What better feeling is there than a free beer chip in your pocket?
The city of Buffalo is filled with timeless dive bars kept busy by a hardworking community with an understandable soft spot for inexpensive watering holes. Jolly Jug ranks near the top of any list of timeless Buffalo dive bars, opened in 1966 and changed very little since. Though notably the sign on the outside of the building has been updated to include “Wifi” as one of the bar’s amenities, the communal, divey vibe is very much intact.
Jolly Jug was founded by a trio of business partners that included husband and Dolores & Wendell Eaton as well as Eugene Branch, who operated the bar for the duration of its existence until sadly passing away in May 2023. Branch was a retired steamfitter and frequent sight at the bar up until shortly before his passing. The Buffalo institution is now operated by Branch’s daughter, Christine Swain. Perhaps due to Branch’s steamfitter background, Jolly Jug has long catered to drinkers of all working schedules, the Amhert-area dive bar open from 8 AM to 3 AM most days.
The structure’s long history can be seen in its exterior construction where patches of stone, brick and cinder block combine along the dive bar’s walls. As expansion and repairs took place over the years, new materials were introduced, a brick “JJ” laid into one of Jolly Jug’s walls at one point. A long sign that proclaims “Food & Music & Wifi” above the name of the bar is inscribed with the Buffalo dive bar’s impeccable logo, a smiling jug (what else did you expect).
The Jolly Jug interior consists of a single room, a curved bar to one side and scattered seating throughout. Wood paneling pleasantly encircles the space, including along the small ledge along the ceiling that mirrors the curve of the bar underneath. Decorations may not be caked onto the walls as is sometimes customary for dive bars, but the selection is compelling, ranging from a framed photo of Buffalo Bills coach Marv Levy to a classical painting of a woman in a blue dress.
A large chalkboard next to the bar’s pool table contains the menu for the kitchen that “is always open” according to the board’s inscription. The Jolly Jug was at one time known for its goulash, but today the menu includes a range of sandwiches, soups and snacks, including a selection of breakfast offerings for those taking advantage of the bar’s 8 AM open time. A selection of food specials can be found on a complementary neon sign board nearby.
Jolly Jug of course takes part in the great Buffalo tradition of attractive happy hours and beer chips, a chip given to anyone who purchases a buy-one-get-one-free drink special that can be redeemed for a second, cold beverage when the first is finished. There are no beer taps at Jolly Jug, meaning the selection ranges from Genesee to a handful of craft offerings and everything in between.
Interestingly, among the many amenities marketed by the bar across its social media properties, the presence of an on-site notary is included, though anyone looking to certify a document at the Buffalo dive bar is encouraged to call ahead. Televisions are sprinkled throughout the space and a lone dart board can be found along the wall opposite the bar. Not to be missed is the mirror behind the bar etched with a familiar, smiling jug.