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Great beer, food add to Mooney’s Man Cave cred

Men fleeing the pristinely furnished areas of their homes to carve out personalized corners in garages and basements isn’t new.

Garages have been converted into workshops or makeshift patio rooms for decades, no longer the utilitarian square footage “The Simpsons” bartender Moe Szyslak once referred to as his “car hole.” Basements once relegated to roles as damp storage and laundry space are now routinely transformed into elaborate recreation rooms. And in both cases, these makeshift clubhouses also serve as home taverns, decorated with photos, pennants and random pieces of sports memorabilia.

Mooney’s II Sports Bar & Grill in Tonawanda presumably understands this. The leprechaun-logoed bar and grill seems to have been lovingly decorated for those who like drinking and eating in this type of renovated space – and especially for those who came of age during James. D. Griffin’s Buffalo mayoral reign.

Orange pleather seats and booths. Spindled beams and Aud seats. A poster featuring both past Bills running back Joe Cribbs and members of Buffalo’s soccer Stallions. All complement the place’s retro man-cave cred, albeit with two caveats: one, the locale doesn’t cater solely to mustached GM workers discussing the underappreciated legacy of former Bills quarterback Joe Ferguson; and two, there is no way anyone’s car hole-hosted meals approach the taste and Herculean serving sizes being scooped off Niagara Street.

These two items are key reasons why this Mooney’s – one of four Buffalo-area locations – is a destination for those in the Twin Cities and elsewhere.

With 33 macro-heavy bottles of beer, six more on draft and a full bar, patrons can enjoy more choices than what’s available in their home kegerators or mini fridges.

But the bar’s conversational atmosphere, open dining area and family-friendly amenities (see: Big Choice Claw Machine and Classic Collection arcade game) make its grill portion a place for everyone. Whether a first date, girls night out or an evening with the kids, Mooney’s accommodates all in a space emblematic of old Buffalo while not coming off as completely old-fashioned.

And maybe that’s because of its ambitious (and dangerously hearty) take on the classics.

This starts with quasi-troughs of macaroni and cheese. Available as both a large side and “whole” – which can easily feed three to four people – diners can choose from 17 different concoctions, including the Stinger. This melds the mac with diced chicken fingers, steak, hot sauce and blue cheese ($12.99 for the whole).

If this doesn’t sound daunting enough, here’s another suggestion: Try to hammer down a bowl of delicious stuffed hot pepper soup ($4.50) before bellying up for the Moses Challenge ($24.99), which requires the willing to eat 6 pounds of meat, vegetables, bread and the accompanying fries in less than 45 minutes. Only two men and a dog have ever claimed gluttonous victory – along with T-shirts and a spot on Mooney’s exclusive Wall of Fame.

Does your souped-up garage or basement offer such sandwich-related glory? Probably not, but don’t worry. Mooney’s has carved out that territory for you.

Mooney’s II Sports bar & Grill

Where: 83 Niagara St., Tonawanda

Scene: Corner tavern inside your neighbor’s 1970s rec room (in a good way).

Hours: 11 a.m. to 4 a.m. Monday to Sunday.

Happy Hour specials: $2.50 Labatt and Labatt Blue Light bottles, domestic drafts and well drinks, 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Please try: a side or whole order of one of Mooney’s 17 different variations of mac and cheese.

Please drink: a Guinness. Each is served as beautiful 20-ounce imperial pints for $5 a pop.

Instagram op: Raise a fork-full of the macaroni aside the dining room’s framed (and rare) Bills-Sabres-Stallions montage poster.

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