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Winning formula Tailgaters scores high with a great sports atmosphere and generous portions

After a brutally humid afternoon, my buddy Mike and I hightailed it out to Tailgaters on a fair Thursday evening. With such an expansive parking lot, Mike had the luxury of parking his convertible in a far corner to avoid any accidental dents.

We settled down on black vinyl barstools at a red countertop bar that snaked around the length of the building with a break near the bathrooms and a neon jukebox in a far corner. A pleasant older brunette (Paula) took our order instantaneously and we opted for a pitcher of Bud Light, a double of Johnny Walker Black scotch on the rocks and a Southern Comfort and Diet Coke for $16. Compared to neighboring establishments, the round was alarmingly cheap, and Mike's SoCo and Diet was served in a full-sized pint glass instead of a standard cocktail glass.

Mike and Paula bantered back and forth about the Mega Millions Jackpot while Mike lost at a game of Quick Draw. Since the bar is located directly in front of Ralph Wilson Stadium, it wasn't surprising that the interior was decorated with sports memorabilia. A box of Flutie Flakes signed by Doug Flutie rested on a shelf behind the bar along with an autographed photo of the famed NHL "French Connection." A felt donkey hung from a neighboring wall with a "Tailgaters Welcome" sign on its tail. Twin electronic dartboards beckoned to the left of us while two couples competed at a round of billiards on a regulation pool table on the opposite end of the building.

Mike enjoyed an entire bowl of free popcorn despite a supposed diet. Our friend Chris showed up and helped me finish off my pitcher before we ordered a second round of Bud Light ($8). I grabbed a smoke on their enclosed corner patio and admired the cream-colored stucco exterior. I admired the early sunset along with a spectacular view of the stadium with a group of friendly bikers kicking back on the picnic tables provided.

Heading back inside, I noticed a mirror to the right of the bar covered with dollar bills signed by patrons from their opening week. Chris took advantage of their 35-cent wing special and ordered 20 wings, half hot, half barbecue. The order was ready in no time and we dove into both baskets. The wings were crispy, jumbo-sized and flavorful. I made a quick trip to an elegant tiled bathroom while Chris picked out some songs on the jukebox.

By 11 p.m., we were ready to go our separate ways. Even though I'm not a sports buff, I can appreciate a bar like Tailgaters. It's a great destination for after a game, during a game, a night out with the boys, or if you're out and about in Orchard Park. The affordable pricing, generous food and drink portions and attentive staff go for the extra point and score.

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>Tailgaters Bar & Grill

3847 Southwestern Blvd., Orchard Park, 649-4990
Scene: A cozy sports bar directly in front of the stadium with generous food and drink portions.
Drinks: $2 pints on Saturdays and Sundays, $2 well drinks on Fridays, four beers on tap and a comprehensive liquor selection.
Dress Code: Sports casual -- jeans, jerseys and T-shirts.
Music: Satellite radio piped through a PA system.

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