Grand opening adds chapter to tale of Ulrich's Tavern
updated 11:43 PM , August 18, 2014
On the day of Ulrich's 1868 Tavern's official grand opening party, it's worth revisiting the feats and tribulations from the restaurant-bar's fascinating 146-year history.
But, as far as the News' digital records go, we can only roll back 21 years to trumpet Ulrich's posterity at 674 Ellicott St., where today's gathering kicks off at 3 p.m.
The block of Virginia Street between Washington and Ellicott will be closed off (see map at bottom), and German-American show band The Frankfurters and The Heritage Band will lead the entertainment that will also include complimentary hors d'oeuvres, two bars sponsored by Red Bull and tastings from Hamburg Brewing Company.
Explore our digital archives to appreciate the history surrounding one of Buffalo's oldest restaurants.
1993: Michael Levy charts Ulrich's history as a saloon and the ownership changes between Michael Ulrich (1906 to 1954) and the Daley family (1954-2012).
Quote: "During the dark days of Prohibition, the restaurant continued as a "dry" establishment, but the upstairs hall became a "speakeasy" known around town as the 'Hasenpfeffer Club.'"
2000: Janice Okun pens her first review of Ulrich's, highlighting its German-American heritage and refreshing attention to home-cooked meals -- even if that meant waiting a little longer for the famed potato pancakes.
Quote: "Big (make that huge) and crisp, the [potato] pancakes were made from chopped rather than grated spuds. Served with applesauce and/or sour cream, they were delicious.
2001: Okun notes in her Short Orders series that Daley proudly (and exclusively) sells Flying Bison's Pan-Am Light, a special centennial anniversary beer brewed locally. Buffalo's first local brewery since Prohibition, which will move to the Larkin District later this summer, had just celebrated its first anniversary in 2001.
Quote: A European blond bock, the beer has "the bock taste, but is not as heavy," Daley added. "It's a medium-body beer."
2002: James F. Daley Sr., the owner of Ulrich's from 1954 to 2000, dies unexpectedly at 73.
Quote: "He was the kindest, most upbeat man I ever knew," said his son, James F. Daley Jr. of Buffalo, who purchased Ulrich's from his parents in 2000. "He got up every day, went to work and always believed that this was going to be a great day."
2003: In her Cheap Eats review, Mary Kunz Goldman hands Ulrich's four out of five pennies.
Quote: "These were potato pancakes as God intended them to be - homey, grated spuds slapped in the pan with just the right touch of fat and served with applesauce and sour cream. They were universally adored."
2005: Donn Esmonde reflects on how the "ancient" Ulrich's Tavern serves as a meeting place for some of Buffalo's premier intellectuals, those pushing the known boundaries of biotechnology at the new Hauptmann Woodward Research Institute. The Ellicott Street tavern is ideally placed for post-work meetings for Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus workers.
Quote: "In Ulrich's back room, anything can happen. It is the place where social lubrication meets science, in search of the chemistry that cures our ills."
2005, pt. 2: A few weeks before Christmas, the News' Brenda Alesii spotlights Ulrich's for its cherry bread pudding finished with bourbon sauce, a "rich comfort food that brings people back to Christmases past."
Quote: "Daley likes to accompany his cherry bread pudding with a steaming mug of Rudesheimer Coffee, featuring black coffee, sugar, a shot of Asbach brandy and a lid of whipped cream."
2006: President Grover Cleveland could not get enough of Michael Ulrich's potato pancakes, as Brenda Alesii's story notes. The former Mayor of Buffalo and New York State Governor even had the Secret Service track down Ulrich -- who had moved from his post at the Niagara Hotel to a position as a beer wagon driver -- and have him craft the potato pancakes the President had previously housed.
Quote: "The president asked what smelled so good," recalled Jim Daley Jr. "He marched into the kitchen and asked for a batch. He had eight for dinner."
