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Buffalo food legends: the 'Old Pink' steak sandwich

Old pink robyn conniff daytime bartender STEAK_7986115 
Rarely seen in daylight, the steak sandwich as presented by daytime bartender Robyn Conniff. Photo: Charles Lewis 

Even in Buffalo, a town with more than its share of food obsessions, few dishes can
legitimately boast of "street cred." But murmur "steak sandwich at the old Pink" to almost any
gathering of eaters who spent part of their youth in Buffalo, and heads start nodding like you
cracked the code.

"Pink" hasn't been part of the place's official name for years, but few who walk through the dim
doorway of the Allen Street Bar and Grill (223 Allen St. 884-4338) care. They're there for the
gloomy embrace of one of the city's classic dive bars.

Which just happens to make a killer steak sandwich, like it has since the late 1960s,
through a series of owners. It was an even meatier experience then, using a hunk cut off a
whole loin. Today, it's $10 out of your drink budget. But for that you get dinner and a show.

The bartender pulls a 12-ounce choice New York strip from the cooler, anoints the slab with
Worcestershire, salt and pepper, then slaps it on the grill. Despite the exhaust hood, the
aroma alerts everyone to the sizzling drama unfolding feet away.

If you want, Guinness-braised peppers and onions go on top, covered with cheese, all on a
juice-absorbing Constanzo's roll.

Regulars will tell you that the grill's iron grate, bearing the scorched grease of a
thousand midnight fires, adds an earthy, robust character to the sandwich. Proprietor Molly
Brinkworth shot that notion down - "we clean it every night" - but when she bought a new grill
last month? She did swap over the old grate.

"People say it changes the taste, so I just keep using the same grates," she said. Why would anyone mess with the mojo when it's strong enough to pull people right downtown from the airport?

"I don't get it," Brinkworth said. "I mean, I like the steak sandwich and everything, but
there are some people who get off the plane and come right here."

(The Old Pink Steak Sandwich's Facebook page is right here if you want to register as a fan.) 

 

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