The Royal Pheasant
443 Forest Ave.
Dress: Baseball caps to black turtleneck
Music: Eclectic jukebox, local bands
Drinks: Beers, old-school cocktails
Scene: Neighborhoodie, not collegey
Best time to go: After work or much later
Next Week: Club Infinity.
There is a timeless feel to the Royal Pheasant Supper Club. This cocktail lounge seems to wear many hats: live music venue, brunch, lunch or dinner spot, late-night eats and all around swell place to meet up with almost anyone.
My husband and I went for drinks on a recent Friday evening. I immediately warmed to the black oval bar and chrome stools covered in sparkly yellow vinyl. Loved the clubby, horse-related paraphernalia decorating the red walls. I was even happier when the bartender brings our martinis, the extra bit conveniently provided in a personal-sized carafe. Beer selections are good, with about 25 bottled to choose from. Tap selections include Anchor Steam, Flying Bison, Guinness, Harp and Bass.
I sipped my martini but was roused from my reverie by the cries of young children. I realize that this can also be a family joint. There is in fact a multigenerational group in a semi-private corner dining area. At the front of the room is an awesome round booth (the power table, in my opinion). Small booths lining the side walls were all full when we got there. There were even people eating at the bar. Behind the hostess stand nestle two or three tall cafe tables for those who might prefer a more private drink or to wait there while their booth is being readied.
As the bar begins to fill, Hubby toddles off to use the facilities. Herewith a warning for the tall: Be prepared to literally duck into the bathroom. I check out the jukebox, a device I have always relied on to help reveal the true identity of an establishment. I have only been living here for a few years and haven't really experienced how musically diverse Buffalo's tastes can be. But Hubby, a native and an ardent clubgoer in his youth, is quick to assure me that this is the norm in the good spots. You know: vintage Glen Campbell, Jimmy Cliff, Xavier Cougat, Dwight Yoakam, Elvis, Prince, Wanda Jackson.
The same family owned the Royal Pheasant for almost 60 years before shutting down a year and a half ago. In May 2004, Charlie Quill, 39, bought the place. "The Royal Pheasant was the place to go back in the '40s, '50s and '60s," he said. "It's one of those classic old Buffalo landmarks, like the Little Harlem and Club Utica."
After months of work, he says that everything in the bar now is identical to the original, decor-wise. They reopened last October.
Music is a key element, with ongoing weeknight vibe sessions provided by various local bands. Supper club sets will be the norm, as well. Bands that will be playing include the Latin Jazz Project, Terry Sullivan, the David Kane Quartet and the rockabilly trio Blue Rocket.
There seems to be a good mix of ages and motivations here, and as our evening progresses the bar becomes lively. Across the way, there's a nice-looking group of mostly balding men. Girls' night out or after-work drinks pairs. A group of local husband-and-wife types meeting up for a balloon-filled birthday celebration. There was the Black Turtleneck Gang, three attractive ladies who told me they like the eclectic mix here and were on their way to an art opening. Later on, a couple of guys with beers and shots who looked like they really missed their cigars didn't seem out of place at all.
The Royal Pheasant won't let dedicated clubbers go hungry, either. Once you've settled in for the evening, stay for a while, they seem to say. The late-night menu, available Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays focuses mainly on appetizers and sandwiches, says Quill, "but if you really want a lobster at 1:55 a.m., you can get it." I'll drink to that.
"I was even happier when the bartender brings our martinis, the extra bit conveniently provided in a personal-sized carafe."