I recently learned about a blog that is written by Lisa M., who not only lives in Kaisertown, but also talks it up whenever she can. It’s “A Love Letter to Kaisertown in Buffalo, NY”. The blog is meant to be fun and show the positive side of a place that she is happy to explore (and share with others). It’s a part of the Buffalo experience that I personally am not overly familiar with, although a friend of mine just pulled up stakes from Elmwood and relocated his retro antique shop to Clinton in the same neighborhood.
From timeless corner pubs to ethnic eateries, Kaisertown is full of all sorts of obscure havens that add to the eclectic and historic nature of Buffalo. Lisa has agreed to allow us to pick up some of her content to share with Buffalo Rising readers. That’s great news for those of us who would much rather frequent an urban mom and pop pub than eat at the Olive Garden. You can see Lisa’s entire blog here.
Before getting right into the first business segment, I want to feature Lisa’s initial entry that recounts the formations of her move to Kaisertown:
Living Here In, Kaisertown?!?
“We’re moving to Kaisertown!”
“What? Why? Where even IS that?”
This is the reaction you might expect from your family and friends when announcing that you’re packing up your apartment in Parkside and moving to the heart of Kaisertown.
For those who don’t know, Kaisertown is located on the East side of Buffalo, bordered by the 90, the 190 and the Buffalo River. Clinton Street runs through its center and it has traditionally been known as a Polish, working class neighborhood.
I find Kaisertown enthralling. I suppose I’m often attracted to areas that are rich with a sense of Americana, and walking around Clinton Street it’s easy to imagine what Kaisertown was like in its heyday. It’s as retro as it comes in Buffalo and provides a sense of nostalgia. Kids still play on the streets. Neighborhood bars were (maybe still are?) a mainstay. You can walk to a hardware store and talk to the owner. His name will be Bill and he’ll welcome you to the neighborhood.
I’m sure that there are those who would question this choice. The neighborhood has changed in recent years. Many families have moved from Kaisertown into the suburbs, leaving an older generation to mix with a supply of absentee landlords and their neglect. There are many empty storefronts on Clinton Street and several homes in foreclosure. It seems more a place that Buffalonians drive through during their daily commute than one in which they are interested in participating.
Kaisertown has much to offer the people of Buffalo. It’s a walkable community with a very affordable housing stock (especially if you’re willing to use a little elbow grease). It has a rich history and boasts many meticulously maintained homes and properties. It’s a blue collar neighborhood, and one that it’s residents take pride in.
It’s my hope that this blog shows what Kaisertown has been and can be again. It’s important to prevent sections of the city like Kaisertown, Lovejoy and Riverside from falling into disrepair. Part of preservation and planning should be working to proactively preserve such areas. With all of the growth and real estate battling in trendy neighborhoods, perhaps shining a spotlight on some fringe neighborhoods would add a bit more depth to Buffalo and give more affordable housing options to its residents.
So Kaisertown, here begins my love letter to you.
Now, onto one of Lisa’s posts that features a retro Polish lounge that most of us have probably never even heard of before…
Scenes from a Kaisertown Restaurant
I’ve lived in WNY my entire life except for college (plus a couple years to sow my wild oats in the dirty south). It amazes me how many places I am still discovering.
This weekend I stumbled upon a great find – Ray’s Lounge & Catering at 2070 Clinton St. The building is massive and a newcomer doesn’t really know what to expect, but once inside you’re sure to be delighted. The bar is RETRO, the glassware is RETRO, the beer is RET…well the beer is Polish. But Polish beer at a retro bar was a great start to my weekend.
Ray’s is only open to the public on Friday nights and while there are many menu options, most go there for the Polish buffet. The buffet is a good deal ordinarily at $12.95, coming with pierogi, sausage, kraut, breaded fish, salad, soup, rye bread, assorted cold mixed salads and breaded shrimp. However, those in the know (now including you!) realize the first Friday of the month is where it’s at because that’s the only time that the porkchops are on the buffet.
Ray’s is only open on Friday’s because it’s usually rented out for weddings, showers and other events. The place is massive so if you have an upcoming gathering you may want to check it out (dum dum da dum!)
Long and short of the story- get to Ray’s. Whether it’s the first Friday of the month or not, you’re bound to get a good deal, eat some good Polish food and have some fun!
Ray’s Lounge & Catering | 2070 Clinton Street | Buffalo, NY 14206 | (716) 824-3227
Lisa’s Twitter: @lmench