There’s an image of St. Patrick’s Day that’s been packaged by advertisers, sold by beer companies, and inhaled by the masses who annually drape themselves in green. This image is now as accepted as pumpkins on Halloween, and it lures folks into impersonal, beats-pumping bars with hanging shamrocks, emerald beads, and a hustling party staff dressed as leprechauns.
But aside all this hoopla is a more subtle and year-round celebration of Irish ethnicity, found inside sometimes overlooked locales whose neighborly camaraderie is the essence of genuine pub culture.
“The most important thing is right when you walk in,” said Mike Jordan, owner of South Buffalo’s Jordan’s Ale House. “The greeting’s warm, just like a nice Irish family. The staff’s nice and welcoming, and they never act like you’re bothering them. It’s always like, hey, I’m glad you’re here.”
Thankfully, Buffalo still has a lot of these places. They may not always show up on the city’s Top 10 list for St. Patrick’s Day debauchery, but they’re brand of céad míle fáilte—which means “a hundred thousand welcomes” in Gaelic—are ready to be discovered this holiday season.
555 South Park Ave.
Opened in 1934, the former iteration of the locale had aged with the dark bars and drop ceilings of its era, and its original patrons now sip their pints from the great beyond. But in 2014, new ownership rehabbed its confines to recover its old glory, lined its walls with Irish drinking artifacts from years past, and refreshed its necessary neighborhood tavern vibe—albeit still outside the mainstream of popularized St. Patrick’s Day fare.
The Blarney Castle
1856 South Park Ave.
Depending on the night, the Blarney—set back in its spot across from the A-District Buffalo Police Department—might give the impression that it’s closed for business. Not the case. Charming with its wood-paneled, whiskey jug-lined barroom, decorated stag heads and surprisingly spacious back dining room (which boasts a great seasonal fish fry), visitors can expect conversations over $4 Guinness pints and available frames on its Shuffle Inn bowling game.
222 Katherine St.
Remember when you’ve ventured into the Ward for the annual Shamrock Run or Old Neighborhood St. Patrick’s Day parade, and wondered why so many people were filing into a nondescript house a block behind Gene McCarthy’s? That’s Cook’s, and its interiors match your assumptions. Part basement bar, part church hall, and part block club beer blast, the place remains for its generations of neighbors who’ve called the place their second home—or those who appreciate a few Gennys with friends.
2423 Seneca St.
Opened in 1896 and still the type of place where you grab a stool and spread the kitty (pile of cash) on its intricately tiled bartop, Daly’s is everything you hope a century-old neighborhood bar to be. Classic decor surrounds its flip-page juke. Old hunting-themed beer ads still swing from the walls. Kodak shots of decades of patrons hang side by side. Everyone there knows each other—and if they don’t know you, they might know your family. If so, grab a cold beer and settle in for the art of Irish storytelling.
2455 Delaware Ave.
Maybe you’ve noticed the Notre Dame mascot emblazoned on the side of a nondescript Delaware Avenue locale. Or maybe you’ve heard it mentioned as Buffalo’s official Boston Red Sox bar, come baseball season. Either way, Murray’s is a place resplendent with the echoes of a dark and delightful tavern. Its square bar is conducive to some engaging tales between patrons over a few pops—and if this isn’t vital to the traditional Irish drinking experience, then nothing is.
107 Abbott Road
The former Stankey’s has been updated as an ideal under-the-radar joint to duck into for a pint, and one with plenty of Celtic street cred. Not only are its perfect pints of Guinness $5, but the bar is stewarded by the neighborhood-bred sister-brother team of Dawn and Mike Jordan. The former is a retired Buffalo firefighter, while the latter is the former lead singer and guitarist of local Irish rock band, Jackdaw. Will he spin some of his band’s Pogues-flavored music while you’re there? Possibly.
2794 Harlem Rd.
Dangling on the border of Cheektowaga, the cherished Harlem Road watering hole can’t claim an Irish neighborhood as its backdrop. But with its green-hued barroom—as well as its regular three domestic beers for $5.50 deal—roadside enclave Rafferty’s has enough to help you ignore its geography. And come the holiday season, visitors can stop in, cue up The Clancy Brothers on its juke and sing and dance just as loud as those crammed into Buffalo’s Irish Center.
Story topics: Food & Drink