Unlike today, in the 80s, being into alternative music, vintage clothing, piercings or body art could get you called all kinds of names. Unlike today, telling it like it is, even being a bit controversial, was a virtue.
Back in 1983, local restauranter Mark Supples opened The Pink Flamingo on Allen Street as a home for outspoken, tattooed weirdos and good music. Just a few weeks ago, this icon of local counterculture was still at it; creaking open the doors to House of Charm, a downtown Buffalo bar located in the former Angelica Tea Room.
Can Supples hold tight to his Gen X roots in this day and age? Well, at House of Charm, he’s trying. The bar’s official Facebook page has one post, the profile pic. You’d only know that it’s open by looking at the Hours of Operation.
“We never held a Grand Opening, advertised, or made any big splash,” he told me. “We just want to grow organically. That way, the word gets around among the right people, and we don’t get fuckin’ knuckleheads over here.
“You know,” he added, his voice lowering a bit,”we’re dangerously close to Chippewa, so we’re trying our hardest to discourage that kind of crowd.”
Having a warm personality and speaking with a deep Buffalo accent, Mark Supples is the kind of Salt of the Earth, foundational Gen Xer on which all of this New Buffalo stuff is built.
If you didn’t know, 1980s Buffalo was mostly considered a No Go Zone by suburbanites. That is, except for young Gen Xers who started flocking to places like The Continental and The Pink Flamingo. Not happy with the mainstream culture being offered at suburban malls, they knew the good, weird, fun shit was out there to be created and experienced. Heading into areas of Buffalo that were regularly featured on Eyewitness News was simply the price of admission.
This IYKYK spirit infused Supples’ most iconic creation. The Pink became such an institution in local underground culture, when the bar was sold in 1989 and it was renamed 223 Allen, people kept referring to it as “The Old Pink” — as they do today.
It’s hard to grasp just how influential The Pink has been over the years. In addition to being an incubator for bands like the Goo Goo Dolls and Every Time I Die, The Pink and its corner bar-on-mushrooms vibe has also spun off similar concepts in other cities. Casino El Camino, a bar in Austin, Texas, was opened by a former Pink DJ. In Chicago, Delilah’s not only features the same Elvis artwork and signature lighting, it also serves as a local BIlls Backers bar.
Supples obviously hit on a winning formula with The Pink, and I asked him if House of Charm is an updated version. He simply said it’s like “a Pink for grown-ups.”
“People who came into The Pink when I owned it are now in their 40s and 50s, and now you can give them nice things,” he explained. “The chairs are really comfortable here and we have nice art on the walls.
“It’s a great place to come,” he added, “great air conditioning.”
If you liked the decor at Angelica Tea Room, you’ll be happy to know that Supples and his team haven’t touched much.
“I’ve always loved the room, but I’ve just never been a fan of ar-tee-sanal cocktail bars,” he sniffed. “So, the room is still a beautiful room, but we’re going more for the feel of a neighborhood bar.”
To be honest, it doesn’t look like a bar from any neighborhood I know. Thinking it was still a craft cocktail bar on a recent visit with an old friend, I ordered a couple cocktails and it’s safe to say House of Charm won’t be replacing your favorite cocktail stop anytime soon. However, we did enjoy the $6 shot-n-pony-beer special, featuring a 7 oz Modelo beer a shot of George Clooney’s Casamigos tequila.
In addition to shots and beers, there is also a food menu. Bar snacks include an olive medley, cheese board and pâté. There’s also several different paninis available: prosciutto and fresh mozzarella; salami and roasted red peppers; grilled eggplant, red pepper and provolone.
While the space itself is good to look at, perhaps the most beautiful thing about House of Charm is its simplicity. A single high-def TV above the bar was switched off, but we were told the Bills game was on earlier. The pool table only takes quarters that you have to get from the bar. Because of course.
If The Pink ever did anything well, it was to feature good music, and if there’s one thread that connects House of Charm back to that lunatic-filled bar in the 80s — music is it. Supples said the music rotation at House of Charm is based on old alternative from the 70s and 80s, old country and classic R&B.
“That’ll drive the young kids crazy,” he said, maybe ironically. “A couple young guys came in the other night and I was playing old country: Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and stuff like that. They asked if I was gonna be playing ‘this kinda crap’ all night, and I said yeah pretty much. They got up and walked out.”
House of Charm
517 Washington St, Buffalo 14201
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Thursday 4 p.m. – 2 a.m., Friday and Saturday 4 p.m. – 3 a.m.
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