White Buffalo Saloon

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When joining a group of people for someone’s birthday, you never know where the night will take you.  In most cases, it’s out of your hands.  It’s all about the birthday celebrant, so you’re often just going with the flow.

So when my gal pal, Michele, was celebrating her big 4-0 and wanted to go to the White Buffalo Saloon, it was a pleasant surprise.  I’d wanted to hit this newly coined hot spot for months now, as it’s the favorite of  two of my nieces, avid country western music fans and line dancing aficionados.  The youngest of the sisters drives home from USF in Tampa to meet up at While Buffalo, so — at least for her age group — I knew the joint would be jumping.

When we arrive around 8:00 pm, I note the the crowd at White Buffalo is about as eclectic as it gets,  with most of the tables edging the basketball court sized dance floor that was already swinging with folks doing the two-step, gracefully circling the outer edge of the dance floor, arm in arm, with some of older folks zipping gracefully past kids in their twenties.  What?  Dancing where no one is bumping into someone else?  Wow!  A country themed bar that’s non-smoking?  Has the earth shifted?

White Buffalo Saloon 002 (Medium)

Michele explains there’s a smoking area outside, and adds that White Buffalo “doesn’t get busy until around 10:30.”  Not busy?  There are several hundred people here already!  But the place is so cavernous, you don’t notice it unless you walk from one end of the warehouse sized joint to the other.

Since not all of our party is here yet, we take up our table and check out the menus.  “Uh oh!” I say to anyone who’ll listen. “This joint is definitely a dietary speed bump, if there ever was one.”  No one disagrees, but that doesn’t stop the fascination with some the calorie overloaded items on the menu.  I mean really, who can eat a 10 oz. Angus burger topped with BBQ pork, chili, a fried egg, bacon, and cheese!  Crazy thing . . . it comes with a side of fries, or whatever else you pick from the side menu.

Over the years my meal choices have moved from deep fried to lightly toasted.  From crispy fried chicken to broiled chicken breast — no skin, thank you very much.  But at White Buffalo the majority of the menu is country fried or deeply basted in barbecue sauce, . . . why even the mac’n cheese is deep fried (and served in a pail with ranch dressing!)  Even the first word on the salad section is Jumbo!  Really?!!  I should have gone into training before I got here!

Mike's Three Ring Circus - Onion Rings filled with Pulled Pork

Mike’s Three Ring Circus – Onion Rings filled with Pulled Pork

But we’re here for Michele, so Mart and I choose a shared appetizer for the three of us, Mike’s Three Ring Circus, three large King Cut onion rings, deep friend (of course), filled with wet, juicy pulled pork.  Now this was an appetizer I will ignore my diet for. . .   The onion is sliced so that one end remained intact, resembling more of an onion “cup” than a ring.  This turned it into an ideal vessel for the pulled pork.  You can eat it like an open-faced sandwich or cut them up with a knife and fork.  Either way, they were popular at our table, with a second order appearing when the rest of our party arrived.  They were seriously filling, and I could have stopped there . . . but then the frickles arrived . . .

Fickles. (deep fried pickles)  Need I say more?

Frickles. (deep fried pickles) Need I say more?

Frickles, if you’ve never heard of them, are deep fried pickle slices, served with a side of buttermilk ranch dressing or White Buffalo sauce.  The thing to remember about fried pickles is that the outside can cool to the touch well before the pickle juice inside has, meaning some bites pack a steamy hot interior, so keep your napkin nearby.  These would be great on a sandwich . . .

Though I’m no longer hungry, we don’t want to be rude and watch the others eat, so Mart and I decide to split a half-rack of baby back ribs, with cornbread and a side of cheese and bacon grits.  (no calories there!)  If only our order stopped there!

White Buffalo Saloon 023 (Medium)

“Say, while you’re at it,” Mart says to our server,  “bring us an order of your High Hat Nachos.  They looked pretty amazing.”  Amazing?  Fred Flinstone’s rib dish was amazing.  The size of these nachos was monstrous!  We had watched plate after plate of nachos come out of the kitchen, and commented earlier that if we’d ordered one for the table, we wouldn’t need anything else.  Even the menu says “bring a big appetite”, so why Mart?  Why??

Hi Hat Nachos

Hi Hat Nachos

“They’ll look good on the blog,” he says.  Sure enough, they do.   (that’s a meal plate behind the nachos in the photo above.)  Michele noted that the photo of the nachos as they arrived at our table was almost identical to one she took as the plate was taken away at the end of the night.  We all had a few, but  didn’t seem to make a dent.  They were endless!

White Buffalo Saloon 027 (Medium)

The key to White Buffalo, and their huge food portions,  is to get off your fanny and out on the dance floor soon as you can.  A good share of the patrons arrive after the band comes on at 9:00, and when they take a break, the DJ keeps the floor filled with line dance numbers like The Electric Slide, Boot Scootin’ Boogie, and the cha cha slide.   I think I hear some even some ‘less than country’ line dance songs play once or twice.  Depeche Mode’s  Personal Jesus, anyone?

White Buffalo Saloon 036 (Medium)

As the night progresses, more and more country music fans are piling in.  One by one, the staff takes away the tables once the diners vacate them, leaving more room for the gathering throng.  This, more than anything else, defines White Buffalo as a gathering place, a hot spot, a place where folks can get out and dance – with or without a partner – and have a good time in the process.

If you don’t know how to line dance, White Buffalo offers  free line dancing lessons on Wednesday and Thursday evenings each week.  And if the music is your real attraction, check out their website for a calendar of  who’s playing.     You don’t have to eat (or over-eat) to enjoy yourself.   And as we discovered, White Buffalo is an ideal place for a large group to celebrate a birthday, bridal shower, retirement party . . . what ever suites your fancy.  Blue jeans are most welcome!

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