At a glance from the outside, Buffalo Billiards looks like most other bars located in Philadelphia’s Old City district. A glass emblazoned logo, neon signs and an overall quaint feel make it blend in nicely with many other shops and eateries in the area. Those similarities end at the front door, however.
Buffalo Billiards Philadelphia, the company’s third U.S. location, is much bigger than the average bar. Opened in 2000, Buffalo Billiards’ website boasts a capacity of up to 600 patrons for parties. The interior is part dive bar, part sports bar, and the mixture is pulled off with class. Bare brick walls are adorned with retro-style advertisements. The bar itself is decorated with artifacts from the Old West, antique coins and brochures looking for ranch hands. The lighting is dim and unassuming, which lends itself to the overall laidback atmosphere.
There are two floors, each featuring a fully stocked bar with 10 beers on tap at all times. There’s no drink menu and no set beer list at Buffalo Billiards, as they feature a continuously rotating selection of craft beers on draft.
“We’ll go through about two kegs with each beer and then switch them out, so that’s always changing,” Celeste Ahern, event coordinator and Buffalo Billiards employee since 2011, said. “We like to keep things fresh.”
The main draw of Buffalo Billiards, however, has nothing to do with the drinks that are served. The large space inside isn’t occupied with dance floors or DJ booths but rather a variety of bar games to keep patrons entertained. With eight pool tables, five dart boards, shuffleboard tables and even skeeball lanes, Buffalo Billiards seems to have something to appeal to the kid in everyone.
As its name and location might suggest, pool is the most popular activity at Buffalo Billiards.
“Pool tables fill up like that every day,” Ahern said. “On busy nights, there isn’t any time when we don’t have a five-or-six person wait list.”
Since pool is so popular, Buffalo Billiards has taken the need to have quarters on hand out of the equation. Patrons pay an hourly rate ranging from $6 to $10 per person to play. This is pro-rated by the minute, to ensure no time or money is wasted.
Darts, a traditional bar game, draws a fair number of customers nightly as well, but the lesser-known shuffleboard has grown in popularity as of late. Charged at the same rate as pool, Buffalo Billiards has had to make changes to accommodate the new trend.[blockqoute who=”Celeste Ahern” what=”event coordinator”]We get everything from 22-year-old kids on the weekends to businessmen during happy hours[/blockquote]
“We actually just took out some pool tables upstairs to put in more shuffleboard,” Ahern said. “I don’t think that’s something that you see a lot around the city.”
Skeeball has always been an arcade standby, but in recent years it has become a trendy complement to the local bar. It’s no longer uncommon to find patrons in friendly competition for the highest score. At Buffalo Billiards, however, it’s not all fun and games, as it runs two skeeball leagues throughout Philly Social Sports. The playoffs of the Thursday league’s sixth season took place on March 21, so another season of competitive four-on-four skeeball may be just around the corner. Registration was $30 per team this past season and can be completed in Buffalo Billiards or online at www.phillysocialsports.com.
Buffalo Billiards also features happy hours for beer lovers. From 6-8 p.m., Monday through Friday, it offers all 10 of its draft beers for $3 each.
“We have all craft beers on draft, so you’re not just getting Miller Lite on draft, you’re getting tasty, expensive beers,” Ahern said.
Buffalo Billiards also offers half-price appetizers and $3 well drinks during happy hour, and that’s not the only special that runs regularly. Every Sunday and Monday, from 9 p.m. until 2 a.m., it holds SIN, or service industry nights. On these nights restaurant workers from around the city are offered free pool and discounted drinks with proof of employment.
On Wednesday nights, from 9-11 p.m., Buffalo Billiards offers $3 Modelo Especials and half-priced chicken or fish tacos. Thursday from 9-11 p.m., it’s $3 local drafts and half-priced burgers, and the bar’s Saturday special is always changing. Currently, it’s offering $3 Yuengling lager drafts from 2-5 p.m.
Buffalo Billiards is also a game-day hangout. There are 17 full-HD plasma televisions distributed throughout the bar. For football fans, it has DirecTV’s “Sunday Ticket.” During Sunday football games, Yuengling drafts and domestic bottles are $3 each. It offers the same deal during all Philadelphia Eagles night games and $3 Budweiser and Bud Light bottles during Phillies games.
In the next few weeks, Buffalo Billiards will be doing a full upheaval of its food menu. Ahern wouldn’t disclose any details about the new menu items, other than to say it will diverge from the typical wings and potato skins barroom fare.
Above all else, Buffalo Billiards values a welcoming atmosphere. When asked what type of crowd the bar typically drew, Ahern said that everyone can find something fun to do there.
“We get everything from 22-year-old kids on the weekends to businessmen during happy hours,” Ahern said. “I think everyone feels really comfortable, because we don’t have a certain niche. Everyone can hang out, everyone can play games. All different styles of people just feel comfortable here.”
Kevin Harkins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.