After a visit to Steelfest yesterday, my wife and I decided to track down a relatively obscure tavern not far from Larkinville. Although Marinaro’s Larkin Tavern has been around for a couple of years (formerly Sharkey’s), the bar/restaurant had eluded us until a friend texted me, asking if we had ever happened upon the place. Upon walking into the establishment, we were greeted by Maria Makowski, who, it turns out, is the granddaughter of Stan Makowski, a former Mayor of Buffalo.
Since the owners of the Larkin Tavern, brothers Chris and Jerry Marinaro, were not in, Maria took us under her wing to show us around the place. We were pleased as punch to be in the presence of Buffalo “royalty”, which made our stay at the tavern even more enjoyable.
As for the tavern itself, the place is a hybrid between an old saloon and a honky-tonk sports bar. Buffalo sports lovers will flip for this place. The back room is dedicated to the history of the Bills and the Sabres. Each wall boasts sports memorabilia ranging from autographed footballs to scarce trading cards. Even the bathroom walls pay homage to the history of Buffalo sports, in a fun and informative kind of way.
Aside from the sports aspect, the tavern also prides itself on live music that piggybacks off of the Live @ Larkin Wednesday concert series (8-11pm). The food offerings are also a huge hit with many of the office workers in the Larkin District who frequent the place for lunch, or for a bite after work. Maria told us that the most popular items on the menu were the burgers, the meatball submarine, the fish fry, and the mango barbecue wings. Other items that sounded pretty delicious included the fried bologna sandwich, the Mexican fries, and The Stallion (sausage patty topped with capicola, melted provolone and spicy hot pepper). Maria talked us into ordering a sampling of the wings, to prove how good the food was. The wings came out crispy (ordered that way) and flavorful, leaving us wondering what else we were missing out on.
While the wings were great, we had not come for the food due to eating earlier in the day – it was mid-day, and the lunch crowd had vacated and Maria was preparing for the early dinner crowd to roll in. More than anything else, we wanted to grab a couple of beers and shoot the s#@t about Buffalo. I was happy to see that the bar had a tap handle dedicated to Big Ditch, one of the city’s newest breweries, so I asked Maria to set me up with a cold one. It didn’t take long for Maria to open up about her love for the restaurant and the neighborhood. She grew up living between The Valley and the Old First Ward, and was excited to see so many positive changes underway. She was especially impressed with Pegula, and the prospect of landing a new stadium in that part of town. We talked about the happenings in Larkinville, and all of the development underway along the Buffalo River. Maria even told us that she was hoping to some day purchase a house of her own before the real estate prices begin to spike too high.
After downing a couple more beers, we felt right at home at Marinaro’s Larkin Tavern. Between the old Buffalo beer trays that lined the wall, the gorgeous wood bar and backbar, and all of the random aesthetic sports idiosyncrasies, there could not be a more Buffalo-esque bar in all of Buffalo. Larkin Tavern has great Buffalo food, plenty of local sports pride, local Buffalo brews (and some cheap dive beer selections too), and is located in the heart of an endearing blue-collar neighborhood.
This summer, I plan on adding Larkin Tavern to my bike destination check list. It’s close to the water and just off the South Park bike trail. These guys don’t just dabble in pub-style food, they excel in it. For a quick bite to eat and couple of beers, you just can’t beat this place.
Marinaro’s Larkin Tavern | 131 Van Rensselaer Street | Buffalo, New York | (716) 845-5400 | Facebook