R&L stands for Ronnie and Lottie, the couple that run the Lounge. They belong on the marque because this place is really about them. Well into their golden years, Lottie still shuffles back to prepare Polish noshes from old country recipes while Ronnie tends bar.
R&L Lounge has been open since 1969. It feels well-preserved. The walls are covered with ephemera that tells the story of the neighborhood as well as old photos of Ronnie and Lottie.
The experience here is meeting, or better yet, reconnecting with the two of them. They aren’t pushy. If you’re just hungry, you can eat and go. But that would be a missed opportunity to hear tales of a bygone Buffalo, and of life in turbulant mid-century Poland. You are not, however, allowed to take your food away. It’s not that kind of place. Can you imagine asking your grandmother for lunch to-go?
In this setting, it’s difficult to resist cliches like “home cooking” and “feels like family.” We will say that this place is built on honor and familairity. It feels like a business that only a community could support — the polar opposite of a franchise. It’s very human, a place to feed body and soul.
Character aside, the food is worth a visit. Pierogi are different than what we’ve had elsewhere. Flat and with little filling, their focus is on the supple dough, fried perfectly crisp in butter. Golompki (cabbage rolls) also are tastefully under-filled, their focus on the tender cabbage wrap and a delicate tomato sauce. A combo plate comes with a small serving of both along with a thick slice of locally baked brown bread that Ronnie will lavishly butter for you. You’ll want it for the golompki sauce. Buttery bread aside, the dish has no frills or gimmicks. There isn’t much in the way of spice. Condiments aren’t offered. There are no ramekins of fried onions. It’s all as simple and honest as can be.
The food is handmade from well-practiced recipes. The bar banter is stories that have been told many times. It’s timeless, but not tired. The couple haven’t lost their talent for charming new customers over ice-cold beer and sizzling hot dumplings.