As head-turning a dive bar exterior as any Buffalo offers.
While The Old Pink may grab Buffalo’s national dive bar notoriety, few bar exteriors can match the weathered, chipped paint glory of Electric Avenue Café located in the heart of the city’s downtown district. The script, red lettering along the side of the building sits atop what looks like an ancient white paint scheme fighting for its life along the city street corner its building sits on.
Buffalo’s Electric Avenue Café was opened in 1981 as a reggae club and has persisted largely untouched ever since. The dive bar sits on the ground floor of a large apartment building, the white brick that rings the space distinguished by its color and a stretch of exterior molding that separates living space from drinking space. Sister business and live music venue Mohawk Place is found next door to Electric Avenue Café, creating a potent beer and live event combo in downtown Buffalo.
Rick Platt, whose father opened the original incarnation of Electric Avenue Café, manages the space today, combining efforts with Mohawk Place, which Platt purchased out of foreclosure and reopened in 2014. Live music next door has on occasion spilled over into Electric Avenue Café, making use of a small carve out in the corner of the interior space. Local artist Ramon Dennis painted an intense and quite large futuristic cityscape mural in the rear of the space, adding to Electric Avenue Café’s eclectic appearance.
But despite its music-tinged relationship with Mohawk Place, Electric Avenue Café is about as classic as a dive bar can be, catering to locals and regulars. On weekday afternoons, regulars play volume-on Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy, the ideal day drinking dive bar backdrop. While there is no food to speak of within Electric Avenue Café, not one by two types of jerky can typically be found behind the bar. The space here is deceptively large, enough room for a central, U-shaped bar flanked by pool, darts, pinball and a jukebox filled with staff-made mix CDs.
The Buffalo dive bar’s exterior windows are pleasantly tinted, making for a trademark dive bar-friendly dimly lit vibe. A lone television hangs behind the bar to provide a bit of distraction when needed, but the circular setup of the bar encourages conversation. A bit of additional seating can be found in the nooks and crannies of Electric Avenue Café, from the small table in the front window to the padded booths that flank the bar’s pool table in back.
Equally interesting to the functional set of dive bar amenities is the small collection of either broken or deactivated ex-entertainment devices like the odd malfunctioning pinball machine or a darkened arcade prize game. Though lighting can be tough to come by further into the space, seeking out the pool table’s back room is worth the effort thanks to the mural that runs along its back wall and a few very dive bar-like framed odds and ends sprinkled along the bar’s walls.
Though Electric Avenue Café isn’t quite as caked with signs and knick-knacks as some dive bars, a few bursts of activity can be found, including a sticker-covered air conditioning unit in the corner of the bar’s main room. The drinking done here is accompanied by a red glow thanks to a sprinkling of beer sign neon, including prominent PBR and Genesee pieces.