Tavern 414 opened its doors in the Chippewa District last week. The building that houses the restaurant has a storied history, starting off as The Buffalo Oyster Company, before becoming a luncheonette speakeasy in the 20’s. After that it transitioned into Stage Door, an infamous burlesque strip club run by a one armed barker by the name of Frankie Martin. At one point in there it was the Back Stage (a disco where retired strippers would hang out – lead image). Eventually the place reopened as Garvey’s, then Star Bar, Desiderio’s, and then finally Barcelona.
The owner of Tavern 414, Chris DeBernardis, has been in the industry for a while, and is a partner at Average Joe’s and former partner at The Thirsty Buffalo. As for his new tavern adventure, Chris told me that they took all the drywall off the walls (exposing the original brick), hung tin ceilings, built a brand new bar, removed the old stage, wrapped the columns in wood, and added enough back bar features to accommodate a 24-beer tap system. Beers range from Tyskie (for Dyngus Day) to a handful of locally brewed craft beers. There’s also a full bar.
After learning that the restaurant was open, I figured that I would pop in for lunch. I couldn’t believe it when I ran into the former owner of Ulrich’s, Jim Daley, behind the bar. He was the one who clued me into the history of the place (of course). He also suggested that I order the chicken ciabatta and handcut fries, prepared by chef Allie Demers who just moved back to Buffalo from Park City. The suggestion was spot on. The chicken sandwich was fixed with basil pesto, sundried tomatoes, balsamic glaze, and fresh mozzarella. To tell you the truth, when it came out I wasn’t sure if I was going to dig it. The presentation was super simple – tavern style I suppose. But it turned out to be tender, very tasty, and surprisingly filling. Because I was so happy with the food, Allie brought me out a giant skillet chocolate chip with Bailey’s whip cream. I could only eat a sliver, because I was stuffed… although diehard cookie lovers will go nuts for the concoction, so save some room for dessert.
Tavern 414 also features skillet mac and cheese, wings, a medley of salads, six pub sandwiches, and an American-looking dinner menu that includes flatbreads, potato croquettes, and pierogis. If you’re not up for a meal, Jim will be sure to place a small bowl of popcorn in front of you.
Restaurant manager Parker Hoffman told me that they used a 150 year old wine barrel as a server station – an aesthetic element that I thought was very clever, and complements the brass bar rails. The other idea that I liked was the concept of featuring live music during dinner hours on Fridays, and possibly additional days if it warrants (starting soon). There are not a lot of places around where one can catch a live band and have a relaxed dinner at the same time.
Tavern 414 is a fine addition to the Chippewa restaurant scene. The seating capacity is around 100, which means that it’s perfect for small or large parties. The food is prepared fresh and fast, and the central bar can accommodate a sizable crowd for Sabres and Bills games.
Don’t just save this one for the next time you’re heading to a theater performance. Tavern 414 is a great setting for any time that you’re looking for a casual bar/dining outing, with friends, clients, or anyone else who loves these types of old style Buffalo favorites.