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Bills gameday guide: Gas, food, lodging and more

By Shawn Campbell and Nick Veronica
Special to The News

It’s time for another Bills home game, which will see hundreds of thousands of people converging on Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park.

At kickoff, most fans will be in their seats. Beforehand, many are in the parking lots taking part in what is consistently ranked among the best tailgates in the NFL.

But what about on the way there? Or the way home? Where can fans head to get a drink or bite to eat if they left the cooler and grill at home? Where can they pick up the tailgating supplies they forgot?

Here is a fan’s guide to The Ralph's surroundings: Gas, food, lodging and more – along with what many establishments do to prepare for the gameday rush. We start with the quickest stops for the bare necessities:

GAS STATIONS/MINI-MARTS

KK Food Mart
3846 Southwestern Blvd. (at Abbott Road)
Distance from One Bills Drive: 0.3 miles

The skinny: Cashier Sharon Hughes has worked her share of Sundays when the Bills are at home.

“Back in the ‘90s when the team was doing really well, the lines were unbearable,” she said. “Plus, you had to wait till noon (to buy beer) — so the beer line would go out and around to the back sometimes. Now you can buy it at 8 a.m. They start early.”

Potato chips, chip dip, pop, hot dogs, rolls and cheeses are some of the most frequently purchased items. “And the new thing — beer pong balls,” Hughes said with a chuckle.

Some offbeat items the store carries sell surprisingly well, too, such as firewood, extension cords and duct tape.

“As the years go buy, you learn ... from experience what people are looking for,” Hughes said.

Stadium Mobil
3856 Southwestern Blvd. (at Abbott Road)
Distance from One Bills Drive: 0.3 miles

The skinny: Stadium Mobil sells gasoline but also has a convenience store with a beer cooler, sub shop (formerly a Subway location) and outdoor ATM.

Beer attracts the most customers on gamedays, owner Sobi Khanna said.

“It’s going to be a mob, and I’m prepared for it,” he said. “They’ll buy anything. They’ll just come here, go to my cooler and love the beer I have.”

For fans in need of some new Bills gear, the store also sells teams hats. Clear plastic bags that are permitted in the stadium are popular as well, Khanna said.

SUPERMARKETS

Tops
4250 McKinley Parkway (off Southwestern Boulevard)
Distance from One Bills Drive: 1.9 miles

The skinny: Droves of football fans flock to Tops on Sundays to pick up their last-minute tailgating staples.

“It’s crazy,” store grocery manager Mike Babbitt said. “There’s a lot of tailgaters coming in and loading up for grilling, for beer, hot dogs, rolls, stuff from our Carry Out Café, chips. ... You get a lot of Canadians coming in. And sometimes we get the busses that stop in. It’s a very busy day for us.”

The store, the closest supermarket to the stadium, is open 24/7 and also has a gas station. Beer sales begin at 8 a.m.

Wegmans
3740 McKinley Parkway
Distance from One Bills Drive: 2.0 miles

The skinny: Just a bit north of the Tops, the closest Wegmans to the stadium is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

RESTAURANTS/BARS

Tailgaters Bar & Grill
3847 Southwestern Blvd. (at Abbott Road)
Distance from One Bills Drive: 0.2 miles

The skinny: Tailgaters’ menu features more than 20 flavors of chicken wings, as well as a variety of munchies on gamedays.

Owner Jennifer Mariano said Tailgaters isn’t just a tailgating stop for fans, though.

“A lot of people go to the game, but when it’s still nice out, people will come and tailgate and then if they don’t have tickets, they’ll come here and watch the game,” she said. “And then after the game, it’s packed.”

She added, “Be prepared to deal with the crowd. The majority is Bills fans. You’ll have the other team, but it’s usually crazy Bills fans.”

O’Neill’s
3864 Abbott Road (near Southwestern Boulevard)
Distance from One Bills Drive: 0.2 miles.

