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Sit and Stew

Six cozy taverns for cocktails while the crockpot finishes dinner

In summer it’s called cocktailing.

In winter it’s simply called drinking.

The beginning of fall brings to a sad close the patio bars of Buffalo, but the onslaught of snow opens up the doors to the warm and cozy gin joints in town.

Often forgotten when the weather is warm, these Buffalo gems shine when the winter flakes fall.

Americana, free nachos, and the ousuit of trivia collide at Founding Fathers (75 Edward Street). Portraits of presidents and everything patriotic adorn the walls of this old tavern. Mike Driscoll, owner and barkeep, is a walking encyclopedia of American history. Patrons need merely ask and Driscoll will start an unrelenting verbal game of trivia. The answers seem to become more elusive as the night wears on, and it is doubtful that any newly learned facts will be remembered the next morning. The pub sports a long bar followed by an array of tables perfectly suited for a group of parched carolers. Joyous sounds abound with a splash of conversation mixed with a sip of holiday cheer.

The Place (229 Lexington Avenue) is just the place to warm up this winter. This favorite neighborhood haunt is just a few steps off of the busy Elmwood strip, but manages to maintain its old-school charm. The glowing green sign hanging in the front window welcomes the weary, winter traveler and announces clearly that they’ve found The Place. Once inside, owner Kenny Moriarty is happy to help his patrons defrost with the quintessential winter beverage: the Tom and Jerry. Brandy, dark rum, eggs, and steaming hot water are poured into a perfect little mug. Moriarty then tosses in some sugar and spice and pretty soon everything seems very nice.

Just around the corner from The Place awaits one of the tiniest pubs in town. The Essex Street Pub (6 Essex Street) packs a pool table, dartboard, jukebox, and an occasionally used karaoke stage into its folds. The bar is small and stools are hard to come by, but the drinks are dirt-cheap if you can squeeze yourself up to the bar. The closely packed quarters and communal body-heat keep away the chills. The bargain-basement booze helps too!

AV presents...

The Happiest Hour

Our happy hour pick of the week

Sea Bar

475 Ellicott St.

In keeping with the seafood theme of this year’s Winter Food Issue—and ignoring completely the sustainability angle—we humbly suggest stopping by Sea Bar if you just have to get that spicy tuna fix. With their excellent happy hour specials, you can eat like its going out of style—or rather, extinct—and quite on the cheap. The colorful, mood-lighted atmosphere and creative Pan-Asian-Latin menu is typical of most modern “fusion” restaurants, but Sea Bar’s great downtown location and inexpensive, tasty creations more than make up for its’ lack of East Asian authenticity. And for those who still bear the weight of a guilty conscious, opt instead for the Roast Beef on Weck Roll—Buffalo’s most famous cut of prime fused with sushi stylings. Sushi purists may scoff, but come on, it’s Buffalo.

HAPPY HOUR: M-F 4:30pm to 7pm.

Specials: 20% off sushi at the bar. $3 well drinks, 4.50 call drinks. Labatt Blue two for $5.

Got a hot tip on a great local Happy Hour? Send your suggestion to

Ulrich’s Tavern (674 Ellicott Street) has something to brag about. This public watering whole is the oldest continually operating tavern in Buffalo. Opened in 1868 and proclaimed half German and half Irish, the mix of food and free-flowing liquor will keep Ulrich’s open for many years to come. The combination of a bratwurst with sauerkraut and a pint of Guinness is true holiday magic.

Thirsty patrons may come for the beer but the hand-cut French fries at Papa Jake’s (1672 Elmwood Avenue) keeps ’em coming back. Across the street from the Pierce Arrow building, this bar collects a mixed clientele. College students, Elmwood villagers and north Buffalo folk meld together under the glow of the televisions mounted behind the bar. Those seeking comfort from the cold can wallow in their winter blues buried deep in Jake’s comfy booths while watching a Sunday football game. And should those blues come back, an order of fries and another round will chase them away.

For winter fare and a glass or three of red wine, holiday revelers can snuggle up together at Bistro Europa (484 Elmwood Avenue). This tiny Elmwood treasure holds just a couple of dozen patrons at any given time. Entering through a velvet-draped door into this warmly lit eatery is akin to being transported into Christmas past. The vibe is distinctly old world European with an eclectic menu focusing on fresh food prepared from scratch. Owners Steve and Ellen Gedra have found a niche in Buffalo’s restaurant scene. They also have one of the quaintest bars in town. With a handful of stools at the bar, warming up with red wine and an order of oxtail and potato pierogi could be one of the season’s newest traditions.

Once you’ve dug yourself out and found your mittens, venture into the winter wonderland of Buffalo’s best-kept secrets. Lift your spirits, lift your glass and enjoy some holiday cheer.

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