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Don't discount The Blackthorn for summertime

If you only venture out to The Blackthorn for its famous St. Patrick’s Day party, you’re missing out on a year-round scene that’s equal parts Irish pub and South Buffalo standby and as welcoming of new friends as old.

My dad played upright bass in local Irish band The Leftovers throughout my adolescent and teen years so I basically grew up in South Buffalo bars. I could write a thorough treatise on the Abbott Road, South Park Avenue and Seneca Street Shirley Temple offerings, plus the quality of their Guinness pour. But even if you’re Irish only once a year (or not at all), The Blackthorn is as much a neighborhood institution as it is a cultural one.

This year, it added an expansive biergarten, two-level patio and outdoor stage to its appeal, to capitalize on Buffalo’s summer season.

Fans of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” may have seen Guy Fieri tucking in to The Blackthorn’s beef on weck, crab cakes, Irish beer soup or tater tots. All of these and many other bar snack favorites go great with its selection of local, craft and domestic taps. Try the Triple D Platter ($10.50) either as a meal or to share at the bar, for the full backward-sunglasses experience.

A ping-pong table and red Adirondack chairs are new additions to The Blackthorn. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

Because this is Buffalo, diners can add a stuffed banana pepper to any sandwich for $2. Because this is a bar feature, we have to point out the restorative qualities of stuffed banana peppers when paired with a frosty beverage – as a meal or a bar snack, you really can’t go wrong.

The Blackthorn does stock a full bar and the bar room has the kind of wraparound wooden rail our grandfathers frequented. It might be the same one, too – the restaurant has been serving the neighborhood since 1977.

Its biergarten and upstairs patio added about 40 seats of table service and plenty of outdoor party space when it opened in May. Visitors also can pull up an Adirondack chair to one of its two fire pits or toss some bags on its multiple cornhole sets.

Snag a seat upstairs if you’ve got room for munchies. Sipping a cold one while hovering above Seneca Street feels like an escape from the city, with excellent people-watching potential.

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The biergarten’s size makes it perfect for parties, so bring the clan to enjoy the expanse. Those of us with smaller social circles need not worry – we made two friends just ordering our beers. Buffalo is notoriously chatty, and The Blackthorn’s friendly servers and staff make all visitors feel like they’ve known each other forever.

As the owners point out on the restaurant’s website, “The people, after all, are the heart and soul of the pub. The pub patron is not just a customer, but a guest and a friend.” We’ll raise a glass to that, and we wouldn’t mind a cup of Irish beer soup to go with it.

The Blackthorn Restaurant & Pub

Address: 2124 Seneca St., South Buffalo (825-9327)
Hours: Bar is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 4 a.m. Kitchen is open from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Scene: This South Buffalo Irish pub has been in operation since 1977, and it’s a bastion of comfort nostalgia. Try the new biergarten and upstairs patio for a delightful blend of the old and new, with some of the friendliest service around.

The exterior of The Blackthorn, pictured from across Seneca Street. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

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