Many bars and restaurants strive to be a ‘purple elephant’ – be something that stands out by offering something you won’t find anywhere else. This often translates to a destination bar or restaurant, something that offers unique classic dishes (elevated baked potatoes!) or a concept you won’t find anywhere else (fine sci-fi cuisine!).
Corner bars are the glaring exception to this rule. While some of these might lure people in with food or live music, the most successful ones involve flexing the familiar, providing a stasis that allows the outside world to temporarily melt away. A place where strangers can share stories about shitty bosses and the time they hit a deer.
That’s the idea behind the new South City Tavern.
“I remember my dad taking me to local bars in the 70s, and it was almost like the show Cheers: Everybody knew everybody,” says Dusty Rhodes, managing partner. Opening this kind of bar is harder than it looks. Regulars are fiercely loyal to their favorite bar. Rhodes knows it.
“You have a chance of winning someone over, especially people who already have their corner spot where they go Monday to Friday. If these people say hey let’s try this new South City place, we gotta make a good first impression.
“Your new customers need to feel like the staff really want them there, and they’re not just another ring on the cash register.”
The new tavern may have the shiny shine of a recent renovation, but the old Buffalo essentials are still here. Darts? Check. Beer signs? Check. Thurman Thomas jersey framed on the wall? Check. You know it and you love it.
If you need more than good vibes to refuel, South City serves up classic Buffalo pub grub. Big pub burgers towering over a side of fries. Cheese crusted pots of French onion soup. Quesadillas so stuffed that each slice requires two hands.
There are also chicken wings based on recipes developed at South City’s sister bar, The Old School Tavern on Clinton Street. Proud of his wings, Rhodes says there’s no need to leave Buffalo and go to a place like Bar-Bill.
“I don’t kick Bar-Bill’s wings,” he said. “They’re great, but it’s East Aurora, not Buffalo. When people are looking to get to the city of Buffalo for wings, it’s a long drive from downtown.
As well as being a watering hole with essential pub food, there’s also a weekly karaoke night, live music and occasional comedy nights. Rhodes says there are also plans for a darts league and regular trivia nights.
The South City Tavern is firmly rooted in the past. But that doesn’t mean he’s stuck in his ways. Rhodes says he regularly chats with other bar owners in the area to keep his finger on what locals are looking for.
“The local bar owners used to travel and go to other bars,” he says. “It stopped for a while, but now it’s starting to come back. For a while, things felt a bit fierce, where people saw each other as competitors. But now we’re starting to realize that we’re not really stealing customers from each other. We all have our regulars. So the more we can help each other, the better it will be for everyone.
Hours of operation at time of publication (subject to change): Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., Sunday and Monday CLOSED
Southern Town Tavern
1345 S Park Avenue Buffalo, NY 14220 • $$
Bar, Casual Dinner Service
South City Tavern is a newly renovated tavern located on South Park in Buffalo. We offer a variety of bottled beers and spirits and great food, banquets,…
Want to share information or news with us? Send us a note!