Adolf’s Old First Ward Tavern
Where: 555 South Park Ave. (248-2968, facebook.com/555tavern)
When to go: After work for a few pints; before and after First Niagara Center, Canalside or waterfront action; and as a bike stop while exploring developing parts of the city.
The pitch: “Hidden blocks from Buffalo’s waterfront and nestled in the heart of the Old First Ward, Adolf’s serves customers’ taste for character and comfort inside its refurbished Irish enclave. Whether on two feet or two wheels, roll in and raise a pint.”
On Tap: Angry Orchard Cider, Big Ditch Hayburner, Flying Bison Rusty Chain, Guinness, Hamburg Small Town, Newcastle, Smithwick’s, and Southern Tier Hop Sun.
Price range: Beers, liquor and wine are all within the Ward’s standard $5 wheelhouse. Dependent on the occasion, you can often save a buck on craft drafts.
How to pay: Cash or card.
Parking: Lot across South Park, as well as plenty of on-street parking. Bikers can lock their bikes either near the bar’s entrance or across the street.
By Michael Farrell
Special To ThE news
One of the byproducts of the City of Buffalo and GO Bike Buffalo officials’ master plan to make the Queen City more accommodating to cyclists is how citywide bike lanes could help bring attention to businesses overlooked or ignored by auto drivers.
Adolf’s Old First Ward Tavern – in either its past or renewed incarnation – was likely never highlighted as a location primed to benefit from exposure to helmeted peddlers on Schwinn Speedsters and Diamondback Edgewoods. But with renovated interiors, barroom charm and South Park Avenue’s bike lanes now luring local cyclists to its Irish flag-flanked storefront, the bar is uniquely situated to welcome new guests and neighbors for a cool-down on its barstools.
Opened in 1934 by Adolf Baron, the place originally catered to grain scoopers and rail workers, men intent on drinking and avoiding sunlight after demanding shifts. Over the years, it continued on as a no-frills (and no-taps) neighborhood hangout until South Buffalo native Mike Burns bought the place from the Baron family – then made a few changes. Before reopening in October 2014, he exposed and restored the bar’s original tin ceiling; overhauled the bartop to debut a gleaming finish; and installed eight draft taps to complement its time-tested bottled beer- and wine-filled stand-up cooler.
Now, it stands in respect of Adolf’s past, all while welcoming patrons via bike, car or casual stroll into the tavern’s present.
Inside, visitors will find a green-hued, paneled barroom, one that offers such pint-side snack fare as Slim Jims to tandem with HD-projected NHL hockey and friendly banter with owner Burns, who’s often behind the bar.
Adolf’s impressive beer-related artifacts collection – which includes Simon Pure trays, large Budweiser signs and empty cans of the Crystal Pepsi of its time, Genny Red – rests on raised, wall-length mantles, encircling patrons with local and national drinking history. But whether settled atop barstools, standing at scattered high tops or amassed in the back bar’s small function area, visitors can team this antiquity with the modern music of Spoon, My Morning Jacket or Irish rockers Flogging Molly, all available via the bar’s Internet jukebox.
Those wheeling, driving or drifting into Adolf’s can choose to enjoy the tavern’s can-accented ambiance with its bottled past or the taps of its present. And though the local craft quartet of Big Ditch, Flying Bison, Hamburg and Southern Tier (all $4) have tastes for the taking, customers might be best served by enjoying tall pints – and reasonable alcohol-by-volume – of either Guinness, Newcastle or Smithwick’s.
With both Smithwick’s Irish Ale (4.5 percent ABV) and patiently poured pints of Guinness stout (4.2 percent), natives or nearby visitors can hoist choices that pay tribute to the Ward’s celebrated Irish heritage, evident throughout the Shamrock Run, Old Neighborhood Parade or simple recognition of local legends like World War I hero William “Wild Bill” Donovan or boxing champion Jimmy Slattery.
And though an ethnically opposed English brown ale, Newcastle (4.7 percent) on draft is a rarity across Buffalo, even more rare is being able to order one in a company-issued chalice, which the staff at Adolf’s uses for every ordered pour.