An Irish itinerary
Nietzsche’s photos by Peter Koch, top left Blackthorn photo by Don Kreger, all others by kc kratt
For those who enjoy clothing themselves in emerald, hoisting pints of Guinness, and pretending to have read Finnegan’s Wake once a year, finding a day inside Buffalo’s city limits for Irish appreciation is not hard. The calendar does it for you; it’s called St. Patrick’s Day.
But for those who enjoy honoring their heritage outside the recognized mid-March window, one day—or, in Buffalo’s case, one week—isn’t enough. It’s a daily, lifelong celebration, with songs by Liam Clancy, poems of W. B. Yeats, and the legend of Finn McCool intertwined with your lineage. It all courses through your veins, and, during those months void of parades, you may want to devote a day every so often to a wire-to-wire schedule of local Irish immersion.
If so, the following ambitious, Nickel City-set itinerary is for you.
Morning bike ride from Buffalo’s Outer Harbor to the Irish Famine Memorial
Some of Buffalo’s first Irish residents were referred to as “Beachers,” because they occupied ramshackle shelters off Lake Erie on the city’s Outer Harbor. By the mid-1800s, the city’s Irish population exploded as a result of the Great Famine, which forced approximately one million people to emigrate from Ireland to places like Buffalo—and claimed the lives of over a million others. To acknowledge the memory of these early arrivals, start your day with a two-wheeled tour past the waterfront and First Ward, areas these settlers made their first American home. And once you make it to the Famine Memorial, take a moment to remember those who never made it.
Irish Famine Memorial: Off Lakefront Blvd.
(near Templeton Landing)
Coffee or tea, light breakfast, and Irish literature at Dog Ears Bookstore
After your eight-mile bike ride between the Outer Harbor and Erie Basin Marina, you should be ready for coffee, tea, or something with an egg on it. The café inside South Buffalo’s Dog Ears Bookstore can answer these needs, all while giving you the chance to peruse classic Irish literature from the likes of James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, or locally inspired historical work, such as Tim Bohen’s Against the Grain. All proceeds from the café and not-for-profit bookstore fund the activities of its Enlightenment Literary Arts Center, which hosts reading and writing programs for its surrounding community.
Dog Ears Bookstore: 688 Abbott Rd.
More info at dogearsbookstore.org
Tara Gift Shoppe
Following your caffeine boost and introduction to Beckett works like Molloy or Malone Dies, you may be ready for sunnier pursuits—like browsing Celtic-designed merchandise. The Tara Gift Shoppe has been offering such Irish imports to Buffalonians since 1980. Whether a Claddagh ring for your significant other, Waterford crystal for an upcoming wedding gift, or simply a box of Hogan’s soda bread mix for incoming relatives, the South Buffalo shop’s a must for anyone looking to accent their day with Irish accoutrements.
Tara Gift Shoppe: 250 Abbott Rd.
More info at taragiftshoppe.com
Lunch and H. O. Oats Stout at Gene McCarthy’s
Even before it opened its Old First Ward Brewing Company facilities on site, McCarthy’s was a standard stop on any Buffalo-set Irish tour, whether for its neighborhood tavern vibe, history, or simply as a place to feel the enduring dampness of post-Shamrock Run parties. But now with its brewery, the locale offers in-house selections—such as the noted oatmeal stout—for patrons to team with potato bacon chowder and corned beef or to raise a toast to its founder, the late Gene McCarthy.
Gene McCarthy’s: 73 Hamburg St.
More info at genemccarthys.com
Visit to Waterfront Memories and More Museum
After absorbing the history of McCarthy’s and maybe hearing a few stories about its surrounding neighborhood, you might want to learn more about the families who once roamed its streets and made it into the evolving riverfront enclave it is today. Photos, documents, and artifacts from the joint collections of founders Bert Hyde and Peggy Szczygiel are now featured inside the museum’s new space at Mutual Riverfront Park and are on display for those who’d like to know more about the generations who’ve buoyed Buffalo’s First Ward.
Waterfront Memories and More Museum: 41 Hamburg St.
More info at thevalleycenter.com/museum/
Reflection at St. Joseph’s Cathedral
Just because you’re leaving the Ward doesn’t mean you can’t steer toward the beauty of one of its earliest leader’s grandest achievements. Bishop John Timon—who arrived in Buffalo in the blackest year of the Great Famine (1847) to become the Catholic Diocese’s first bishop, as well as a steadfast champion of arriving Irish immigrants—was responsible for securing land on Franklin Street for what would become the city’s grand cathedral, consecrated in 1863. Stop in for silent reflection, prayer, or just to enjoy St. Joseph’s spectacular gothic interiors.
St. Joseph’s Cathedral: 50 Franklin St.
More info at buffalodiocese.org/chancery/stjosephcathedral.aspx
Traditional sessions at Nietzsche’s
A venture into the eclectic environs of Allentown for Buffalo’s most clandestine Irish celebration? Seems odd, but it’s true—and it happens every Saturday, starting at 4 p.m. Huddled into a darkened barroom accented with music-related graffiti and papier maché masks, patrons gather for circling rhythms, sing-a-longs, and pints of Guinness around the day’s collection of musicians. It’s an enjoyably warm and welcoming experience, and it’ll be the closest thing you’ll find to an overseas pub vibe inside our city limits.
Nietzsche’s: 248 Allen St.
More info at nietzsches.com
Dinner at D’Arcy McGee’s
Now buzzing from the revelry generated by swirling fiddle notes and stout toasts, you’re ready for dinner. And whether you’d like to dive into a Dublin-inspired fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, or traditional boiled dinner—with carved corned beef, cabbage, carrots, and potatoes—choices abound inside the cozy, off-Chippewa pub named after Thomas D’Arcy McGee, an Irish Canadian politician and one-time Buffalo-based journalist who was assassinated in Ottawa in 1868.
D’Arcy McGee’s: 257 Franklin St.
More info at darcymcgeesonline.com
Performance at Irish Classical Theater Co.
Brendan Behan’s The Hostage. Sean O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock. Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. These plays are merely three examples crafted by the pens of legendary Irish playwrights. And in the heart of Buffalo’s theater district, cofounder and artistic director Vincent O’Neill has provided the chance for locals and visitors to see these performances and more since opening the Andrews Theater in 1999. An in-depth Irish tour isn’t complete without ICTC (shows run Thursdays through Sundays).
Irish Classical Theater:
625 Main St.
More info at irishclassical.com
Live music and laughs at the Buffalo Irish Center
Finally, after spending time appreciating pieces of Buffalo’s Irish heritage, you end at its home, the Buffalo Irish Center. Home base to more than a dozen Irish-American organizations—including the Gaelic American Athletic Association, Rince Na Tiarna step dancers and Erie County Sheriff’s Pipe Band—it’s the city’s epicenter of Irish activity. And just past the statue of Buffalo native Chauncey Olcott (author of “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling”), you’ll find live music on Friday and Saturday nights. This scene can provide a fitting end to a long day and night.
Buffalo Irish Center: 245 Abbott Rd.
More info at buffaloirishcenter.com
Late night bonus:
Stop at the Blackthorn for a nightcap
If you have enough left in the tank after the Irish Center, pop into the Seneca Street pub not only to raise a glass to the headquarters of Buffalo’s Blackthorns—a fraternal organization of Irish Americans known both for their community enrichment and top hat-accented St. Patrick’s Day parade garb—but also to comfortably reflect on your completed itinerary. Sláinte.
2134 Seneca St.
More information at blackthornrestaurant.com
Michael Farrell, author of Running with Buffalo, is a longtime contributor to Spree.