Off-the-sidewalk patios just outside Buffalo’s city limits. Pints of Michigan wheat ale with mildly fruity aromas. Fading sunlit views of fairways set within a Frederick Law Olmsted-designed park.
And a name historically assigned to graveyards for criminals.
Call it jarring contrast; call it dark Irish humor. Either way, call it a night out at West Seneca’s Potter’s Field, whose corner tavern charm joins with its Cazenovia Park-side patios to offer one of the area’s best clandestine summer draft and dining locales.
Planted just over the city line at the corner of Potters Road and Woodcrest Drive, the pub stands as a successful marriage between West Seneca and South Buffalo: the former provides the address, whereas the latter provides the alehouse ambiance. Neighborhood denizens can stroll up off nearby Tampa Drive or Tudor, pass mounted family crests and find rounds of Bud Light under a trio of mounted flat-screen TVs. City residents on Cushing and Tuscarora can walk into the barroom, order pints of Labatt and bask in classic South Buffalo interior decorating, with Timon’s 1975 Manhattan Cup championship twine just down the wall from a placard for the Blarney Castle Ladies Social Club’s 2014 Meat Raffle (in St. Agatha’s McGuire Hall).
But when the Western New York weather turns from brutal to beautiful, Potter’s Field’s front and back patios add an indispensable exterior element to the bar’s built-in benefits.
Patrons can grab two-, four- or six-seat tables and sip domestic bottles or pints of Blue Moon ($5) while lounging in cargo shorts and strap sandals. They can enjoy the early evening breezes while engulfing sandwiches like the Miss Piggy ($8.99), a pretzel-rolled option with pulled pork, ham, bacon and cheddar, but without an operational defibrillator on the side. If customers so choose, they can simply sit under the patio speakers listening to Springsteen sermons and enjoying the view of Cazenovia Park Golf Course, the circa 1929 nine-hole expanse added to Olmsted’s original vision and residing just across Potters Road.
May’s increasingly balmy weather gave me the chance to choose that last option when I made my first spring visit to Potter’s front patio on a recent Thursday night.
I found the last open table in the back corner, dipped in the shade. After I settled in with a pint of Bell’s Oberon Ale ($5) amid Springsteen’s echoing vocal on “Glory Days,” I watched customers on the full patio order steak sandwiches, stuffed hot banana peppers and pitchers of Sam Adams Summer Ale ($17) as golfers rolled bags toward Caz’s 8th hole tee box. Sure, passing Hondas and unleashed Harleys occasionally interrupted the view, but the maple- and cottonwood-laden course was there, hosting foursomes under some of the first summery weather of the season as the bar’s relaxed clientele enjoyed the same sunlight.
But this sporadic conflict between traffic and Calloway-accommodating treasure harkens back to the locale’s misleading name. When a bar shares its moniker with a defined cemetery for paupers and swindlers, you would expect to find a dank, rye-soaked bar with the rosy character of Nick’s from “It’s a Wonderful Life,” serving hard drinks for men who want to get drunk – fast. That’s not the case with Potter’s Field.
Instead, the tavern hosts a hospitable barroom with Irish-hued South Buffalo (and West Seneca) comfort. Its outdoor solace caters to relaxed dinners or reunion rounds of cinnamon whiskey and stout. Located a mere nine-iron shot from a city-set fairway, its more like the neighborhood course’s clubhouse than ominous boneyard.
So what’s in a name? Plenty. But as Potter’s Field proves, not always what you’d expect.
Potter’s Field Restaurant and Pub
Where: 425 Potters Road, West Seneca (824-1353; also on Facebook).
When to go: When the weather’s accommodating for outdoor food and drinks; after a round at Caz Golf Course; or for neighborhood rounds seven days a week.
Dress: South Buffalo casual (khaki shorts, polo shirt and Notre Dame baseball cap).
On Tap: Bell’s Oberon, Blue Moon, Flying Bison Rusty Chain, Guinness, Labatt and Sam Adams Summer Ale.
Price range: Soups and appetizers, $3.99 to $12.99; sandwiches and entrees, $6.99 to $17.99. Beer, wine and mixed drinks run for typical Buffalo prices, but pitchers of craft beer check in at $17.
How to pay: Cash or credit. ATM inside.
Parking: Spots available on Potters, Woodcrest and in small rear parking lot.