The term "singles bar" conjures up visions of men with gold chains and women in tacky outfits with too much hair spray - all served with a dose of desperation. That's not what I'm going for here. I'm writing about singles bars in the broadest sense.
Yes you can meet the person of your dreams, or help out a single friend as a wingman, at one of these establishments.
But, more than that, these are the bars where I enjoy hanging out, meeting friends, tipping back a drink and, perhaps making a love connection.
I've compiled the list based on thorough, first-person research, my years of often painful experience with the Buffalo nightlife, along with extensive interviews with male and female friends. It's written by a guy, but the principles cross gender lines.
Happy hunting (Warning: Past results do not guarantee future performance.)
Bar: Stillwater - 481 Delaware Ave.; 884-9283
Type of bar: Epicenter of the upscale Virginia-Allen corridor
If you like this, you'll also like: Mother's, Scarlet, Colter Bay.
Scene: The ceiling is painted to look like a starry night sky. You can walk around the place, to the low-ceilinged bar or up to the second floor, for a change of scenery.
You go here to find: Well-dressed, professional urbanites, older than the kids on Chippewa but younger than the folks in the 'burbs.
Hotness quotient: High, Bonus points for the women dressed in backless evening gowns.
Small-town Buffalo factor: You're going to run into an ex or a high school classmate.
Suggested pick-up line: [Glancing up at the ceiling] Is your father an astronaut? Because someone took all the stars from the shy and put them in your eyes.
Bar: So-Ho Bar - 64 Chippewa St.; 856-7646
Type of bar: Prototypical Chippewa Strip club.
If you like this, you'll also like: Club Level, 67 West, Sub Zero.
Scene: Check out the crowded upstairs deck during the summer, A frequent stop for bachelorette parties. Wraparound bar allows for a full walkabout to scope out options.
You go here to find: Pro-athletes. Young babes in low-cut form-fitting outfits. Beefy guys in muscle-hugging shirts. Those over 30 may feel out of place.
Hotness quotient: Scorching. Even McGahee would agree.
Small-town Buffalo factor: You'll run into a college pal.
Suggested pick-up line: I play for the Sabres.
Bar: Dock at the Bay - 3800 Hoover Road, Blasdell; 823-8247
Type of bar: That summertime Buffalo institution, the waterfront watering hole.
If you like this, you'll also like: Root Five, Shanghai Red's, Wilson Boathouse.
Scene: A large wooden bar outside begs you to order a daiquiri. The stone deck reaches out and touches Lake Erie, offering breathtaking views of a sunset and nearby windmills.
You go here to find: Locals. A few professionals, groups of friends, a mix of casual and formal.
Hotness quotient: It rises and falls depending on the temperature. But everyone looks better with that lake as a backdrop.
Small-town Buffalo factor: If you grew up in the Southtowns, it could feel like and episode of "This is Your Life."
Suggested pick-up line: See that yacht over there? Yeah, it's mine.
Bar: Blu Martini Bar - 424 Evans St., Williamsville; 631-2190
Type of bar: Where adults in the Northtowns let down their hair.
If you like this, you'll also like: Sole, Amherst Ale House, Creekview.
Scene: Blue backlit bar. Seats and tables line the sometimes unused dance floor, offering prime viewing of any writhing bodies. But it's brighter than it should be.
You go here to find: Professionals. Suburbanites who don't want to deal with the drive downtown, or anyone who prefers to drink martinis instead of a rum and coke in a plastic cup.
Hotness quotient: Pretty good. It's not Chippewa, but it's not a townie bar in the worst, babe-and-hunk-bereft sense of the term.
Small-town Buffalo factor: If you live in the city, you're safe.
Suggested pick-up line: Can I buy you an appletini?
Bar: Faherty's - 490 Elmwood Ave.; 881-9813
Type of bar: Classic Elmwood Strip tavern.
