Whether off the city streets of Dublin, aside the Atlantic coast in Doolin or amid the acoustic echoes of Galway, Ireland’s pubs have always been about one thing: the people.
The same goes for the Irish-leaning locales of South Buffalo. Whether straddling bar stools and exchanging stories with family, hanging placards for friends’ stags or hovering over high tops after trudging through another church-sponsored 5K, the neighborhood haunts have always been accommodating to this type of traditional communion.
So now in the month that celebrates the Irish and their patron saint, what better time is there to gather with friends, map out a plan and discover (or return to) some of the city section’s finest barrooms? And with each stop, why not raise a glass to an individual of Irish descent that’s, in an appropriate or completely obscure way, connected to each address?
Consider it a way to vary your typical St. Patrick’s season routine, all while sharing some pints with the people that make your life worth living.
Set your course – and Sláinte.
2134 Seneca St. (825-9327)
Beers on tap: 17
Stop in: for local craft drafts aside a comforting fireplace; for a perfectly poured pint of Guinness not far from a Wolfe Tones-signed bodhran; or for the chance to see a man do pushups on the bar for every Notre Dame football point scored on game day.
Raise a glass to: the Rev. Matthew Walsh, 11th president of the University of Notre Dame.
Reason for Sláinte: After competing under such monikers as the Catholics and Ramblers in the late 1800s and early 1920s, Walsh officially assigned the name “Fighting Irish” to the university’s athletics in 1927 – and gave the ’thorn a reason to cheer.
The Blarney Castle
1856 South Park Ave. (824-5858)
Beers on tap: 5
Stop in: to take a selfie with a green bowtie-wearing deer head; to toss back bottles of Genny beside pics of green-strewn parade floats; or for frames on the bar’s vintage Shuffle Inn bowling game.
Raise a glass to: Mick Barry, legendary Irish road bowler.
Reason for Sláinte: The late County Cork native never challenged Blarney’s bar game, but he’s regarded as Ireland’s greatest road bowler. He holds numerous records in the 300-year-old game that consists of whipping a 28-ounce cannonball down a country road.
Brick Oven Bistro
910 Abbott Road (844-8496)
Beers on tap: 18
Stop in: for some thin-crust beef-on-weck pizza; to sample South Buffalo’s best draft selection; and for just the right blend of barroom-hosted Italian and Irish influence.
Raise a glass to: Patti Scialfa, guitarist for the E Street Band.
Reason for Sláinte: Boasting a Sicilian father and Belfast-born mother, the New Jersey-bred songstress settled down Springsteen, inspired the Boss’ underrated “Red-Headed Woman,” and is reason to believe the Bistro’s ethnic meld can work.
382 Abbott Road (725-6072)
Beers on tap: 15
Stop in: to feast on one of Buffalo’s most underrated fish frys; to think about joining the bar’s stainless steel-hoisting mug clubs; or to celebrate the surname Conlon, which comes from the union of Gaelic words for “hound” and “lion.”
Raise a glass to: Gerry Conlon, wrongly imprisoned member of the Guildford Four.
Reason for Sláinte: One of four arrested and falsely convicted – based on fabricated evidence – as an IRA operative by the English government in 1974, Conlon spent 14 years in prison before his innocence was proven. His story inspired the Daniel Day-Lewis film, “In the Name of the Father.”
474 Abbott Road (436-3302)
Beers on tap: 9
Stop in: to check out the recently reopened digs of the longtime Abbott Road favorite; to judge whether the new Smitty-style wings are as good as the old Smitty-style wings; or to challenge your friends in a game of “who knows the most Sullivans,” the third populous Irish surname behind Murphy and Kelly.
Raise a glass to: the Sullivan brothers, soldiers in World War II.
Reason for Sláinte: Albert, Francis, George, Joseph and Madison Sullivan all died with the sinking of the USS Juneau by Japanese torpedo fire in November 1942. Their story was the inspiration for the film “Saving Private Ryan,” and their surname now graces the USS The Sullivans at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval Park – and a bar in South Buffalo.
The Hop Inn
317 Hopkins St. (464-3778)
Beers on tap: 10
Stop in: for an order of the bar’s cinnamon-kissed Hate wings; to hoist shots of Jameson next to a picture of my great grandfather (in a straw hat); or for heavy servings of vinyl-hosted hits spun behind the bar.
Raise a glass to: Phil Lynott, former frontman of Thin Lizzy.
Reason for Sláinte: Before his death at 36 in 1986, the Dublin-born bassist entered Ireland into 1970s hard-rocking rotation, producing Hop Inn-hosted vinyl cuts like “Jailbreak,” “The Boys Are Back In Town” and the only good rock cover of “Whiskey in the Jar.” (Sorry, Metallica.)
Hopper’s Rush Inn
2104 Seneca St. (825-9389)
Beers on tap: 3
Stop in: for $2.50 Molson bottles outside a stag inside the bar’s Irish Room; to start your campaign for the Jim “Pooie” Penders Man of the Year award; or to cue up flip-page-hosted tracks on the bar’s Rowe AMI juke.
Raise a glass to: Glen Hansard, Irish singer/songwriter.
Reason for Sláinte: Before he formed the Frames, starred in the film “Once” or performed as the Swell Season with one-time girlfriend Marketa Irglova, Hansard appeared in the Irish cult classic, “The Commitments.” That film’s soul-fueled soundtrack can be found on Hopper’s juke.
The Nine-Eleven Tavern
11 Bloomfield Ave. (825-9939)
Beers on tap: 6
Stop in: to challenge your friends on the bar’s silicone-salted shuffleboard; raise Flying Bison pints aside an impressive array of personal Bills photography; or to slather your face in the bar’s distinctive sweet (and scorching) wing sauce.
Raise a glass to: Maureen O’Hara, legendary Irish actress.
Reason for Sláinte: When hovering over a plate of Nine-Eleven’s red-hued wings, it would be appropriate to toast one of the silver screen’s most iconic redheads. The Ranelagh-born O’Hara earned an honorary Oscar before her death in 2015 for memorable roles in such films as “The Quiet Man” and “Miracle on 34th Street.”
425 Potters Road (824-1353)
Beers on tap: 6
Stop in: to wish its staff congrats on the bar’s recent 10-year anniversary; to knock back Fireball shots aside Bishop Timon memorabilia; or to longingly gaze at neighboring Cazenovia Park Golf Course while waiting for Calloway-appropriate weather.
Raise a glass to: Rory McIlroy, PGA golfer.
Reason for Sláinte: While sneaking that fairway peak from the Potter’s Field barroom, one may envision taking swings reminiscent of the Northern Ireland native. Winner of two PGA championships and ranked No. 3 in the world, McIlroy is Ireland’s best golfer — but has yet to play the nine-hole Caz course.
2056 South Park Ave. (825-9279)
Beers on tap: 6
Stop in: for rounds inside one of South Buffalo’s most cherished corner taverns; information about the world’s shortest St. Patrick’s Day parade; or for acoustic and electric sets from Buffalo Music Hall of Fame-heralded talent.
Raise a glass to: Liam Clancy, Irish folk singer.
Reason for Sláinte: The last living member of Ireland’s first family of folk when he died in 2009, Clancy hung out with Bob Dylan, stylized the Aran sweater, and gave generations of Irish an everlasting soundtrack of rebel ballads. And if he ever rumbled into Talty’s, he and his Takemine acoustic guitar would have fit right in.