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Rohall's Corner: Authentic neighborhood bar revels in being itself

Bars can cultivate perception. They can add lines of elaborate tap handles for area hops hounds; concoct Spotify playlists to please the indie-pop sensibilities of millennial drinkers; or decorate interior with photography conducive to an established theme.

What these locales can’t do is concoct authenticity. It either exists in the honesty of the room, the nature of its employees and attitude of its patrons, or it doesn’t.

This trio doesn’t come easy—so it must be frustrating for fledgling bar owners to see Black Rock bastion Rohall’s Corner feature all three so genuinely.

The former Our Grill was pristinely mothballed for more than 20 years when owner Greg Rohall bought it at auction in 2007. A former bartender at Mr. Goodbar and the late Sterling Place Tavern, he made some minor repairs to the barroom, decorated its walls with an impressive array of Utica Club merchandise, and slapped his surname over the door before opening in 2011.

Rohall's Corner bartender June Burrell pours a couple Flying Bison Blizzard Bocks. It’s a seasonal traditional German-style dark beer. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

Since then, it’s developed a following as a pretension-free place content in its own block-glass windows and polished-wood benches. It’s the type of bar you might not know you missed until you wander in off Amherst Street, sidle up to one of its stools and bask in its simplicity. And at a time when a night of drinking has become a daunting task of decision-making for some, such sincere tavern comfort is an appreciated commodity.

The locale’s atmosphere and offerings certainly serve as introduction to this ease. Candle-lit tables and classic barroom décor set the scene. Cans of Utica Club or a seasonal Tom & Jerry satisfy those intermingling amid the scenery.

Dependent on the evening, live piano, folk or spinning vinyl provides ideal accompaniment to the setting.

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Close your eyes and, as long as you account for the impressive array of Schaefer, Beck’s and Ballentine beer trays, you can likely picture the idyllic alehouse panorama.

A customer drinks Stiegl Gold, an Austrian beer, at Rohall's Corner. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

But in tandem with these items, Rohall’s personnel and patrons solidify it as a cherished city sanctuary. On a recent Bills-game Sunday, actions of both elicited a barroom that felt more "family hang" than business.

Bartender Kris Valenti casually handled a dozen customers’ eastern European-steered orders of Stiegl Gold and shots of Krupnik while simultaneously preparing the complimentary halftime nacho bar and crock pot of goulash.

Jersey-clad patrons talked under the call of the latest Bills-Patriots exercise in futility, exchanging threats of celebratory dancing, 16-ounce drafts of Pilsner Urquell ($6) and strips of homemade honey Dijon beef jerky, pulled from a Ziploc bag.

Friends or strangers all sat and laughed and slurped bowls of macaroni within a tavern atmosphere that’s genuine by simply being itself.

That’s the key component to Rohall’s Corner, the pulse that illuminates an inconspicuous address many drivers unknowingly pass en route to the nearby Wegmans.

Since first opening its doors almost seven years ago, it’s operated as the bar it wanted to be, regardless of market trends or mainstream interest. This concept recruits employees and patrons complicit to the plan, and complementary to an atmosphere adherent to local tavern lore.

When these items are walking in unison, there’s authenticity. It’s not easy, but Rohall’s has proven the procession possible while perched on its nondescript city corner.

Rohall’s Corner

Address: 540 Amherst St.(939-2087; on Facebook)

Hours: 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. Tuesday to Friday, 1 p.m. to 4 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Closed on Mondays.

Scene: Friendly patrons and classic décor concoct a cherished tavern experience at the entrance of Buffalo’s Black Rock neighborhood.

Drafts: 6

Bottles/cans: 21

Vintage beer trays: Several

Live entertainment: Locale boasts rear stage for musicians and regular comedy nights.

Parking: Street spots on Amherst

Credit/Debit: Yes

Don’t forget to: Order a round of Krupnik shots to celebrate any occasion.

Rohall's Corner is at 540 Amherst St. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

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