I recently moved to South Buffalo, and finally, the cleaning, unpacking, arranging and rearranging is almost completed. Now that the bulk of the heavy lifting is done, I’ve had some time to take in my surroundings and visit some of the nearby bars and restaurants. It seems like a good omen for my new digs – and perhaps a bad one for my wallet – that South Buffalo’s beloved Blackthorn is just a few steps away.
David and I wandered into the Blackthorn on a recent Saturday night looking for dinner and a few drinks. We found both, and also one heck of a rollicking, enthusiastic bar crowd. The reason? The Notre Dame vs. Stanford football game that was flashing away on four of the bar’s TVs, and the fact that Daniel Colt Collins, in full Leprechaun dress, was there promoting his book, “Life as the Notre Dame Leprechaun: Behind the Face of the Fighting Irish.” A leprechaun, a Notre Dame football game, the Blackthorn ... I’m not sure you could have found a more Irish atmosphere without going to the Guinness factory.
We grabbed a quick bite in the dining area, located just a few stairs up from the bar. Our waitress, Meghan, was attentive and polite, rattling off a list of available draft beers without pause. I took a gamble and ordered the Southern Tier Christmas Ale, which I’ve never tried before, and David got a Harp to wash down his meal. Both selections were $5. Through no fault of Meghan, neither choice agreed with our palates – we drank them quickly, looking forward to ordering something more satisfying.
The building is a good representation of South Buffalo as a whole – while certainly not glamorous, it possesses an unpretentious charm that makes you feel at home right away. The Blackthorn is a true pub, with low ceilings, dim lighting and wood-paneled and wallpapered walls in the bar area. Dark trim with detailed woodwork is throughout the building, giving it a very old-world flair. An electronic countdown to St. Patrick’s Day ticks away over the door, and other Irish-themed memorabilia, from flags to jerseys to signs, festoon the walls from corner to corner. There is a private dining area on the second floor, used for meetings and special events, and a patio is open for additional seating during the warmer months.
Our bill paid and first round quaffed, David and I headed down to the bar to order another drink and see just what the commotion of laughter and cheering we had heard throughout dinner was all about. We snagged two seats on the corner of the bar, and ordered two glasses of Smithwick’s, a favorite for us both. Bartenders Dan and Pat were friendly and quick to take our order. We sipped our drinks and couldn’t help but grin and shout along as we watched Collins, in his ND Leprechaun garb, hop on the bar with another fellow and do pushups for every point ND scored while Dan blared the school’s fight song on an iPod.
The Blackthorn doesn’t offer a happy hour or daily drink specials, because, as Dan put it, “it’s more of a restaurant than a bar.” The pleasantly crowded, boisterous atmosphere of that night was a great introduction to the Seneca Street mainstay, but the more common scene seems to be regulars stopping in for a pint or two. Either way, I can’t wait to come back. That Irish charm is hard to resist.
Blackthorn Restaurant & Pub
Where: 2134 Seneca St. (825-9327)
Scene: A South Buffalo pub mainstay with a cozy, small town atmosphere.
Drinks: More than a dozen options on draft, including hard cider, several season favorites and plenty of Irish ales. Standard liquor and wine choices are also available.
Dress code: Jeans and T-shirt casual.
Hours: Opens at 11:30 a.m. daily.