Watching Buffalo football has always been about community.
For more than five decades, Bills fans have gathered for games across parking lots, patios or packed inside a Lou Saban-loving grandmother’s living room. But it’s within bars, pubs and taverns — both inside and outside Buffalo — where true Isley Brothers-backed camaraderie thrives.
Patrons wear jerseys of released or traded players while high-fiving after scoring drives. Fans dissect past plays while donning crewneck sweatshirts that never age. And throughout three hours of every Sunday, bar stools full of strangers are tied together by three words: Let’s go, Buffalo.
Sure, some Buffalonians watch games alone in their homes, where they’re free to shout expletives at their Samsung screens while scrolling through fantasy lineups on iPads. But it’s around taps and tumblers that generations of Bills fans have bonded over Elbert Dubenion catches, Darryl Talley tackles or Joe Ferguson-led rallies.
And thankfully, Western New York still has plenty of locations to host this generation’s iteration of gridiron-geared communion. Here are 10 of the best:
716 Food and Sport
7 Scott St.
Scouting report: Taps of local beer. A jalapeno cayenne cheddar-covered Spicy Burger. Canalside’s most famous (and only) 38-foot television screen. HARBORCENTER’s behemoth sports bar was built for Bills Sundays, and now operates for those interested in engaging in the most dynamic viewing experience outside of Ralph Wilson Stadium.
While there, raise a toast to: Sammy Watkins.
Reminisce over a round about: The wide receiver’s game-winning touchdown catch against the Minnesota Vikings at the Ralph, 2014.
Amherst Pizza and Ale House
55 Crosspoint Parkway, Amherst
Scouting report: A Northtowns clubhouse for fans interested in the regional dietary trinity of pizza, wings and pints, Amherst’s Ale House boasts $10 buckets of Miller Lite for the utilitarian game-day drinker. It also has more than 100 craft drafts and bottles for those who like to inhale a few Southern Tier Pumkings while recalling past Bills glory between Tyrod Taylor passes.
Raise a toast to: Thurman Thomas
Reminisce over a round about: The Hall of Fame back’s 186-yard, three-touchdown rushing performance against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship at the Ralph, 1994.
42 West Chippewa St.
Scouting report: As downtown continues to repopulate, new residents need a neighborhood sports bar – “Sopranos”-inspired or otherwise – to occupy. Enter the flashy Bing, with televisions occupying all two floors’ worth of wall (and overhead) space, 25-ounce Yuenglings ($6) on Sundays, and dollar-discounted Bloody Marys for those who need to ease into their game-day action.
Raise a toast to: Fred Jackson.
Reminisce over a round about: the fan favorite’s 38-yard catch-and-run to set up a game-winning field goal against the New England Patriots at the Ralph, 2011.
185 Main St., East Aurora
Scouting report: You don’t need any specials to get you into the cash-only Bar Bill, one of Western New York’s coziest taverns and purveyors of arguably the best wings on planet Earth. But if you need a Bills-specific reason to go, know that the team’s earliest training camps – featuring future Bills legends Jack Kemp, Tom Sestak and 1962 AP Player of the Year Cookie Gilchrist – were held at the nearby Roycroft Inn and Knox Family Estate.
Raise a toast to: Cookie Gilchrist
Reminisce over a round about: the fullback’s AFL record 243 rushing yards (and five TDs) against the N.Y. Jets at the Rockpile, 1963.
The Big Tree Inn
4277 Abbott Road, Orchard Park
Scouting report: There’s only one Bills bar that’s understood to be the Bills bar, and it’s the Big Tree. Buffalo football legends’ jerseys line its walls; Super Bowl memorabilia shines prominently in its dining room trophy case; and one of the bar’s chain-sawed statue subjects (Andre Reed) actually thanked the BBQ-wing haven during his Pro Football Hall of Fame acceptance speech. It’s good to be the Tree.
Raise a toast to: Andre Reed
Reminisce over a round about: the receiving great’s 17-yard TD catch to put the Bills up 38-35 against the Houston Oilers in the AFC’s wildest Wild Card game, 1993.
Buffalo Sports Garden
2945 Southwestern Blvd., Orchard Park
Scouting report: Not everyone wants to be barricaded indoors for a day’s worth of football. Thanks to BSG’s expansive patio – and three outdoor televisions – patrons don’t have to be. And whether inside or out, all can enjoy $3 pizza log or jalapeno popper orders pregame, as well as 45-cent wings and $12 Coors Light and Bud buckets during Bills action.
Raise a toast to: Mario Williams
Reminisce over a round about: the defensive end’s December strip of Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers to earn a safety in an upset of the Packers at the Ralph, 2014.
Central Park Grill
2519 Main St.
Scouting report: Known more for blues than Bills, Main Street mainstay CPG is a hidden gem on game day. As appreciated as its $6 pitchers and $3 domestic drafts can be for patrons, its free halftime buffet is the clincher. Featuring a rotating menu of house delicacies like BBQ chicken, the smorgasbord helps complement the joint’s subtle charm.
Raise a toast to: Bruce Smith
Reminisce over a round about: the pass-rushing legend’s safety (and near-strip) sack of New York Giant QB Jeff Hostetler in Super Bowl XXV.
4995 Broadway, Depew
Scouting report: The decades-old Depew pub scores points with customers for its neighborly comfort, Molson Canadian bucket special (five for $10) and $5 game-day appetizers, including beef-on-weck sliders. But aside from this trio of necessary attributes, it’s also the only bar in Buffalo-Niagara that lets fans snack on Marv Levy Dip (made with Italian sausage-stuffed banana peppers) during defensive snaps.
Raise a toast to: Fred Smerlas
Reminisce over a round about: the mustached nose tackle’s block of N.Y. Jet kicker Pat Leahy’s 40-yard field goal to help Bills toward an AFC East title-securing win, 1988.
Marinaro’s Larkin Tavern
131 Van Rensselaer St.
Scouting report: If you want to revisit the early days of the American Football League, just enter the men’s bathroom at Marinaro’s. The space could double as the world’s smallest AFL museum, with framed game programs and photos for fans raised on Buffalo’s 1964-65 champions. The rest of the Larkinville locale is no less than the city’s most clandestine sports shrine, with Sunday specials ($25 all-you-can-drink bottles) and pregame neighborhood tailgate parties accentuating its appreciation for football history.
Raise a toast to: Mike Stratton
Reminisce over a round about: the linebacker’s AFL title game-turning “Hit Heard ‘Round the World” on San Diego Charger RB Keith Lincoln, 1964.
425 Potters Road
Scouting report: As appreciated as Marinaro’s day-drinking deal may be, South Buffalo’s Potter’s Field matches its $25 price while adding well drinks to the all-inclusive tab. Halftime wings are also included for those interested in teaming saucy flats with their vodka-sodas, and patrons can enjoy both in front of the bar’s big screen – all while flanked by the requisite Bishop Timon and Irish memorabilia.
Raise a toast to: Jim Kelly
Reminisce over a round about: the quarterback’s last-second touchdown dive to stun the Dolphins in Miami, 1989.