Back in August of 2015, former Elmwood Avenue favorite Papa Jake’s unexpectedly closed its doors, leaving behind a loyal sports fan following who liked to team craft drafts, mussels and clams with its Sabres action.
Thankfully, owner Scott Leary has orchestrated the locale’s spiritual resurrection with The Jake Tavern & Grill, now more than a year old and located on Kenmore’s stretch of Delaware Avenue inside the former Malone’s. If you have yet to find it, a note: It’ll never be confused as an exact replica of its Papa. Gone are the seafood specialties, 25 draft lines, eagle-emblazoned booths, and Buffalo’s only barroom mural featuring former Braves All-Star, Randy Smith.
But for casual diners and drinkers who used to spend their NHL seasons hunkered down amid the corner tavern charm of Papa Jake’s, there’s plenty to like about that locale’s Northtowns offspring.
The Jake is broken into three distinct sections—a curved, low-lit barroom; a pristinely rustic dining area; and a rear section for darts and dancing. Meals and drinks can be enjoyed within full view of the locale’s five overhead televisions in the bar area and at both ends of the brick and blonde wood-framed dining room. On a recent Friday, hockey fans loaded into all areas to watch the Sabres host the Washington Capitals, all while inhaling such items as the night's fish fry ($13.99), the crispy chicken sandwich with fresh-cut fries ($11.99) or choice of 11 craft and domestic draft beers.
For those concerned as to whether The Jake’s sports coverage takes over any night of the week, don’t worry. MSG announcers’ commentary is eschewed for bouncy, ambiance-aiding tracks, played at a conversational tone. This allows patrons to multitask socially, all while alternating glances between Ryan O’Reilly shifts, options for Taco Tuesdays (which change weekly), or the bar’s winter cocktail menu, featuring creative varieties on the now-popular Moscow Mule.
All makes The Jake a comfortable option for weekly Sabres action, just as its cozy Buffalo ancestor once was. And whether intertwined with a familiar plate of banana pepper pasta or a locally brewed craft draft, all can be experienced amid hints of that namesake.
Yes, it’s an absolutely different place. But there are moments over a candle-lit porter, laughing conversation between bundled 30-somethings or the illuminating hue of a televised power play that the new Jake feels like the old Jake.
And it’s OK to be a fan of that.
3020 Delaware Ave., Kenmore (983-2853;)
When: 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily.
Why: For game-time dinners, drafts and cocktails inside the heart of the Village of Kenmore.
Parking: Small lot next door, with additional parking on Delaware.
Beers on tap: 11
Safe choice: EBC Blueberry Wheat
Seasonal choice: Four Mile Unfurl Porter
Roll the dice with: Ballast Point Grunion Pale Ale
Food favorites: The Jake Burger ($11.99), banana pepper pasta ($10.99), steak sandwich ($11.99).
Drink specials: Vary by the night or week, so ask your server or bartender.
Papa Jake’s double-takes: Regular visitors to the former Elmwood locale will quickly recognize that many of Papa’s staff members are now at Kenmore’s Jake.
Tell your friends to: Toast Sabres action with one of The Jake’s five styles of Moscow Mules.
And if you hate sports: Warm up with a vanilla vodka-spiked hot chocolate.