch staff, and a dining area you can converse in after the kitchen is closed if the music is drowning you out downstairs,” says Kline, a longtime regular. “I really love Loughran’s because it is a great establishment that I can walk home from.” One of the only bars in the Snyder area to actually stay open and busy till 4, it’s also just plain fun—starting there on the pretense of a pubcrawl and accidentally staying until close isn’t unheard of.
253 Allen St., Buffalo, 716-240-9359
It’s the slightly more cerebral answer to nearby Hardware’s hipness, and this writer’s personal favorite last call experience. Excellent beers and a great music room and dance floor, with fantastic DJs spinning alternative, jazz, blues, and electronica, give this wicked dive genuine appeal any time of the night, and its last call always seems to hit the perfect happy medium between quiet and crowded. “If they have a night full of DJs, a lot of times they have some great people playing extra late time slots, like three to four,” says Matthew Licata, a DBGB’s frequenter. Extremely friendly service and a fantastic beer selection give this bar the edge over most of Allen Street for class. “I used to bartend on Chippewa,” says bartender Julia as she opens a cabinet to offer a considerable choice of fine stemware for a Full Sail Session Black Lager. “And Allen is the place to be. The people are chill, the music’s phenomenal, the beer selection is great—it’s just no comparison.” It’s DBGB’s that truly epitomizes that Allen Street spirit, and just like the bartenders, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else come closing time.
33 Virginia Pl., Buffalo, 716-882-2989
A little class and a fantastic meal make for a wonderful way to wrap up an evening. Mother’s keeps its renowned kitchen open till 3, and the beautiful bar is a relaxed setting for conversation; it’s plenty romantic without feeling the least bit pretentious. Sam, a Mother’s bartender of eighteen years, overhears the words “best place for last call” and announces, “You’re sitting right in it! Case closed.” It’s hard to argue: Mother’s attracts local restaurant and bar staff, theater-goers, lovers looking to extend a great date, and groups of friends with its charm and outstanding food and drinks (try the award-winning Manhattan). The key to its enduring popularity: Unlike many popular late-night destinations in this city, this one always keeps the same hours regardless of business. “The most important thing about owning a good bar is consistency,” says Sam. “We’ve never closed early.” Allentown is the heart of Buffalo’s nightlife, and what could take up a more important place in our hearts than our Mother’s?
Julia Burke writes about food and drink for Spree.