If you like this, you'll also like: Toro, Cole's, Cozumel
Scene: Dark inside, even when the front wall is open in the summer. Long wooden bar, booths running along the bar up front, pool tables in the back room. Prime seating out front.
You go here to find: Your buddies, their buddies, their roommates. People looking to meet people but not dressed like that's the main reason they're out. People out of college but young enough to stay out past 1 a.m.
Hotness quotient: It's there, but not as overt as Chippewa.
Small-town Buffalo factor: The Buffalo version of "Cheers."
Suggested pick-up line: Didn't my sister date your brother's college roommate?
Bar: La Luna - 52 Chippewa St.; 855-1292
Type of bar: Central spot for Latin dancing.
If you like this, you'll also like: Anywhere the Latin jazz Project is playing.
Scene: Dark enough to set the mood. The dance floor gives you an excuse to approach someone and, if successful, invade their personal space while moving to hot music.
You go here to find: A small pocket of diversity on the mostly vanilla Chippewa Strip. A lot of Latinos, but other ethnicities are well-represented. Fewer baseball caps than elsewhere on the Strip.
Hotness quotient: Good. The ability to dance well makes any man or woman seem sexier.
Small-town Buffalo factor: Low.
Suggested pick-up line: Care to dance this meringue with me?
Bar: Allen Street Hardware - 245 Allen St.; 882-8843
Type of bar: Hip Allentown site.
If you like this, you'll also like: Sample, Staples, Old Pink, Gabriel's Gate.
Scene: A small space that can fill up quickly. Not having a lot of room between the bar and the tables encourages forced intimacy.
You go here to find: Artists and hipsters from the West Side who look down on the club scene and who find Elmwood a bit too tame. A lot of people wearing black.
Hotness quotient: It's a funky kind of sexiness that might be hiding behind chunky glasses.
Small-town Buffalo factor: High potential for bumping into an ex.
Suggested pick-up line: You're a vegan? Me too.
Bar: Shadow Lounge - 1504 Hertel Ave.; 835-3975
Type of bar: Cool Hertel neighborhood bar.
If you like this, you'll also like: Sidebar, Gabel's, Checkers.
Scene: The red tablecloths match the stucco walls. The bands play in the back. The best nights are when Nikki Hicks or another chanteuse is performing.
You go here to find: North Buffalonians. People who took in a movie at the North Park Theater. You can dress up, but I've also seen people in shorts. Those in their 50s won't feel out of place.
Hotness quotient: The jazz ramps up the sex appeal.
Small-town Buffalo factor: Not enough to keep you away.
Suggested pick-up line: Let's go back to my place and listen to some Miles Davis.
So you don't want to meet someone at a bar
A lot of people don't like the bar scene. It's often easier to meet someone in less pressure-packed settings - preferably where there's a common interest to break the ice.
Pros: Easy to learn if someone is a vegetarian, a pet owner or a fan of your favorite brand of potato chips. Long check-out lines great for extended chats.
Cons: A lot of people are there to pick up provisions, not to be picked up. The temptation to use ill-advised, produce-influenced pick-up line may be too powerful.
Pros: A good place to meet people who are in shape. Pick the open treadmill next to a hottie and grab a captive audience.
Cons: Average guys like me have to compete with workout warriors. Don't approach target while sweating and red-faced.
Pros: You'll see them every day, so you can take your time. Complain about the boss to each other.
Cons: Did I mention that you'll see them every day? Great when you're starting to date, bad if it ends. Worse if you want to date someone else there.
Pros: You have a common interest, be it tennis, dancing, skiing, cooking, wine-tasting or pottery. A set schedule of sessions guarantees you'll see someone again next week.
Cons: Don't join unless you have - or can feign - interest. Can be expensive. Can break a leg skiing.
*Outdoor events/ concerts
Pros: People wear less clothes than they do during the winter. If the weather is good, everyone is happy. Booze is usually served.
Cons: Often too crowded. Lines for beer and food. Portable toilets. Rain.
Stephen Watson covers technology for the News.