When the sprawling and spectacular RiverWorks first opened its doors on the Kelly Island banks of the Buffalo River more than two years ago, the question most asked about the entertainment complex was how to get there.
Thousands of visitors and hundreds of eclectic sports events within its 5,000-capacity expanse later, the main inquiry is no longer how to find it. It’s what the locale and its in-house bar/restaurant The Ward will come up with next—and how it will further enhance the rejuvenated river scene it sidles.
Once a development overshadowed by the simultaneous construction of nearby HarborCenter, RiverWorks has grown into a multifaceted force of its own acclaim, hosting guests for everything from live boxing and pro wrestling matches to the home tilts of the Queen City Roller Girls and Buffalo Blitz arena football. Amid all these events is The Ward, named after the historically Irish neighborhood across the river, and represented by famous former residents Jimmy Slattery and Jimmy Griffin in the bar’s artistic logo.
Spread across the riverfront side of the complex, the two-station bar and restaurant—operated by the same Earl Ketry-led group that manages Pearl Street Brewery—caters to both those visiting the venue for events or just there for lunch, dinner or drinks. Guests can enjoy $5.50 canned beers, cocktails and casual dining favorites with daily sports action on a slew of overhead televisions and the complex’s massive 20-foot-wide HD screen; or they can choose to get their fun-and-games fix in a variety of other ways.
Air hockey, SuperChex and pinball machines flank the dining area. Amateur leagues for floor hockey, soccer and lacrosse are scheduled within the complex throughout the summer. And for those who would like a little more relaxation with their athletic appreciation, spots on the bar’s multitiered patios can accommodate those who would prefer watching the passing boats and kayaks that have returned to a waterway once so contaminated that, in 1968, it caught on fire.
But for a locale that seemingly believes there’s no end to what it can offer, there’s more on the way. As soon as the proper New York State permits are issued, RiverWorks Brewing Co. will start brewing its own beer inside the site’s now iconic six Labatt Blue-labeled grain silos. Once up and running, production will introduce seven original craft beers—four seasonal and three year-round—to The Ward’s eight draft lines, with the last tap reserved for Labatt. Venue management is hopeful this addition will be ready for the summer.
Until then, there’s plenty to celebrate from RiverWorks’ Ward barstools. Pick a feature of the sports-friendly venue and raise a glass, or simply toast the future of Buffalo’s riverfront from the grounds of its most creatively catalytic occupant.
Where: 359 Ganson St. (342-2292; buffaloriverworks.com)
When: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Open later for events.
Why: For beers and more amid a wild array of events off the suddenly burgeoning banks of the Buffalo River.
Parking: Available in surrounding lots.
Credit/debit accepted: Yes
Eventual beers on tap: 8
Seasonal choice: Resurgence Blood Orange Saison
Nod to the neighborhood: 16-ounce cans of Murphy’s Irish Stout
Derby—with deer and a beer: Dependent on the schedule, visitors can take in Queen City Roller Girls action while adding a shot of Jägermeister with any canned beer for just $3.50.
Brewing in the Blues: The Ward’s draft beer will eventually be brewed inside the site’s now-famous Labatt Blue grain silo six-pack.
Pinball with Joe Perry: See the bar’s family-friendly game section for what’s likely the Buffalo area’s only Aerosmith-themed pinball machine.
And if you hate sports: Raise a drink to the miraculous rebirth of Buffalo’s riverfront.