Best of Buffalo
Found beneath the towering and historic Dun Building on the corner of Pearl Street and W. Swan Street, Soundlab has become an off-site venue dedicated to music, art and performance.
Once an on-site offshoot of the artist-run not-for-profit cultural Big Orbit Gallery, Soundlab has become a venue for wide-ranging acts including Animal Collective, Matt & Kim, Rusko, DJ Diplo, and CocoRosie.
The underground spot has also become the home to the monthly Communist Parties and Shock and Awe dance parties.
The dimly-lit location, with its brick walls and rows of booths centered around a main stage, provides patrons with a simple stylized atmosphere that hosts as many as six events each week. Employees of Soundlab are volunteers who do their job because of their passion for music and art in general.
While Soundlab considers itself an art space rather than a club, its one-of-a-kind location and ambience has become a favorite of music enthusiasts. The venue focuses on the artistic side of shows and has a very limited bar situation – just beer and wine. However, the experience of the performances on stage in such a small, intimate area overshadows the basic bar menu.
Best Dive Bar
The Old Pink, located at 223 Allen St., is one of the darkest and most crowded bars in Buffalo after 2 a.m. The one-time single lane bowling alley is a hole-in-the-wall for first-time visitors with its graffiti and sticker-filled walls.
In 2007, the Old Pink in Allentown was created into a work of art, incorporating rising flames and falling snowflakes designed by artists "Jean-Claude and Tim." But the atmosphere hasn't changed in the slightest, besides the fact that patrons standing in the massive crowd outside upon closing time have fluorescent colors glowing on them.
After midnight, the Old Pink is a little scary and overly dirty, but it remains a second home for those willing to stay out until Buffalo's 4 a.m. closing time. The bartending staff is quick and friendly, and cocktails are reasonably cheap but strong. And it boasts of having the best steak sandwiches in Buffalo, even after hours.
The Old Pink has frequent theme nights with Classic Country Sundays, Skate Night Mondays, and Spooky Business on Tuesdays during the summer.
Best Drunk Eats
It's 2:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning and you're stumbling along Chippewa St. by yourself. You've been separated from your crew. You zig-zag to the bright lights near the corner of the street where everyone seems to be congregating. It's Jim's Steakout, and everything is going to be OK.
Nothing satisfies the drunk munchies like a 12-inch Philly Cheese Steak (with or without the onions) and an order of fries from Jim's Steakout.
With cold subs, hot subs, chicken wings, tacos, and cheeseburgers, Jim's has just about anything a drunken stomach could crave.
Although there are certainly cheaper places to get a late night snack, it's easy to get a satisfying meal for under $10 from Jim's.
Conveniently, Jim's has locations within walking distance of whichever district you choose to party at. For the Chippewa bar hoppers: 92 W. Chippewa St., near the corner of Delaware. For the South Campus people: 3094 Main St., across from Lisbon Avenue. For the Elmwood hipsters: 938 Elmwood Ave., a few blocks down from McGarrett's.
Additionally, they have seven other locations across the North and Southtowns, a little more suited for sober snacking.
There are, however, a few things to be mindful of (if you're still capable of it) when picking from the menu. Your sober stomach the next day is going to be paying the price for your drunken mind the night before. While nothing may seem like a better idea at the time than to stuff your face until you pass out from a combination of alcohol sedation and "post prandial steal," you might want to consider that you've probably already consumed well over 1,000 calories in beer and Four Lokos.
Although Jim's doesn't provide its nutritional facts, there's no doubt a few of its items rank right up there with some of the most terrifying nutrition facts imaginable. To get an idea, a generic 12-inch philly steak is between 800 and 1,200 calories, and a generic 12-inch chicken finger sub is about 1,000 calories.
Best Gay Bar
On Mondays and Thursdays, Cathode Ray, nestled on the corner of Allen Street and North Pearl Street, runs a special called "Big Ass Drink Nite," where for $6 you get a quart-sized mason jar of either a Long Island Iced Tea, Gilligan's Iced Tea, Margaritas, or Sex on the Beach. These beverages are the pinnacle of Buffalo civilization as each jar is filled with a modest amount of ice, a microscopic amount of drink mix or juice, and liquor filled to the brim. Divine.
Some bar-goers bring a beer koozie, which they've cut down the side so they can wrap it around the mammoth concoction—a good idea in theory but very much for amateurs or people that have brunch dates with their grandmother the next morning. Just suck it down quickly. Despite the copious dose of alcohol it still tastes like candy, a tick that every gay bar has mastered much to the public's bewilderment.
In addition to Big Ass Drink Nite (which is really an incredible selling point), Cathode Ray is also a great place to hang out. They have a huge outdoor patio, a long bar, and a nice amount of sitting room situated around a pool table and dart boards. It's relaxed and full of interesting people who are just looking to have a good time without having to don the body glitter, stripper heels and eye make-up that is tacitly required at Marcella.
On any given night, there's sure to be more pool playing than dancing, more fun conversations than dry humping on the dance floor, and a pretty even mix of homo and heterosexuals. It's bars like Cathode Ray that give the hope that maybe one day we really all will be treated as equals, and the bar will become a forum for tolerance, acceptance, alcoholism and well, fun.
It's easy to almost forget that Cathode Ray is a gay bar… that is until the 13th Lady Gaga song comes on the playlist and everyone drops their pool sticks to sing along using their mason jars as microphones.
Best Local Brewery
It stands to reason that the brewery that is responsible for the best local brew would also flaunt the city's best selection of microbrews. This is the case for Pearl Street Grill and Brewery and its 15 custom drafts.
