By any scientific, straw or sidewalk poll, Duke University men's basketball is annually rated as one of the most disliked entities in college sports.
So it could rankle plenty of hoops fans to watch any NCAA Tournament action inside Sidelines Sports Bar & Grill, a downtown Buffalo ballgame bastion that prominently displays a framed Christian Laettner Duke jersey in its front barroom.
But for the spacious and action-oriented Delaware Avenue locale, the mounted ode to one of Western New York’s greatest basketball exports is appropriately in line with the bar’s locally focused flair, calling attention to some of the best Nickel City-associated athletes.
Located in the former King’s Court, Sidelines provides fans an expansive front barroom and back dining room for game-time action of all sorts. Festooned with autographed jerseys of Jim Kelly, Buffalo Bandits legend John Tavares and the entire French Connection, locals can feel at home with a bucket of Labatt Blue ($20) while surrounded by Sidelines’ celebration of the city’s bygone history.
But it’s not just about the past. With its occupation of a formerly empty storefront and a Jack Eichel Sabres jersey hanging with the rest, Sidelines is also an accommodating part of the city’s rejuvenated present and future. And because of the bar’s advantageous location amid lodging options that now include Delaware North’s Westin and the forthcoming Curtiss with neighboring Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn and nearby Hyatt, it can entertain residents along with its share of out-of-towners—just as it did on the opening day of this year’s NCAA tournament.
With Notre Dame and Princeton squaring off in the Buffalo-hosted bracket portion down the street at KeyBank Center, animated visitors of all allegiances crammed into Sidelines for immersive early round coverage. The 12 televisions spread through the front and back showed every in-progress game simultaneously, with play-by-play of ND-Princeton projected throughout the barroom.
And with drink specials galore teamed with quasi-sensible lunchtime options like its Buffalo chicken wrap with hand-cut fries ($10.99), the bar provided an ideal spot for those settling in for a day of full-court battles, or those looking to kill time inside a raucous locale before attending games at KBC later in the day.
And for those looking to roll through college basketball action in Buffalo this or any year, it would be appropriate to down a few in the shadow of Laettner’s laundry. The Angola native went to four Final Fours and won a pair of NCAA championships. He holds the tournament’s all-time scoring mark, boasts some of its shiniest moments, and most importantly, is a Buffalonian.
Sidelines respects this, as well as its role as one of the city's best sports bars for any season.
189 Delaware Ave. (240-9392)
When: Open for lunch and dinner Monday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Bar open later on weekends.
Why: For sports action off the Chip Strip and amid Buffalo’s growing list of downtown hotel options.
Parking: Spots on Delaware, and in nearby public lots and garages.
Credit/debit accepted: Yes.
Beers on tap: 10
Beers in bottle: 16
Local choice: 42 North Borderland IPA
Happy Hour: 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday with $2.75 domestic bottles, $2.50 Blue Light, Coors Light drafts, $3 well drinks, $1 off call and top-shelf drinks.
Gameday choice: Pitcher of Labatt Blue ($9.50), preferably with a friend.
No Dan Marino and Jay Schroeder? Among the bar’s mounted jerseys are two of the four quarterbacks the Bills have beaten for AFC titles, Joe Montana and John Elway.
Say hello to Baby Joe: The bar’s rear dining area hosts a slew of sports decorations, but nothing as Queen City-centric as its poster of former heavyweight boxer Baby Joe Mesi.
And if you hate sports: Enjoy a sandwich while appreciating another solid option for local and visiting diners and drinkers.