Operating a bar on North Buffalo’s Hertel Avenue has always been about catering to the neighborhood. To a certain extent, it still is — but North Buffalo is a changing neighborhood.
So in order for today’s Hertel bars to adhere to historical appreciation while catering to a shifting dynamic, there needs to be a balance. And nestled on the avenue between Tennyson and Homer, the lounge-ish vibe of Joey’s Place is trying to strike this elusive equilibrium.
“This place reminds people of a basement bar,” said bartender Angela Vitale, a longtime neighborhood resident who lives two doors away from Joey's. “It’s so cozy, and people have been loving it since we first opened.”
That was last January, when owner Joey Dallos — former owner of Italian haunt Fortunato’s in Riverside — turned the former Class Act into its current tin-ceilinged, wood-hewn iteration. With comfortable accommodation for less than 50 patrons and a cocktail list steered toward classic favorites such as the Manhattan and Old Fashioned, it’s the type of intimate environment that demands a laid-back demeanor.
Steel-mugged servings of Absolut Lime Mules enhance this mood for those in search of relaxed after-work drinks and conversation. Low lighting, the regular hum of 1970s piano hits (see: Wings’ “Let 'Em In”) and a bar set-up reminiscent of cellar taverns noted by Vitale enhance its desired ambiance. Add the Place’s covered front patio and all collaborate to deliver a refreshingly calm spot for the modern socialite.
Though stylish and welcoming to new patrons, Joey's is still a locale that caters to its neighbors, their ethnic lineage and desire for simplistic favorites.
Photos of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Marlon Brando line the walls. Its daily lunch and dinner menu is highlighted by its slow-roasted beef on weck ($6.95) and bi-weekly offerings of homemade lasagna (by Dallos’s wife). While the locale touts its personalized cocktail list, $12 bucket specials of Bud Light are available three nights per week. And though it boasts a few lounge elements, it's still the type of high-top table tavern that makes sure that if the Yankees are playing, they’re featured on one or all of the barroom’s three televisions.
But there’s a balance to hit. Lean too far toward Hertel’s incoming cavalcade of carpetbaggers and alienate the neighbors. Replicate a local dart bar that thrived 30 years ago and you lose the customers who have turned the eastern end of Hertel into one of Buffalo’s most popular districts. So far, Joey’s Place has managed to strike this steadiness and allow all entities within its neighborhood oasis to intermingle.
“Us being here is making this side of Hertel better,” said Vitale. “We see a lot of people from the neighborhood, but we’re also getting a lot of people that usually wouldn’t come to this end of the avenue, too.”
Address: 1122 Hertel Ave. (322-6209; joeysonhertel.com)
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday to Saturday and 4 p.m. to midnight Sunday (with earlier open during football season).
Scene: Comfortable lounge elements complemented by a traditional Hertel tavern vibe.
Parking: Street spots on Hertel.
Signature cocktails: 6 liquor-cordial classic cocktails including Hertel's Old Fashioned, Irish Spritzer and Joey's Manhattan.
Drink specials: Weekday Happy Hour runs from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. with various drink specials; and $12 Bud and Bud Light buckets can be had on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday.
Don’t forget to: Check out homemade lunch specials, Monday through Friday.