Located at 76 Pearl Street in downtown Buffalo, this local watering hole is responsible for a selection of in-house beers that has something for everyone. Whether you are a seasoned veteran of the drinking scene or you're still too young and impressionable to realize that there's a world outside of Keystone, Pearl Street offers something extraordinary that can be enjoyed in the fresh air on the building's three-story patio.
The establishment's signature beer is the Trainwreck. This German-style amber ale appeals to a wide range of drinkers. Its golden brown color and malty flavor will comfort as it intoxicates.
For those who want to hide the fact that they cannot handle their booze, the Grill has created its lightest beer, the Lighthouse. The alcohol content in this blonde ale is below four percent. Even though this draft only barely qualifies as a beer, its vanilla flavor makes it a delicious option for a night out.
For all the local hockey fans that come through the bar, Pearl Street has created a seasonal brew that is worthy of representing the city's favorite team. The Sabre's Edge is a double IPA that crashes the boards with a whopping 7.5 percent alcohol content. This beer is not for rookies, as its intense hoppy flavor will hit your mouth at full force. It is a seasonal beer and will not be around for very long, so it is highly recommended that beer lovers make their way downtown before this brew goes the way of the team's cup chances.
Best Local Beer
To beer lovers all over the world, there's nothing quite like that first taste of a well-crafted brew. At the same time, there's nothing as gut-wrenchingly awful as an ale that tastes like it were poured from an old boot.
For those hoping to avoid this unfortunate experience, hope comes in the form of Pearl Street Grill & Brewery's Street Brawler , which will kick you in the teeth and keep you coming back for seconds.
At 4.5 percent alcohol by volume, this beer may not sound like much of a contender on paper, but Street Brawler can hold its own with the best of them. This oatmeal stout initially comes off similar to Ireland's favorite son, Guinness. After a few sips into your first glass, however, you find that this beer is all its own.
Street Brawler's dark earthy tone may be intimidating for inexperienced drinkers, but its crisp, almost chocolaty flavor is a refreshing affair for even the most novice palettes.
While Street Brawler is a must have for any beer aficionado, make sure to approach it with caution. Too many rounds with this heavyweight and you'll find yourself waking the next morning fresh off a blackout with a throbbing head and a busted gut.
The Best Local Cinema
While local high culture urges moviegoers to patronize local historic theaters like the Market Arcade Theater downtown, those looking for the optimal viewing experience should swallow their pride and head down to the Regal at the Walden Galleria.
While it may not be dripping with the antique rustic furnishings like the Market Arcade or located in Buffalo's historic theater district, the reclining wide and plush seats at the Walden Galleria Regal beat the hard and narrow accommodations at the Market Arcade.
The Regal can be counted on to show the latest hit movies in multiple theaters many times throughout the day.
Also, moviegoers who need time to kill before or after a show have an entire mall to wander at will.
The Galleria Regal does have one unfortunate drawback however: the other movie guests.
Rowdy teens, often corralled by mall security out of the mall itself (due to its strict rule against unsupervised teens younger than 18) find their way in packs into many of the shows and can often be found, or rather heard, causing a raucous during showings.
Despite the potential for a few noisy kids, the Galleria Regal beats out all other movie theaters in Buffalo, scoring points for its variety of showings, comfy seats, and convenient location.
Best Neighborhood Pub
Founding Fathers, located at 75 Edward St., is one of the hidden gems of downtown Buffalo. A wide variety of reasonably priced drinks, excellent service, and free munchies will keep any customer coming back for more. Founding Fathers is the perfect bar for any young professional who doesn't want to meet Chris Hansen after making out with a teenage girl at Pure.
The first thing that one will notice upon walking into the bar is the unique atmosphere. Every wall is plastered with presidents' faces, sculptures, and flags that date back hundreds of years. There is definitely no other bar in Buffalo with this much Americana.
Another highlight of Fathers is the free nachos and popcorn. These snacks are delicious, but be forewarned: you will become extremely thirsty. Fortunately, there is a wide selection of strongly-made drinks that can quench any person's thirst. These drinks will put hair on your chest (sorry ladies, you too). There is also a fairly wide selection of food at the bar to buy if nachos and popcorn can't satisfy you.
The bartender, Mike Driscoll, is a human encyclopedia. Although all the people who work at Founding Fathers are very friendly, Mike stands out. He routinely asks trivia questions throughout the night, and he will make sure anyone sitting at the bar is having a good time. He literally jumps from person to person as they answer the trivia questions, and he might even dance as he's doing it. In a world where most bartenders don't care about the experiences of their patrons, Founding Fathers is a breath of fresh air.
Additionally, there is a trivia night on the first Tuesday of every month where teams assemble to win prizes. Free alcohol, glasses, shirts, and more are given out to the winners. No other bar in Buffalo gives away as much free stuff as Founding Fathers gives away on its trivia night, which is just another reason why it's the best.
When going to a play in Buffalo, viewers can find themselves sitting in anything from folding chairs to cushion-tiered seating. In front of them can lay a low raised black box stage with low-budget scenery or a proper stage with curtains and changing sets.
For the latter of the options, one would head to Shea's Performing Arts Center.
Located in the heart of Buffalo's Theater District, Shea's was built in 1926 with an opulence suited for Broadway. With marble and crystal chandeliers, a theatergoer will be as impressed with the surroundings as he/she will be with the big budget productions that tread the stage.
Best Theater Company
Buffalo has innumerable theater companies and production groups, but one provides quality and consistency more than others.
Kaleidoscope Theatre, now going into its third year at its new residence, Medaille College, always provides quality acting, low prices, and a diverse season schedule. Although the locale has been downgraded – you'll be sitting in a converted lecture hall – that is the only thing that has been reduced.
With each season containing a wealth of comedy, this production group performs local and famous plays alike. With the motto of "turn the scope, see a whole new world," Kaleidoscope often puts a new twist on an old tale, such as last season's take on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.