When weather allows, skip the interior and head right for the patio.
One way to determine the age of a devoted dive bar drinker in Buffalo may be to ask whether they remember Del Denby’s Tavern in its original state, a dive bar in every sense of the term opened in north Buffalo in the 1970s. At that time, the white wooden panels out front blended seamlessly with a hair salon next door, almost obscuring the Buffalo dive bar from view. Inside, a rustic bar, a barely-used secondary space and yes, more wood paneling, created the quintessential dive bar experience.
Opened and operated by Delbert Denby for more than 40 years, ownership was passed to current owner John Daly in 2015. The purchase came after an initial inquiry by Daly was rebuffed before a call out of the blue came later, offering Daly the chance to buy the bar. The offer did come with one caveat, that Daly agree to the purchase by the next day. Daly did so and set to work renovating the space, preserving elements where possible and changing the space entirely in other places.
The tin roof found inside the North Buffalo dive bar today is a replica of the original, refinished in spots and augmented with new, matching pieces in some areas. A large glass window exists where there was once white paneling and small suggestions of windows, opening up the space to the walkable neighborhood that surrounds Del Denby’s. Just as Del Denby’s has grown over the years, so too has the bar’s surroundings, an area now dotted with high-end restaurants and small businesses.
Accordingly, the vibe within Del Denby’s is now a bit more in line with an upscale Irish pub than it is a true Buffalo dive bar. The bar’s back patio serves as a kind of oasis and popular gathering spot when the Buffalo weather allows, the deceptively impressive seclusion a bonus for what is a fairly dense north Buffalo commercial zone. The centerpiece to this new iteration of Del’s (as it is known officially today) is the bar itself, a reclaimed piece that once sat in Buffalo’s Werner Building before being dismantled and freshly installed at Del’s instead.
Though the hints of Del Denby’s past as a true dive certainly exist within the space, the shotgun-style bar feels more like a symptom of the light gentrification that has swept through the bar’s corner of north Buffalo. And while there might be some regret about missing out on the divey roots of Del Denby’s, these types of reclamation projects are the types of projects that preserve spaces, even if they are predictably altered to match the ambitions of a new owner or the financial fortunes of a particular neighborhood.
All told, there are certainly worse places to grab a beer and bar’s spacious back patio is a worthy destination during that slim window of favorable Buffalo weather. A handful of wire patio tables atop an artificial grass surfaces provides a good balance of seating and space, allowing for a communal vibe without choking the area with furniture and table obstructions. Umbrellas are prevalent, thankfully, and a handful of gas-fired cauldron-style fire rings extend the seasonal viability of this bar backyard. Keep an eye out for the faded black and white Del Denby’s sign that hangs here among the trees that line the rear of the property line.