Blue Bull Tavern prides itself as an upscale sports bar walking distance from UB North Campus
A sports bar for everything Buffalo and more
In 2013, Carm Paolini and Steve Calvaneso had an idea of opening up an old-time Buffalo bar – one that would help reinvigorate their Western New York roots.
They wanted a place that prided itself on serving fresh food and offering customers the luxury to watch Western New York sports. They also wanted a bar that offered more dining options than just typical bar food, which they said most bars in the area do not offer.
And less than a year later after preliminary talks, Blue Bull Tavern was opened.
The Blue Bull Tavern is one of, if not, the only sports bar that is in walking distance for the plethora of students that live near North Campus.
Calvaneso said Blue Bull Tavern enforces a strict 21-and-over policy for students looking to order drinks, but the younger crowd is welcome to dine in any time the kitchen is open.
The bar is not a normal dive joint. The dimmed-lighting and upscale menu for a bar creates an auspicious atmosphere for any crowd – either the non-drinking personnel or the people who crowd the bar on game day.
“[It’s] a little bit of everybody,” said bartender and manager P.J. Bryniarski. “We get the staff at UB, the 21-and-over students at UB, engineering students. They’re all good kids.”
There is always a comfortable feel in the tavern. It is rarely crowded to capacity and there is usually an open seat either at the bar or at one of the numerous tables in the establishment.
Both Paolini and Calvaneso are seasoned veterans in the restaurant business and have completed many ventures before opening Blue Bull. Paolini is the owner of Lebro’s Restaurant in Amherst. He became a full-time owner last year when his business partner, co-owner Lee Fredericoni, retired after 33 years at the restaurant. Paolini also owns In & Out Pasta, which is located in the same complex as Blue Bull.
The venue is not only for drinking after a tough sports loss but its also a place to get a well-cooked meal. From burger topped with pulled pork and coleslaw to fish tacos, Blue Bull creates unique dishes with a college flare. In addition to the famous Buffalo wing, the restaurant portion also offers appetizers with a Buffalo twist, like Buffalo chicken quesadillas and wing dip, at a fair price for college students.
There are different meal specials on display every day to better cater toward the average college student. The meal specials range from all burgers $3 off to all appetizers only $6, which includes stuffed banana peppers and Buffalo wing dip – both Buffalo classics.
One of the fan-favorites is the homemade chicken fingers that are served with a side of celery and placed over a bed of French fries. It’s also a favorite among the college crowd because of its price tag.
“Three or four days a week you can get them for $7 per order,” Calvaneso said. “You can’t get anything for $7 anymore.”
The dish is a favorite for former UB student Hayley Caligor. Caligor only attended UB for one semester, but she said Blue Bull became one of her favorite joints in her short stint at UB.
Whenever she visits, she looks forward to reconnecting with her favorite chicken dish.
“The last time I visited Buffalo, I literally dropped off my stuff at North Campus and went to the Blue Bull for dinner,” Caligor said. “I make it a point to eat [there] every time I visit.”
Caligor dormed on North Campus, so Blue Bull Tavern was just a 15-minute walk away. It is one of the more practical options for students living on North Campus because most dining options off-campus require a vehicle.
There is a “Friends & Family” email list where customers can sign up to get special promotions and hear about special deals early. When the Tavern needs people to try out some of their new menu items they call up the e-mail list to what the bar calls “guinea pigs” to test out the food.
The phrase, “There’s no charge when being called for guinea pig duty,” is written on the back of the Tavern’s take-out menu and is always looking for more patrons to try out new products.
The Tavern prides itself on being a homegrown Buffalo bar. While there are usually national sports on display on one of their six HD TV big-screens, Western New York sports are always a priority.
During football season, Bills fans line up at the bar on Sundays to watch the slew of NFL games and the hometown team. During the winter, hockey fans file in to watch the hometown Sabres.
And during March, their busiest season of the year, Blue Bull gets the college basketball crowd.
This year was especially busy because of Western New York’s prominence in the NCAA Tournaments. The Buffalo men and women’s basketball teams both won their respective Mid-American Conference Championships and played in their respective NCAA Tournaments.
There is also a prominent presence of students from Syracuse that attend Buffalo. This year, both the Syracuse men and women’s basketball team’s made it to the Final Four. The women’s squad made it to the National Championship Game.
“March Madness was very good to us this year especially with UB.” Calvaneso said. “There are also a number of Syracuse fans that come watch the games. With Syracuse making it as far as they did, we saw nice crowds out for the games.”
Edward Goldschmid is a sports staff writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org