The Gypsy Parlor is a late 19th-century corner bar on Buffalo’s West Side that’s also a restaurant, a venue for live local music, and, at times, a DJ-fueled place to dance. You can also get a tarot card reading or instant psychic input from automaton-fortuneteller Zoltar, who presides over the barroom.
Gabrielle Mattina, who co-owns the business with her father, describes The Gypsy Parlor as “a dive bar with gourmet food.”
Décor featuring some decoupaged tarot cards on tables, curtains, framed portraits of lady gypsies, and eclectic artwork and knickknacks adorn the rooms. “My dad is a carpenter and he and I did all the renovating,” she says. “There was over 100 years of bar stuff in the basement – it took us three months to clean it out. The black carved wood mask was in the basement, and plates from the 1950s, and an old safe from Buffalo Cary Safe Company. We still use the safe today.”
Welcoming, unassuming, and always full of diverse sippers and suppers, The Gypsy Parlor, open seven nights a week, celebrates its ten-year anniversary in 2023. “It really embodies the culture of Buffalo,” Mattina says. “We’re just a menagerie, a free-for-all place to have a drink, enjoy people, play pool, eat great food. Every normal-ass person is in here.”
“When I started Gypsy, I had seven employees — now I employ 28 people as bartenders, cooks, security, cleaners, and dishwashers. Some of my employees live upstairs in the apartments above Gypsy; I guess it’s a perk, low-cost rentals. Some of my employees also live in one of 17 rental units nearby that I own with my dad.”
Looking up, there’s a period chandelier festooned with brassieres. “It’s the bra chandelier,” she says, “sometimes there’s also men’s underwear up there and one night someone threw a wig up there. A 74-year-old woman was getting loose in here and threw her bra up there. Well, actually, a guy helped put it up there for her.”
Mattina, who grew up a few blocks away on Hoyt Street, knows the neighborhood and all the neighbors, as well as the colorful history of her building.
“It was built in 1890 and was originally a German restaurant called Stahl’s. I have some of their menus that I found in the basement. They served oysters, steaks, martinis and more. Then it was the Cavern Tavern, an old man’s bar: they stayed open during The Blizzard of ’77 and served a Blizzard Burger made from sausage and ground beef.”
The Gypsy Parlor holds an open mic every Wednesday, and Thursdays are karaoke night. Fridays it’s DJs, drag shows, and burlesque, starting at 10 p.m. The first Monday of the month there’s a jazz jam at 8 p.m. Their kitchen stays open until 3 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
“Luckily for me Buffalo is a drinking, partying town,” Mattina says. “Buffalo, and The Gypsy Parlor, have more character than any place in the world. We’re down to earth, and cool – never pretentious.”