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In Hamburg, low-key Pyramid's appeal is tattered simplicity

The intrigue of the unknown can be a solid selling point. It works in film, literature and theater, with lingering questions building suspense until the dramatic payoff.

But does the same shroud of mystery work with inconspicuous bars lit only with the flickering neon of advertised beer brands? Ask a resident of the Village of Hamburg familiar with the Pyramid Lounge—if you can find anyone who knows what bar you're talking about.

Known for decades by passersby as “The Telephone Bar” because of a payphone sign perched outside its front door, the locale didn’t boast outdoor signage when current owners Bill and Deborah Duffy bought the place in 1995—and it still doesn’t.

Just a two-story house with a metallic front door, cases of empties aside its gated windows, and a few glowing brew signs to herald drinkers into a dank locale still known to Southtowners as the Pyramid.

Pyramid Lounge owner Bill Duffy makes an apple pie shot. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

However, those familiar with the joint’s come-as-you-are vibe, canned beer and relaxingly ramshackle environment don’t need identifiable signage. They know what lies behind the Duffys’ 187 Buffalo Street door, and its tattered simplicity is the reward in its aged drop ceilings, worn wood paneling and torn leather bar stools. A broken fridge sits disassembled in the rear billiards room.

German biergarten-style wall lights shine in various states of disrepair throughout the barroom. A smattering of mismatched decoration occupies space on the locale’s walls. It's all akin to a makeshift basement tavern cultivated during the Bill Clinton administration—then left to age through the Obama years.

But none of this matters if you’re interested in the stripped-down, Pabst-hoisting ambiance that the Pyramid expertly offers by the round.

The bar’s not interested in appearances (see: no signage), but it is interested in maintaining a friendly, clandestine hideaway for casual beers, early-evening cocktails or late-night mayhem. Served up by Bill Duffy himself, patrons can indulge in domestic cans ($2.75) and bottles ($3) in lieu of the expansive craft draft menus available inside nearby village locations. Patrons shouldn’t look for such fare inside the Pyramid, and they don’t need it.

Pyramid Lounge bartender Brandie Scritchfield stops in on her day off. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

What the ideal Pyramid customer should be looking for is a few belts between frames on the bar’s Big Strike bowling or Super Chexx bubble hockey. Once they open the locale’s windowless front door, visitors should be longing for a few doubles of Stoli and cranberry ($7) between friendly conversation with Duffy, and maybe a few bags of Cool Ranch Doritos ($1) from the bar’s wire rack.

More than anything, those intrigued by the anonymity of the locale should expect a no-frills, pilsner-stained refuge amid the quaint development now resplendent throughout the bar’s village neighborhood.

And when it comes to the Pyramid, there’s no mystery. Just an enduring vestige of the shot-and-a-beer tavern era, hiding in plain sight on the streets of Hamburg.

The Pyramid Lounge

Address: 187 Buffalo St., Hamburg (648-3646; on Facebook)

Hours: 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday to Thursday, 5 p.m. to 4 a.m. Friday and Saturday; 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday.

Scene: Nondescript shot-and-a-beer joint nestled inconspicuously amid an idyllic commercial strip of the Village of Hamburg.

Drafts: None

Bottles and cans: Domestic

Fun and games: Pyramid boasts Super Chexx hockey and Lucky Strike bowling to play through rounds of PBR.

Parking: On surrounding streets.

Credit/debit: Yes. Also have ATM.

Don’t forget to: Notice evidence of one of the bar’s past iterations (The Glow Inn) still embedded in the entryway’s floor.

Pyramid Lounge at 187 Buffalo St. in Hamburg is best known as a late-night destination. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

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