Parking was scarce at Canalside during this week’s visit, especially for a weekday. The new skating rink was full of wobbly Buffalonians, baby fawn legs all akimbo on the ice as we wandered into the new (716) Food and Sport, a bar and restaurant dedicated to televised sports and all things Buffalo.
The bar is made to look like blue ice, and flashes red whenever the Sabres score a goal. Behind the rail is a wide selection of taps and bottled beer and wine, as well as a menu of typical pub fare to nosh while watching everything from hockey to tennis on enough TVs to sell out a Sears.
And those TVs. If you’re into watching Buffalo’s finest on screens of all sizes, (716) is your spot. The bar boasts 40 taps alongside Queen City bar food and pizzas, but there is also a selection of house-devised specialty cocktails on the menu, to satisfy the non-hopheads. Many of the cocktails are appropriately Buffalo-themed, including the “Blistering Bison,” a blend of Fireball whiskey and Apple Pucker over local McKenzie’s Hard Cider.
If you hear Fireball and think frat brothers taking shots, you’re not alone. The cinnamon-flavored spirit is not a common drink ingredient at most establishments, and admittedly, I was wary at first. Apple Pucker, too, last made its appearance on my palate at a particularly rowdy college party, but I took the plunge and did not live to regret it.
The Blistering Bison lives up to its name. The Fireball goes down like the famous red candy and is every bit as fierce as its name, for the first few sips. But the Bison is built over ice, and that’s a blessing. After a few hearty stirs, the cinnamon calms down and the sour apple spirit starts to balance things out. The McKenzie's Hard Cider, made by West Seneca’s own Mayer Brothers cider mill, has a subtle, spiced-apple taste that backs it all up nicely, although it adds mostly effervescence rather than flavor. Two fluorescent-red bar cherries are an inexplicable garnish, adding a splash of color, if nothing else.
At many sports bars, there’s that one loud patron shouting over everyone else. You know the one: He’s usually rooting against your team. In this case, that patron was our friend Fireball. The cinnamon-flavored whiskey is not usually mixed, for one reason: It’s a strong personality and doesn’t play well with others. While the cocktail was tasty enough, that cinnamon overpowered everything else, and lingered on my tongue even into my next drink. If you’re going to go with the Blistering Bison, don’t make a swanky tasting menu your next stop, but it serves its purpose for a game-watching sipper.
If you’re a sports fan who would prefer spirits to brews, (716) has planned for that. If you’re a drinks fan dragged to the HarborCenter anchor, you won’t walk away thirsty either. Patrons won’t be headed to (716) for their cocktails, but they aren’t headed there just for beer, either. The menu may not be revolutionary, but it will whet the whistle while fans wait for the refs to blow theirs, and until the end of the game, that’s all that matters.
Blistering Bison, $8; (716) Food and Sport; 855-4716; 7 Scott St.
Lizz Schumer is a Buffalo writer and editor who covers cocktails, food and whimsy for a variety of publications. She is the author of "Buffalo Steel" and can be found @eschumer or www.facebook.com/authorlizzschumer.