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A Culinary Icon: The Steak Sandwich at the Old Pink

            Many
Allentown frequenters know of the Old Pink on Allen Street, a local dive bar,
and its memorable status within Buffalo nightlife. However, unlike most other
bars, Old Pink earns as much attention for its steak sandwich as it does for
its beverages and musical guests. While most people would assume a steakhouse would be the first-choice option for a steak lover,
The Old Pink’s steak sandwich can prove this assumption wrong. Not only does
the Old Pink steak sandwich have over 1,000 Facebook fans, its Facebook page is
devoted solely to the sandwich and is unendorsed by the Old Pink! So how does
an unadvertised menu item at a bar earn such a following? Buffalo Rising
decided to talk with Molly Brinkworth, who has managed the Old Pink for 20
years, to learn about the steak sandwich’s history and how it became a Buffalo
icon.

            According
to Molly, the Old Pink created its steak sandwich in 1968 after her father and
uncle, Dennis and Kevin Brinkworth, drew inspiration from a small restaurant in
New York City. For their grilled steaks and steak sandwich, the restaurant used
the entire loin of a strip steak. Although today the Old Pink does not use the
entire loin for their sandwich, Dennis and Kevin found the recipe so delicious
that they brought the idea home with them. The steak sandwich uses the best
quality rolls available, similar high-quality steak today and with traditional
toppings of peppers, onions, and cheese. However, these familiar toppings are
spiced up with a secret ingredient that adds a special touch to the steak.
Although Molly was reluctant to reveal the secret to us today, she hinted that another
employee told Buffalo Rising in the past what that secret ingredient is (so
look in the archives!)

Almost immediately after
Dennis and Kevin Brinkworth brought the new steak sandwich idea to Old Pink,
the restaurant began selling the item. It has been offered since with no hiatuses,
even as the restaurant management occasionally changed. As Brinkworth noted,
“[when my father] rented [the Old Pink] out to another person, they offered the
sandwich too, so it’s kept up.” Still today, the steak sandwich has retained
its status on the restaurant’s menu while other aspects of the restaurant have
changed. Even the recipe has never been, and never will be, altered in the
slightest. As Molly noted, “for 20 years it’s been like this, and we’ll keep it
like this for the next 20.”

old pink steak sandwich-thumb-375xauto-10965.jpg

              The traditional recipe has rightfully
been kept consistent, as it made an indelible impression in the Buffalo
community that has not wavered over time. The sandwich, which gained widespread
attention due to word-of-mouth recommendations, was revealed to be a hit to the
Brinkworths as other local restaurants and bars started to prepare their strip
steak in a similar way.

The sandwich’s popularity
in the Buffalo community expanded as the item became part of a Buffalo
tradition. As Brinkworth notes, “everyone has their own favorite steak sandwich
story,” sharing many of the restaurant’s stories. She tells of one memorable moment
in the history of the Old Pink steak sandwich. Nelson Starr made a visit to the
Old Pink to premiere the steak sandwich and the popular grilled bologna
sandwich on No Reservations, a
television show highlighting food from different cultures and locations.
Additionally, she shared another humorous story. When the Old Pink received a
call from GQ Magazine asking about the sandwich, she misinterpreted the call as
a prank call from her brother and acted sarcastic to the caller. Although she
says she feels bad for being rude to the legitimate caller, she says that in
retrospect “it is a pretty funny story.” However, word-of-mouth and storytelling
have worked as trustworthy advertisements for the steak sandwich on their own. The
reliance on customer satisfaction has gained the local favorite attention
nationally from popular television shows and magazines!

What is even more
incredible is the Old Pink’s dedication to maintaining the quality of their
sandwich is the fact that the restaurant earns little profit off sandwich sales.
As Molly notes, the business “likes the sandwich so much, we keep the sandwich [on
the menu] although it only makes 50 cents per sandwich. [Since] the sandwich
uses steak that would cost 18 dollars [at a minimum] in another restaurant, and
we only charge 10 dollars for the sandwich, we are making no real profit.” However,
the sandwich’s positive impact on the business as a whole exceeds the slight
drawback of the sandwich’s lack of profit.  As she notes, people often come to the bar solely for the
sandwich itself, but then buy a drink or two, and become frequent customers to
the bar. The unique influence the sandwich has on the bar, and the bar has on
the steak sandwich itself is one that cannot be found elsewhere.

For a restaurant that has taken
such a distinctive approach to their business, a Facebook page devoted to the
sandwich seems to be an uncharacteristic marketing choice. However, it made
more sense when we learned that the Facebook page was an unofficial fan page
that even Molly herself was unaware of! When Molly learned Buffalo Rising decided
to cover a story based on the Facebook page, she said, “I was not aware of the
Facebook page, but I am flattered [to hear about it].” However, she would like
to contribute her own opinion to the page. As she replied, “I’d like to look up
the page now and add my own two cents!” The fact that the page became so
popular without the business owner’s knowledge of its existence is an
impressive testament to the sandwich’s profound impact on the business.

            Our
visit to the Old Pink also provided another testament to the one-of-a-kind
environment at Old Pink beyond Molly Brinkworth’s comments and Facebook
reviews. The bar’s atmosphere also likely plays a role in the success of the
sandwich, and the business as a whole. Its close-knit atmosphere reflects
Buffalo’s reputation as a friendly city. When regulars visited the bar, Molly
and bartender Nick remembered their favorite drinks down to the smallest
details. They included their customers in their conversation about the Facebook
page about the sandwich, clearly valuing their customer’s input. Perhaps the
social atmosphere at the Old Pink also contributes to the steak sandwich’s
following.  If you are exploring
bars or even looking for great food in the Buffalo or Allentown area, it is
worth checking the Old Pink out. The sandwich costs $10 and Old Pink is located
on 223 Allen Street, and can easily be spotted on Allen Street due to its wall,
a bright blue background covered in yellow and orange flames. Try a steak
sandwich in the near future and celebrate this marvelous Buffalo business. 



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Bartender Nick waits on customers at Allen Street’s Old Pink. 


Top image is of Joey “Dynamite” Andriaccio wearing a Blackhawks’ jersey given to him by Pat Kane. 


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