2008: Despite its changing clientele -- largely due to the blossoming of the medical campus -- Ulrich's Tavern has remained the same, Jay Rey writes. The article harkens back to Michael Ulrich's ownership all the way up to Jim Daley Jr.'s, and comments how Ulrich's, back in the 1990s, was once the lone operating building on the block in a dying neighborhood.
Quote: "As this small corner of Buffalo makes a comeback, so, too, is Daley's plucky little bar, which has survived everything from Prohibition to "urban renewal," from the loss of its blue-collar base to the emergence of a new breed of barflies."
2009: Travel Channel star Anthony Bourdain visits Buffalo to shoot a Rust Belt series for his show "No Reservations." Ulrich's, not surprisingly, is one of his stops.
Quote: Bourdain says: "Experience the basic, delightful duality of the Buffalo experience -- cold and harsh outside, warm and hospitable inside." Later, Bourdain would refer to Buffalo as a "weirdly wonderful" city.
2010: Joan Barone McDonald's Bar Tab on Ulrich's hones in just as much on Ulrich's bar history -- like its 1889 oak-back bar -- as the myriad beer options, which range from Pilsner Urquell to Spaten Munich.
Quote: "People toast with shots of Irish whiskey and sing along with Tom [Callahan] while downing liver dumpling soup and sausage and sauerkraut. The whole scene is almost surreal, like we've been dropped into the middle of a Ballybunion pub along with a darn good German cook."
2010: Current food editor Andrew Galarneau pens an Out to Eat on Ulrich's potato pancakes, which are actually a time-consuming masterpiece, he learns.
Quote: "People say, 'Just make [the potato pancakes] ahead of time.' But then they don't taste good," said Jim Daley Jr.. "To me, the difference is like chicken wings at a good place, right out of the fryer -- they're crispy, they're nice. You order them to go and a guy delivers them 25 minutes later, the steam's got to them, they're all right but they're not what you really wanted."
Aug. 4, 2012: Ulrich's Tavern is seized by the State Department of Taxation and Finance for non-payment of back taxes. The Ellicott Street watering hole owes over $205,000 to the state and $65,000 to the IRS, Samantha Maziarz Christman notes.
Aug. 24, 2012: Ulrich's files for bankruptcy yet plans to reopen Sept. 4 -- less than two weeks later, Christmann adds in her follow-up article.
Sept. 5, 2012: Ulrich's officially reopens with a party in collaboration with Flying Bison Brewing Co., and German bar-tavern owner Jim Daley Jr. promises to run a "much tighter financial ship."
Oct. 8, 2013: After failing to keep up with its bankruptcy plan, Ulrich's Tavern is forced to close for good.
Feb. 14, 2014: Andrew Galarneau reports that Tom Eoannou has purchased the Ulrich's Tavern building and Snooty Fox owner Sal Buscaglia has announced plans to reopen the historic restaurant-bar as Ulrich's 1868 Tavern.
Quote: "There was a whole list of people who wanted to buy this building," Eoannou said. "My purpose was to keep this the way it was, Buffalo's oldest bar, essentially I didn't want it changed."
April 8, 2014: A late-May opening date is announced for Ulrich's 1868 Tavern under Buscaglia's ownership. A new 10-line draft-beer system is planned, while much of the building and brand's character will be kept intact. A stained-glass-inlaid back bar, however, adds a new touch to a relic.
July 21, 2014: Galarneau explains that Ulrich's 1868 Tavern served the public through a soft-launch beginning June 25 and scheduled its grand-opening party for Aug. 18.
Quote: Months of painstaking restoration work has already drawn the thanks and appreciation of generations of Buffalonians, said Buscaglia. “I’ve had generations come in, families,” he said. “One guy says ‘This guy in the picture is my great-uncle,’ and this guy was a 60-year-old gentleman. He says, ‘This guy in this other picture is my great-grandfather.’ And he was in with his son.
Aug. 18, 2014: The official grand opening is just another step in proud-yet-tumultuous history. Join the celebration.