The skinny: The bar, dining room and deck at O’Neill’s is often filled to capacity on Bills Sundays, owner Peggy Cerrone said.

“Sometimes we have to actually stop letting people in,” she said.

A DJ stationed on the deck makes the scene lively for bargoers, who have a nice view inside the Ralph.

“It’s a party. It’s really fun,” Cerrone said. “You can be outside. You can view the Jumbotron right from our deck.”

How does O’Neill’s prepare for the masses of Bills fans?

“You have to make sure you have plenty of beer, so we order about probably triple or quadruple what we’d normally order in bottled beer compared to an average Sunday,” Cerrone said. “We order just cases and cases of wings.”

Louie’s Texas Red Hots
3905 Southwestern Blvd.
Distance from One Bills Drive: 0.4 miles

The skinny: Adjacent to stadium Lot 4, Louie’s is the place to go for Sahlen’s hot dogs.

“Everyone gets happy because we have them,” on-shift manager Enrique Avila said of the Western New York favorites.

If your tailgate starts early or ends late, the restaurant is open 24/7 and also features an all-day breakfast menu.

Avila suggests that customers place takeout orders in advance on gamedays by calling (716) 648-6200 to avoid long lines.

“We’re slammed,” he said. “We’ve got the restaurant full and lines out the door.”

Big Tree Inn
4277 Abbott Road (at Big Tree Road)
Distance from One Bills Drive: 0.5 miles

The skinny: Dan DeMarco, the Big Tree’s owner, said a couple once described his beloved bar as a Bills museum.

Outside stand iconic wooden statues of Hall of Famers Jim Kelly and Andre Reed. There’s one for ESPN personality Chris Berman, too.

Inside on the walls are framed, autographed jerseys of ‘90s legends like Kelly, Reed, Bruce Smith and Darryl Talley, along with photos of some famous visitors to the Big Tree.

“I’ve been here 34 years, and I’ve got all of these guys,” said DeMarco, motioning to the jerseys. “Four Hall of Famers, I’ve been at their weddings. It’s pretty interesting as far as that goes. ... I bought the bar when I was 25. We all kind of grew up together.”

DeMarco said he gets a regular crew for Bills games

“A lot of people from out of town come up,” he said. “They come from Elmira or Binghamton or Syracuse and a lot of Canadians, too. It’s more of an event than going to the game. It’s an experience.”

Danny’s South
4300 Abbott Road (at Big Tree Road)
Distance from One Bills Drive: 0.5 miles

The skinny: Where else would you rather be than a restaurant where you can order a sandwich named after Bills founding owner Ralph Wilson?

“He came here all the time — a lot for lunch,” Danny’s owner Dan Prenoveau said of Wilson. “He always recommended people coming here and getting a tuna melt that he really liked, so we asked him permission and we call it the Ralph Wilson Tuna Melt.”

But Danny’s has other beloved dishes, none more popular than its original chicken wing soup.

Sports memorabilia covers the walls of the bar area inside.

The restaurant has a 250-spot parking lot for tailgaters which usually fills up by around 10 a.m. on gamedays.

Every Sunday, Danny’s also has a football brunch featuring about 15 entrees — from breakfast sausage eggs and bacon to chicken wings, beef on weck and Italian sausage.

Prenoveau said the soup-and-salad bar, Buffalo cuisine and proximity to the stadium make the restaurant special.

“The relationship we have with the Bills and how close (the stadium) is does us well,” he said.

Pino's Pizza
3698 Abbott Rd.
Distance from One Bills Drive: 0.6 miles

The skinny: Located directly between Milestrip Road and Southwestern Boulevard, Pino's is an option for fans seeking pizza within walking distance from the stadium. Pino's starts serving pizza at 10 a.m. on game days.

Buffalo’s Best Grill
3700 Southwestern Blvd.
Distance from One Bills Drive: 1.0 miles

The skinny: The restaurant that proclaims to be Buffalo’s best appropriately has a standing buffalo affixed to its roof.

