Nobody can be certain of the next Buffalo nightlife trend, but one that’s doubtful is the resurrection of the bare-bones bar. Craft drafts are now a necessity in any location, and modern accompaniments such as Internet jukeboxes, muddled cocktails and maintained mustaches on patrons and employees are an understood certainty.
Not the case inside Historic Polonia’s R&L Lounge (23 Mills St.). Owned and operated by Ronnie and Lottie Pikuzinski for the last 47 years, the near-Broadway Market oasis is for people with a taste for cold beer, handmade pierogi and rounds of earnest, iPhone-less conversation with each other or the locale’s warm and welcoming owners.
Over the bar hangs a sign that reads, “You bet your dupa I’m Polish.” Sounds like easy money, just as a visit to the Pikuzinskis’ place is a charming way to spend an early evening.
The beer: Genesee Cream Ale
The breakdown: Yes, the R&L features requisite bottled Polish favorites such as Tyskie and Zywiec. But when you can team a cold can of Genny Cream ($2) with the bar’s charm and character, it’s a order worth making.
For those who have somehow avoided the splendor of Rochester’s Green Menace (5.1 percent ABV) throughout their formative or adult years, it’s a surprisingly refreshing ale that goes down smooth (albeit in moderation).
Is it the Western New York beer most associated with a generation’s worth of thirsty grandfathers? Possibly – which would make a visit to R&L a fine time to toast these men’s existence or memory.
Ask Lottie: Bartenders used to be expected to dispense wisdom beyond their use of bitters. Thankfully, Lottie Pikuzinski is still in the business of handing out free advice, all the while splitting time among serving beers, kneading dough and discussing past visitors with her husband of 58 years. Much cheaper than a visit to a therapist, and with bar stools in place of a stiff leather couch.
Pierogi – with Fine Young Cannibals: As a proud Polish establishment year-round (especially on Dyngus Day), the R&L boasts signature pierogi, ones with just enough sweetness to be reminiscent of breakfast crepes. You may be able to find similar flavor elsewhere in Buffalo – but you won’t be able to team its enjoyment with the spinning 45s of the Fine Young Cannibals.
Judging by its selection, the bar’s classic AMI jukebox stopped adding new records around 1988, but still features hits from the aforementioned, as well as Tears for Fears and “The Loco-Motion” by Kylie Minogue. Take that, TouchTunes.
When to go: Open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday and Saturday; open until 9 p.m. Friday. Closed on Sundays. Stop in for neighborhood bar comfort; cans of Genny Cream Ale and delicious orders of handmade pierogi; or to enjoy barroom conversation with owners Ron and Lottie Pikuzinski.
23 Mills St. (896-5982)
Beers on tap: None – but you won’t mind.
Stop by if you’re near: The Broadway Market.
Great place for: Expertly prepared Polish delicacies, barroom conversation, and after-work shots of Krupnik.
Order the: Pierogi.
Be ready to: tell Lottie about your day, your problems or plans for the future.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Thursday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday. Closed on Sunday.