Who doesn’t love a happy hour experience where hardworking folks have been kibitzing for years?
The interesting past of Curly’s Bar & Grill is tied to Lackawanna’s former steel factory days.
From a gin mill where steelworkers cashed checks at the bar and bartenders lied to wives calling on the phone looking for their husbands, to its more recent history as a great Caribbean restaurant owned by well-known Buffalo chef Krista Van Wagner, Curly’s enters a new period in history under new ownership.
Van Wagner’s grandfather – the original owner – might be sad to know the bar is no longer in the family, but we think he might approve of the fact that, despite all the changes, that great old wood bar still welcomes blue- and white-collar folks seeking a place to relax and unwind, albeit in a more upscale setting.
While times change, the requirements for a good bar do not. Long and skinny, dim and dark, Curly’s bar has a cozy feel perfect for hanging out. There’s plenty of seating along the bar and behind, with stools and places to set a drink.
In their day, the steelworkers might have been drinking Genesee or Utica Club. Today, local craft beers grace the taps, including seasonals like Southern Tier Brewing’s Pumpking along with beers from Big Ditch, Hamburg, Resurgence and Ellicottville. For the less discerning, a good old Bud Light can still be had along with selections like Murphy’s Irish Stout, Stella Artois and Labatt Blue.
Hard cider is on tap too, and used for an absolutely delicious fall cocktail called Apples to Oranges – Skyy Blood Orange vodka, fresh oranges, bitters and Angry Orchard Hard Cider. While cocktails ($7 to $9)aren’t on special during happy hour, it’s always fun to splurge if beer or a mundane mixed drink isn’t in your cards.
For wine drinkers, select bottles are $15 on Monday and Wednesdays. Need a little kick with your wine? Ruby Red Sangria adds a shot of Deep Eddy Ruby Red Vodka to white wine, while the regular Red Sangria combines Deep Eddy Cranberry Vodka with red wine.
Offset the cost of cocktails by eating the free pretzel rods at the bar. For something more substantial, half-priced appetizers are the way to go.
Happily, the new owners have kept a few of the old faves from the Caribbean period, like jerk wings, conch fritters and Caribbean barbecued shrimp, and have added items like stuffed hot banana peppers and something no doubt inadvertently designed to soak up booze — Gnocchi Poutine. It’s homemade gnocchi topped with pulled pork, roasted garlic gravy and Fontina cheese. The flatbread pizza of the day is half-off, too. With prices $10-$14, the 50 percent discount helps a hard worker’s wallet.
Curly’s Bar & Grill
Where: 647 Ridge Road, Lackawanna (curlysbuffalo.com, 824-9716)
Hours: Opens at 11 a.m. Monday through Friday, 5 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday.
Happy Hour: 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday with $3 drafts, $4 bottled beer, $4 mixed drinks and half-priced appetizers.
Scene: Laid-back scene conducive to good conversation. Fantastic pictures of Lackawanna’s steel history.
Fashion note: Although once a stop for hardworking steelworkers, don’t show up in a hard hat.
Geographic note: Easy, short ride to First Niagara and Sabres games.
Extras: “Wine Down” on Monday and Wednesday with $15 select bottles of wine. During Bills games, $3 drafts and $10 buckets. Ample parking in nearby lot.
Yum: Jerk Chicken Wings.
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Pretzel Rods [infinity]