The astounding growth of downtown Buffalo and the waterfront area has grabbed the lion’s share of the attention from both local and national outlets. The deeper story is the improvements that have been made throughout the city, and North Buffalo is no exception.
The KO Bar & Grill at the corner of Delaware and Tioga is a shining example of a reinvigorated neighborhood. Since the 2016 re-opening under new ownership, KO has taken the concept of a neighborhood bar to a new level.
As I approached the bar on this chilly autumn evening, the outdoor area that serves as the patio was sparse, with chairs stacked in tall towers. It was a stark representation of another summer gone by, and it belied the warmth felt upon entering the building.
Immediately through the door, a long oaken bar was lined with mostly-filled stools to the left. Several pub tables were surrounded by members of the Buffalo Rugby team who were enjoying an end-of-season party. The conversation resounded off of the golden walls in a comforting drone, spiked with the occasional sharp laughter.
A dining room has booths and tables for late lunch or dinner crowds. Past the bar, billiard balls rumbled down the ramp to start a new game, and the pok! of the dartboard can be heard over the din.
KO is a wonderful reflection of its neighborhood - generations gathering to enjoy an evening with friends and family. A group of older gentlemen gathered at the far end of the bar sipping tall glasses of their favorite pilsner. Young men and women gathered in a circle near the center of the bar with pints of craft beer and cocktails. Baskets of chicken wings dotted the bar.
The sprightly, mustachioed barkeep moved quickly from end to end filling glasses, sharing stories and shaking hands. Vigorously shaking a drink, he paused to shake his hips to the tune that was playing just over the noise of the bar crowd, garnering a laugh from those that had been lucky enough to catch him doing so.
The beer list alone is reason enough to visit KO. Twenty taps lean heavily toward craft beers, and the pricing is among the best in Buffalo. Thirteen of the craft selections are available for just $5 a pint, with another half-dozen for either $6 or $7. Among them are local favorites from Community Beer Works, Buffalo Brewing Company and Flying Bison. All are also available in pitcher for a reasonable price.
There also are popular selections of spirits. Several bottles of Tito’s vodka were emptied during my visit, and Tullamore Dew was also in high demand. KO offers a handful of select wines for $4 or $6 a glass.
The pub food is great. Be sure to try the KO spicy barbecue wings. A mustard-heavy sauce is slathered on crispy wings, with a nice back-end kick. Washed down with Steelbound’s Better Red, the wings were certainly a highlight of the visit.
Perhaps the best feature, though, was the music. The bartender explained that it’s a house playlist. I caught some old Counting Crows B-sides, a Smith’s tune, Foo Fighters, and fun and eclectic indie selections. He offered to plug my phone in and let me choose the music, but I declined to interrupt the perfection pumping from the PA. KO occasionally features live acoustic music, and local phenom Grace Stumberg is among the usual players.
The KO Bar & Grill is a perfect stop for dinner and drinks, or to enjoy a game with some friends. You can share stories and laughs with generations, or celebrate another great season. Or share a dance to "Rain King" with a fast-acting bartender.
The KO Bar & Grill
2263 Delaware Ave.
Hours: Open daily at 3 p.m.
Happy Hour: Daily until 8 p.m. Buckets of domestic bottles for $15.00. Ask for the daily special at the bar.
Bills and Sabres’ game specials: $4 for 22-ounce Molson and Labatt drafts, $8 single wings
Parking: Street parking only.