Irishman’s Guide to South Buffalo
Things to Do & See this St. Patrick’s Day Weekend
There’s a reason a large swath of South Buffalo was designated as the city’s Irish Heritage District several years back. With a heavy population of residents boasting Irish roots, Irish culture takes hold in the area unlike any other in the city. Growing up on Seneca Street near Cazenovia Park, I had numerous neighbors who retained their brogue from the old country, and hearing stories of how my neighbors missed the Emerald Isle was as much a part of growing up as playing baseball and riding bikes. A visit to South Buffalo on the biggest weekend of the year set aside to celebrate Irish culture only makes sense.
“In South Buffalo, we still hold many close ties to Ireland,” said lifelong South Buffalonian and singer of Irish folk band Crikwater Liam Caulfield. “We have a real love for the culture and many have made it their duty to carry on the old traditions in their own families.”
I sat down with Caulfield, who is also my cousin, to find out how to celebrate the holiday the right way, in the right places. St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Monday this year, but the festivities start on Friday, with several options available to get the celebration going.
Friday, March 14
The Buffalo Irish Center, 245 Abbott Road, is the “mecca for all things Irish in Western New York,” Caulfield said, and St. Patrick’s Day weekend is no exception. They will be serving their “Fenian Fish Fry,” starting at4 p.m., with entertainment to follow in the pub at 8 p.m. While the Irish Center should be on a short list of places to visit, there are plenty of other pubs and venues to visit in the area, Caulfield said. The second annual Live at O’Larkin kicks off at 5 p.m. in Larkin Square, corner of Seneca and Swan streets, and features several bands, including McCarhtyizm, The Greater Buffalo Firefighters Pipes and Drums and Crikwater, as well as Irish dancers from Clann Na Cara School of Irish Dance.
Doc Sullivan’s, 474 Abbott Road, is known for their “Smitty’s Style chicken wings,” Caulfield said, and they’ll have plenty of food, drink and live entertainment throughout the weekend. It’s a great place to stop in for some food and a drink…or two.
Also on Friday, Crikwater will be playing a second set at the Brick Oven Bistro, 910 Abbott Road at 9 p.m.They offer a great craft beer selection and brick oven pizza.
Saturday, March 15
The 21st annual “Old Neighborhood” St. Patrick’s Day Parade is the place to be on Saturday afternoon. The parade kicks off at noon at the Valley Community Center, 93 Leddy St., and features over 100 marching units, from labor unions, high school bands and pipe bands to prominent families in the area and various floats. It’s a fun atmosphere, and has a more traditional feel than the parade on Delaware Avenueon Sunday.
As people migrate into South Buffalo from the Old First Ward and the Valley after the parade, there are several stops to make, Caulfield said.
Gene McCarthy’s Pub on Hamburg Street in the historic Old First Ward is a great place to grab a pint. At 1 p.m., Irish band The Leftovers will be playing at the Valley Community Center. The “hooley” at the Valley Community Center goes until 6 p.m.
The Buffalo Irish Center will have music and Irish dancers starting at 3 p.m., and Crikwater will be playing at Molly Maguire’s, 834 Abbott Road, at 4 p.m. and again at The Brick Oven Bistro at 9 p.m.
Sunday, March 16
After the parade downtown, head down to the Irish Center, where The Leftovers will be playing in the Emerald Room, while McCarthyizm plays in the Pub. There will also be Irish dancing. You’ll also find a “warm reception” at Talty’s, 2056 South Park Ave., where the South Side Sod Busters are playing at 5 p.m. The Blackthorn, 2134 Seneca St., is another great place to stop in, as they have great food an offer an authentic Irish Pub feel, Caulfield said.
“You’ll be sure to find our friend Billy LaRusch entertaining in the pub,” he said.
Monday, March 17: St. Patricks Day
Music and dancing start at 1 p.m. at the Irish Center and continue throughout the day. The Leftovers play at 2 p.m. at Conlon’s Bar and Grille, 382 Abbott Road, and they have great sandwiches to boot, Caulfield said. Crikwater also plays their last set of the holiday weekend at 5 p.m. at Doc Sullivan’s.
If you do decide to pay South Buffalo a visit over the holiday weekend, expect “a warm welcome, good times, excellent drink and song and great craic,” Caulfield said. And despite the party-like atmosphere, it’s important to keep in mind that there is more to St. Patrick’s Day than just getting drunk.
“St. Patrick’s Day is one huge outward expression of love for, and loss of, our ancestral homeland,” Caulfield said. “It’s about remembering and paying tribute to the lasting legacy of the Irish people and their lasting cultural contributions and triumphs in music, art, literature, politics and sheer perseverance in the face of insurmountable odds.”
Caulfield has one more piece of advice for those venturing out to the south side of the city this weekend.
“I want to urge everyone to be safe and use a designated driver or take a cab or bus,” he said. “Just drink responsibly and have fun. Erin Go Bragh!”
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