“You can’t miss us,” owner Tony Formato said.

Formato said 90 percent of the grill’s food is homemade — everything but its french fries and bread. He recommends his open-face prime rib sandwich, burger and pizza.

Two factors influence business on Bills Sundays.

“If the Bills win, it’s always better,” Formato said. “And if it rains, we always do better, because when it’s nice out, people will stay in the parking lot.”

Jack Devine’s Irish Pub
4170 Southwestern Blvd.
Distance from One Bills Drive: 1.5 miles

The skinny: Crowds at Jack Devine’s Irish Pub aren’t huge before or during Bills home games, manager Mike Wszalek said. But that changes afterward.

“I’m a little too far from the stadium to get the people in that area during home games,” Wszalek said. “After the game, I’m packed. I get a lot of the fans coming from the stadium. If they win, everyone’s happy and crazy. If they lose, it’s a little more mellow.”

Pizza, wings and stuffed peppers are the top fan foods, Wszalek said.

“If you can’t get into the stadium, then you definitely want to try to come to one of the bars and join in with the crowds,” he said.

FOOD TRUCKS

A handful of food trucks plan to serve at the Bills game, and for hungry fans, these may be the closest food options. We asked the trucks where they plan to set up, but being trucks on wheels, there's no guarantee they stay in one place.

Lloyd Taco Truck
Location: Lot B (aka Lots 5 and 7), 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Food: Tacos, burritos and nachos with choice of toppings (menu)

(716) Club House
Location: In front of stadium near Lot 2, 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Food: Variety of sandwiches (menu)

Roaming Buffalo
Location: Lot 4, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Food: Burgers, sandwiches, hot dogs and more (menu)

Chef's On The Go
Location: TBD
Food: Pasta, chicken, sandwiches and more (menu)

(Here's the map of Bills parking lots if you get lost.)

FAST FOOD

Tim Hortons
3878 Southwestern Blvd.
Distance from One Bills Drive: 0.3 miles

The skinny: On a typical Sunday morning, six to eight workers staff this Tim Hortons location. But when the Bills are home, more manpower is needed to serve up double-doubles, doughnuts, Timbits and bagels.

“On Bills games, we have at least 15 people on in the morning,” supervisor Kelsey Hilton-McCarthy said. “There’s a lot of food (ordered) — a lot of breakfast sandwiches and, of course, a lot of coffee.

“There’s usually a line out the door,” she added.

Subway
4151 McKinley Parkway (off Southwestern Boulevard)
Distance from One Bills Drive: 2.3 miles

The skinny: Now that his location is the closest Subway to the stadium, store owner Ken Nowak hopes more Bills fans will stop by this season to pick up their $5 footlongs.

“We thought it was going to be a lot busier than what it was,” he said of past Bills seasons. “We really anticipate this year things picking up a bit.”

This year, the store is even offering a 10 percent discount to fans who show their tickets before or after a Bills home game.

More fast food options are nearby at the intersection of Southwestern Boulevard and Big Tree Road.

LODGING

Red Carpet Inn
3940 Southwestern Blvd.
Distance from One Bills Drive: 0.5 miles

More information: Call (716) 649-5890, visit www.redcarpetinnbuffalo.com or email stay@redcarpetinnbuffalo.com.

Twin Oak Motel
3949 Southwestern Blvd.
Distance from One Bills Drive: 0.6 miles

More information: Call (716) 823-6684.

Stadium View Inn
4414 Southwestern Blvd. (at South Park Avenue)
Distance from One Bills Drive: 2.5 miles

More information: Call (716) 649-6206, ext. 10, visit www.stadiumviewinn.com or email stay@stadiumviewinn.com.

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Have any suggestions for this guide? Tweet @TBNSports, email sports@buffnews.com or use the comments section below. 

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