Buffalo’s taverns seem to have a remarkable ability to survive through even the harshest of times. Populations shrink and grow, economies weaken and strengthen, and through it all the taverns continue to persevere. It wouldn’t be much of a surprise if, upon closer inspection, it was revealed that the establishments adapted to the changes around them by catering to different crowds or reconstructing their menu.
In many cases, however, the bars just “keep on keepin’ on” the same way they always have. As a result, we have a diverse collection of bars that function as a sort of time capsule in our city today. Interestingly, some of the most well-established taverns in Buffalo are located in areas undergoing major construction projects. It would be smart to bet that, for better or for worse, they will ride out the changes and emerge unscathed.
The Malamute Tavern
The Malamute on South Park has been open since 1958, and hasn’t changed much since 1977, when it crossed the street to its current location. Owned by Richard Pyszczek Sr. since 1965, the tavern primarily catered to workers from the nearby General Mills factory. Since it is located within the Cobblestone District, business is directly impacted by events at the HSBC Arena. It’s common to find the place packed with Sabres or Bandits fans on game night. When the season ends, the Malamute is populated mostly by its regulars–fans of the tavern who have been faithful patrons for years, or even decades.
Despite the radical changes going on around it such as the Buffalo Creek Casino, under construction across the street, the Malamute shouldn’t see a drastic change in business in the coming years. A recent trip here led to a conversation with the bartender about the potential impact of the casino on the tavern’s business. I came away convinced that the Malamute would continue as it always had. “We’re seeing a little spike in business now, from the construction workers,” she said, “but once it’s open, who knows?”
The Malamute’s bread and butter is industrial workers and sports fans. A flashy casino won’t change their taste in beer (my choice of Blue Moon was puzzling to my barmates, who stick with Bud) or cater to their after-work hang-out sessions. Although the overall impact of the casino on the cobblestone district can be (and has been) debated, my impromptu sociological survey seems to suggest the impact on the Malamute will be minimal.
In 1868, a young German immigrant named Fredrick Schrerier opened what was to become Ulrich’s Ellicott Street, a then-saloon/grocery neighboring a handful of breweries. Over the next few decades, it underwent some changes, but always kept the saloon portion of the business. In 1906 it was purchased by Michael Ulrich, who appropriately named it Michael Ulrich’s Saloon. Fast forward to 1954, when Jim and Erika Daley–the current owners–assumed control of the tavern, and brought to it a mix of German and Irish sensibilities.
54 years later, that mixture is still evident. The historically German bar, which holds the distinction of being “Buffalo’s oldest bar,” is packed for St. Patrick’s Day festivities. The seasonal Corned Beef and Cabbage dinner they offer is top-notch. Another fine menu item offered year-round is the Francis P. Hickey Sausage Sandwich. It can be had with bratwurst, Polish, or weisswurst, and is tempting to try just because of the name, which is that of Ulrich’s “all-time favorite customer”. The beer selection is also very good, featuring Flying Bison’s “Hoops Special Dark,” brewed just for Ulrich’s. Of course, German favorites Spaten and Warsteiner are also featured, as well as craft brews such as Great Lakes Brewery’s excellent Edmund Fitzgerald Porter.
If Fredrick Schrerier had the foresight to predict the 21st Century resurgence of the area around his little saloon, he would undoubtedly have been excited. Located in the heart of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, Ulrich’s is in a position to capitalize on the growth of one of the most exciting neighborhoods in the region. Local media outlets have recently publicized the financial troubles Ulrich’s is experiencing, painting a grim picture for the future of the tavern. This bar, however, is not a place that can die. It is far too important to our city to disappear. Given its history, the quality of its offerings, and the huge investments being made in the area around it, all signs would seem to point to its survival. Of course, this is entirely dependent on business. If you haven’t been to Ulrich’s, now is the time to go. If you have been there, go back, and bring a friend! I can’t recommend it highly enough.
The Malamute Tavern
211 South Park Avenue, 14204
674 Ellicott Street, 14203