The same surname doesn’t stay above the entrance of a modest tavern for more than 100 years by chance.
Ask one of the co-owners of cherished Eggertsville outpost Brunner’s and he’ll cite lots of reasons for his family business’s endurance on Main Street. Menu items are consistently among the region’s best in their class.
Domestic beer-drinking patrons have laughter as strong as their loyalty. The committed staff has been part of the Brunner’s operation for decades. And there are memories. Lots and lots of cherished memories.
Just don’t expect Danny Brinkworth to divulge too many details about the latter. Like most great barroom hi-jinks, they remain as confidential as a weekend in Las Vegas.
“There are too many. Tons,” Brinkworth said about his favorite Brunner’s moments. “I can’t really single out anything that wouldn’t get someone in trouble.”
What can be divulged is that the tavern’s memories bloomed within its many iterations over its century of existence including the time since it changed hands between Chet Brunner and Danny’s uncle, Denny in 1962. It's been a watering hole for University at Buffalo students. A post-game sanctuary for legions of softball players. And a favored locale for early 20th century imbibers who barhopped the Main drag on horseback.
But through it all, its consistency of traditional tavern comfort and mandatory Buffalo menu fare is what’s kept the simplistic Northtowns spot on the map since 1915, and fertile for good times among friends and strangers.
That hasn't changed. Whether for lunch, dinner or a round of Budweisers ($3.50), guests can expect to find the same narrow barroom and welcoming, wood-hewn dining room that Brunner’s has boasted throughout its tenure.
Although dimly lit in the fashion of some of the region’s best shot-and-a-beer spots, the darkness doesn’t dampen the tavern’s take-a-load-off vibe. It merely provides a more clandestine aura for an address operated by a hustling and cordial staff; accented by conversation-level 97 Rock, televised sports or turns on its vintage Ms. Pac-Man arcade game; and headlined by menu items that make displaced Buffalonians salivate for home.
Its array of burgers ($9-$10) and massive 12-ounce strip steak sandwich ($16) — both available outside full kitchen hours and prepped on a open grill behind the bar — can flank dark pints of Sam Adams or Guinness (both $5).
Its mastery of Buffalo’s holy trinity of fish fry, wings and beef-on-weck - hand-carved ($9.95) for lunch on Mondays - is impressive by even the most local diner’s standards; its homemade soups are hearty enough to stand alone. Its macaroni salad - known by the misleading moniker of “gruel” by tavern regulars - is good enough to co-headline any entrée or sandwich.
All elements have collaborated to make Brunner’s the type of place that can span generations. At its centennial event two falls ago, the Brinkworths—including fellow co-owners Richard and Kara, Danny’s father and sister—draped a large Brunner’s banner inside the tavern for patrons and employees to sign.
More than 500 names and hundreds of sentiments were scrawled across the 14-foot signage, and soon, it will be repurposed as wallpaper across Brunner’s western wall (near Eggert Road).
And in the absence of barroom tales that Brinkworth keeps buttoned up, the details penned on that banner will spark personal memories that have kept the bar's doors open through suds-soaked evenings, savory meals and entertaining moments—albeit ones reserved for the audience that continues to fill the tavern’s humble confines.
Address: 3989 Main St., Amherst (836-9718; on Facebook)
Hours: Bar—equipped with grill and fryers—opens at 11 a.m. Monday to Friday; and Saturday and Sunday, noon to close. Full kitchen on Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Scene: Enduring Northtowns favorite that offers both Buffalo tavern comfort and culinary favorites in ample helpings.
Ask about: The tavern’s horse logo, established by the original equine-loving owners in 1915.
Parking: Large side and rear lot off Main Street.
Cash only, but: Brunner’s has an ATM.
Don’t forget to: Schedule a Monday lunch visit for Brunner’s hand-carved beef on weck, chips and “gruel.”