It was no surprise to wind up hearing two guys arguing about the fundamentals of a league basketball game they just played along with the shameful joy of our current Bills season (see also: any other season) at a place called the Buffalo Sports Garden. To the contrary, I came to expect it. While you can throw a rock in this town and find a watering hole with a box of Flutie Flakes and a few Sabres keepsakes, I challenge you to find a bar that embraces the sports aesthetic with more taste and minimalist judgment.

The pair set upon a heaping bowl of chicken wings, another must-have for a sports bar. As are a multitude of televisions. On the Saturday afternoon that I popped in, a preponderance of televisions aired college football and hockey throughout the horseshoe-shaped black and tan bar, as well as on the outskirts of the dining room. A Jim Kelly jersey hung in a frame over an Internet jukebox near a Bills shrine with sports cards and other memorabilia.

A breezy brunette popped over to my end of the rail at once and served a pitcher of Labatt Blue Light and a double of Johnny Walker Red on the rocks for $16.50. A dark speckled brick wall accented the back of the bar. College football pennants hung from a jet black ceiling. An old Memorial Auditorium sign, wedged next to a Buffalo Braves tin near a window with a Sabres neon light, brought back memories. A corner alcove beckoned with a seven-foot bar pool table, bubble hockey and a row of arcade games. The band the Strangers set up shop on a raised stage in an opposite corner. From what my buddy Scott (a staunch supporter of local bands) has told me, BSG is an ideal location for live bands.

A small family grazed on their lunch at an island slightly set away from the bar as the second quarter of an out of town hockey game played in a dining room with small wooden tables and matching black seats. Servers in tight black T-shirts jockeyed from one end to the other efficiently in the dining room. The couple across from me ordered two more pints of Magic Hat to while away their afternoon.

Some might argue that BSG has been successful due largely to its location near Ralph Wilson Stadium. The truth has more to do with the family-friendly environment, the near-endless procession of Buffalo's best bands and the fact that they understand how to be better than your average sports bar. Anyone can line up a row of bobble heads or three tube televisions and pass themselves off as a sports bar. BSG's inescapable platoon of televised sports, a flair for classy design and the clockwork staff are proof positive that they know what they're doing. A great destination for sports fans, music aficionados or a gaggle of guys looking to hunker down, hoist a few and gripe about the worst, the best and the rest of our local teams.


Buffalo Sports Garden

2945 Southwestern Blvd., Orchard Park 674-4113

Scene: A tried and true sports bar just a stone's throw from Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Drinks: Cash-only bar with eight specialty beers on tap including Magic Hat, Sam Adams and Double Bock. Drink specials on Saturdays, game days and during happy hour. Hard liquor with an accent on flavored vodkas, an overloaded well-drink reservoir and more whiskeys than you can shake a stick at.

Dress code: Sweaters, jeans and your best home team jersey.

Music: Live bands every Friday including Strictly Hip, No Excuses and the Strangers. Show up early unless you want to park on Southwestern.