Guercio’s, a West Side staple since 1961.
When I travel, I seek out the bars, restaurants and stores that have stood the test of time. These are spots where the stories and memories shared decades ago over a pint at the neighborhood pub or at the local grocer’s checkout line still seem to reverberate off the walls. They are holdovers from another era and indicate as much about a city’s character as any of the new developments in town.
Buffalo is fortunate to have many of these businesses still around. The city is experiencing an unprecedented renaissance, but its old-time businesses help give Buffalo the heart and soul locals and visitors love. Here are some of the best businesses in the city of Buffalo that have lasted for generations.
In Business for 50+ Years
Guercio & Sons (1961),
Browse through homegrown produce for sale underneath the front awnings of this West Side institution, a staple of Buffalo’s Italian community since 1961. Then head inside and peruse its wide selection of olive oils, cookies and other Italian import items stacked tall on its shelves.
Gene McCarthy’s (1964), 73 Hamburg St.
When the grain scoopers toiling in Buffalo’s grain elevators finished up for the day, they’d whet their whistles at Gene McCarthy’s pub before heading to their homes in the city’s Old First Ward. Grain scoopers have gone the way of the paperboy and the milkman, but luckily for us, their pub is still around and opened a craft brewery next door in 2014.
GiGi’s Restaurant (1960), 257 E. Ferry St.
A mainstay of Buffalo’s East Side, Gigi’s’s continues to delight patrons with its soul food menu staples.
Parkside Candy (1927), 3208 Main St.
Anyone who walks into this University Heights institution is in for a treat – in more ways than one. An old-fashioned ice cream parlor, ornately decorated ceiling and lightwork and sweeping candy counter greet visitors upon entry.
Chef’s (1923), 291 Seneca St.
One of the city’s most popular red sauce joints is also one of its most historic restaurants. Come for the spaghetti parm; stay for the autographed portraits of celebrities on the walls and after-dinner scoop of orange sherbet.
Santasiero’s (1921), 1329 Niagara St.
It’s hard to miss Santasiero’s driving down Niagara Street: just look for the building painted in the colors of the Italian flag. Step inside for a heaping bowl of pasta fagioli or any number of Italian dishes that have been keeping this place humming for almost a century. (Or make it a night of old and new Buffalo: dinner here, then beers down the street at Resurgence Brewing Company.)
North Park Theatre (1920), 1428 Hertel Ave.
North Park Theater
One of Hertel Avenue’s anchors is this pristine neighborhood moviehouse. The North Park was beautifully restored in 2014 to its original grandeur, from the stained glass above its front marquee to the beautiful domed mural above the seats.
Cole’s (1934), 1104 Elmwood Ave.
This is the ultimate Buffalo college bar, filled with sports memorabilia on the walls, pennants on the rafters, classic rock tunes on the sound system and wings and weck on the menu.
R&L Lounge, 23 Mills St.
Ronnie and Lottie Pikuzinski have owned and operated this neighborhood tavern in the shadow of another Buffalo institution – the Broadway Market – since 1969. The tavern itself has lasted over 75 years. Stop in for a homemade pierogi from Lottie, then wash it down with a Polish beer.
DiTondo’s (1904), 370 Seneca St.
Just up the street from Chef’s is another Italian establishment that has its own version of spaghetti parm. DiTondo’s has a loyal following among Buffalo’s lunchtime dining crowd.
Swannie House (1886), 170 Ohio St.
The vintage sign on the side of the building, “To be HALE and HEARTY, DRINK OLD HARDIE KENTUCKY STRAIGHT WHISKEY” is a dead giveaway that this is one of Buffalo’s oldest businesses. Like nearby Gene McCarthy’s, the Swannie House made its initial profit off the grain scoopers and factory workers in the neighborhood. Now it stands poised for a new generation of customers as it’s in the geographic center of Buffalo’s waterfront rebirth.
Ulrich’s (1868), 674 Ellicott St.
If the walls at Ulrich’s could talk, the stories they could tell. Ulrich’s is the oldest business within the city of Buffalo, hearkening back to the city’s post Civil War days when the near east Side was the heart of its German immigrant community. Today, the bar is instead nestled in the middle of the construction boom taking place at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. (Full disclosure: my great-great grandparents, the Dobmeiers, owned the tavern prior to selling it to the Ulrich’s around the turn of the 20th century.)