Over the past two decades, the characteristics of the neighborhood sports bar have changed.
Gone are the solitary tube TV, overflowing ashtrays and a dependency on barstool-straddling old-timers, sipping Genny pounders from a juice glass and lamenting the American League’s addition of the designated hitter.
Now, locales are regularly inundated with iPhone-scrolling draft denizens who expect locally brewed beers, gargantuan appetizers and access to league-sponsored cable packages on no less than a dozen overhead screens.
Since opening in 2003, Buffalo Sports Garden on Route 20 in Orchard Park has followed that playbook. The neighborhood hot spot boasts all the necessary accentuates of a modern-era sports stop.
But along with offering Buffalo-focused craft drafts, renowned wings and endless televised action inside a barroom lined with Bills, Braves and Sabres memorabilia, the roadside outpost has also deftly navigated another shift inside the modern sports bar: the need to accommodate families alongside freewheeling fans.
Whether because of its popular lunch and dinner menus, hybrid restaurant/bar space or, most importantly, its rear game room with Super Chex, NASCAR racing and a variety of crane-claw arcade machines, the place is as popular with parents and children as it is for Yankees fans chugging rounds of Rusty Chain.
BSG provides welcoming environs for families looking to follow youth hockey skates or Little League tilts with an afternoon or early night meal. And with the bar’s Shorty’s Menu - with items like grilled cheese, spaghetti and burgers for kids 12 and younger - there’s something for everyone, all while Dad, Mom or the whole gaggle gets to watch the games of the day.
But let’s be clear: Despite its adaptability to the familial element, Buffalo Sports Garden is not the modern incarnation of a liquor-licensed Showbiz Pizza Place. The locale is necessarily multifaceted, just as any suburban neighborhood’s cherished dining and social hub should be.
On a recent Saturday visit, I enjoyed a pint of Big Ditch Hayburner ($4.50) while this dynamic filled every corner of the friendly space. Couples, singles and older men enjoyed drinks at the bar, while kids ran between tables of chicken fingers and took turns on NASCAR racing games.
Patrons gabbed as surrounding televisions showed everything from The Golf Channel to the NFL Network footage of former Kansas City Chiefs running back, Christian Okoye. Fathers joined sons to man the toy rifles of Big Buck Hunter.
This inclusive atmosphere is the hallmark of the successful modern-day sports bar. Buffalo Sports Garden knows this, which is on reason the OP locale endures as a Southtowns favorite — for all ages.
2945 Southwestern Blvd., Orchard Park (674-4113)
When: Open for lunch and dinner, 11 a.m. to midnight, Monday through Friday; and noon to midnight Saturday and Sunday. Bar open later.
Why: To enjoy sports action inside a suburban favorite equally suited for family fun and late-night rounds.
Parking: Large lot off Southwestern.
Credit/debit accepted: Yes
Beers on tap: 14
Safe choice: Big Ditch Hayburner
Seasonal choice: 12 Gates Apricot Wheat
Roll the dice with a: Resurgence Cucumber Saison—because the prescription for delicious beer is always more cucumber.
Game-day gift grab: Patrons (and their children) can watch their favorite teams while taking turns on the motorized claws of arcade favorites like Hot Stuff and Plucky Ducky in BSG’s game room.
Take it outside: Once the weather turns, guests can catch games on BSG’s front patio, equipped with enough flat screens to accommodate any night’s action.
Late-night bites: For those without conventional dietary restrictions, bar features a late-night menu of greasy favorites on Fridays and Saturdays, midnight to 2 a.m.
Drink specials: Available seven nights a week, with such highlights as Tuesday’s $1 off craft drafts and its nightly happy hour, with $2.50 well drinks and a free mini buffet.
And if you hate sports: Go for the opportunity to see friends, neighbors and families inside one of the Southtowns’ favorite social centers.