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Head to the Old First Ward for a taste of St. Patrick's Day

You don’t have to be Irish to appreciate a good pub, and you don’t have to be a wino to appreciate cheap booze. Just about everyone celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Buffalo on Monday is a testament to that.

Last week, I visited the Irish Old First Ward on a Forgotten Buffalo Tour (ForgottenBuffalo.com, 833-5211) and did some testifying myself.

If you haven’t taken one of these tavern-centric tours yet, drop everything and sign up now. You’ll board a big, yellow school bus and get intimate with the real history of Buffalo’s working-class neighborhoods.

You’ll visit under appreciated corner watering holes, unique neighborhood landmarks, quirky cultural touchstones and learn the city’s fascinating history as delivered via gut-busting anecdotes from guides Eddy Dobosiewicz and Marty Biniasz. Your cordial fellow tour goers get friendlier and friendlier with every tavern stop.

Here are just four off-the-beaten-path places we visited, where you can go with just $10 in your pocket and have a great time, Monday or any day.

Sláinte!

Cook’s Bar & Grill, 222 Katherine St. Originally built in 1875, this cool little tavern is where Jimmy Griffin launched his campaign for mayor. It’s also one of the few places in town that serves Genesee Bock beer – and for just 2 bucks! Most drinks are $2 and the $3.75 Jameson is as pricey as it gets. Odds are, no one you know has ever heard of this place, but once you’ve been there, you won’t be able to shut up about it. Call 855-8444.

Talty’s, 2056 South Park Ave. This place is always rockin’. There’s live music three nights a week and never a cover charge. When we were there, we got to jam out to the Jony James blues band and cried tipsy tears of joy when the Gordon Highlanders worked their drum and bagpipe magic. Most drinks and shots are $2.50. Top shelf –Jameson, Irish Mist, Crown Royal – is just $3. Prices jump 50 cents on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays to help pay for the bands. What a bargain! Call 825-9279.

Buffalo Irish Center, 245 Abbott Road. A true cultural center – and ground zero on St. Patty’s Day – it’s home to three Irish dance companies, the Buffalo Irish Genealogical Society and the School of Irish Culture.At the bar, there’s live Irish music nearly every weekend. Most beers are 3 bucks, the most expensive glass of wine is $4.25 and you can get a corned beef sandwich with fries for $8. If you really feel like celebrating on Monday, spring for the 18-year-old Jameson for $7.50. Call 825-9535.

South Side Social and Athletic Club, 444 Elk St. A social club founded during Prohibition (guess why), there’s a beautiful bar filled with some of the nicest, most fun patrons you’ll ever meet.
Most beers and well drinks are $2.25 (actually a quarter more for non members, but the bartender might look the other way on your first visit).

The kitchen, run by a workhorse named Al Legros, is out of this world. It serves a $9 fish fry as big as my thigh, featuring some of the tastiest homemade potato and macaroni salads this side of my mother. There’s even a generous kids menu with meals for just $5. Call 825-9264.

- Samantha Maziarz Christmann

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