If you're in town for the NCAA with March 17 free, you've got the luck of the Irish.
March 17 is St. Patrick's Day, and Buffalo is world-famous for its celebrations. The big Sunday parade isn't until March 19, but the actual feast day has its own festivities. This year it falls on a Friday, the start of the weekend.
And on top of that, if you're Catholic, you don't have to worry about the no-meat-on-Friday rule because the bishop has lifted it. (But pssst: Just because the bishop has lifted the abstinence rule doesn't mean you can't savor a classic Friday fish fry. Buffalo is famous for this tradition.)
You know what they say, everyone is Buffalonian on St. Patrick's Day. Here are some ways to make the most of it.
Drop in on the Old Neighborhood -- the Valley and the Old First Ward, close to downtown. Gene McCarthy's Tavern (73 Hamburg St. 855-8948) has traditional Irish treats including potato bacon chowder, a Reuben salad, and a Friday fish fry.
Another time-honored neighborhood tavern is the Swannie House (170 Ohio St., 847-2898). It was popular among the Irish grain scoopers of more than a century ago and has an old-fashioned Buffalo bar menu. The new Tewksbury Lodge in RiverFest Park serves lunch daily from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner on Fridays from 5 to 10 p.m. Enjoy great water views, and grain elevator views, as well as Irish beer and menu items such as the Grain Scooper, the Peggy-O Salad, the corned beef Reuben, and your new best friend, the fish fry.
Join Irish Stroll Day, a pub crawl of downtown Buffalo. Meet at 5 p.m. in Canalside, at Pizza Plant (125 Main St., 626-5566). The pub crawl is $10. Your wristband will get you drink specials at participating pubs, including the Pan-Am Grill and Brewery, Brawler's Back-Alley Deli, Allen Burger Venture and Tap House Pub and Grill. A bonus: Pizza Plant, known for its pizza "pods," boasts a St. Patty's Pod, available through March 19. It's slow-cooked corned beef, potatoes and cabbage all wrapped up in green dough.
Our Lady of Victory Basilica (767 Ridge Road, Lackawanna, 828-9444) is a world-class tourist destination. The massive church, adorned with over 2,000 angels, is simultaneously beautiful and mind-boggling. Mass for the Feast of St. Patrick takes place at 12:10 p.m. And right after Mass is what is affectionately described as the world's shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade. It proceeds from the Basilica to the flag pole next to Lackawanna City Hall. The parade is "very brief, but very Irish," they say. Join the fun.
The Buffalo Irish Center (245 Abbott Road, 825-9535) is a historic anchor of Irish South Buffalo. It is offering free admission to its pub starting at 2 p.m., with live music at 7 p.m. Where else can you get Buffalo wings Guinness or Kells style? They also serve up a Kerry Club sandwich, shepherd's pie, and all the big Irish beers you can think of -- Harp, Killian, Smithwick, etc. The band Jackdaw plays the Emerald Room at 8 p.m. Admission to Jackdaw's show is $10.
The Shannon Pub, (2250 Niagara Falls Blvd., Amherst, 743-9348), has the ultimate in St. Paddy's Day amenities -- a tenor. Joe Head takes the bandstand at 3 p.m., playing guitar and singing Irish songs. The Dave North Trio follows at 6 p.m. Enjoy the World Famous Potato Chowder, salt potatoes, or the Paddy Melt (an Irish cheeseburger). There's also shepherd's pie, lamb stew, corned beef and cabbage, and Beef and Guinness Stew.
Sean Patrick's (3480 Millersport Highway, Amherst, 636-7209), is another big suburban Irish destination. It has a St. Patrick's Day buffet party ($30 adults, $14 kids 4-10) from 6:30-8:30 p.m. with Irish dancers and music till 10:30 p.m. by Penny Whiskey.