Birkdale Village buzzes at night. The interactive fountain circle at its heart is a hub of activity. People sprint across streets to shop and meet in restaurants and bars for lively conversations. It’s one of the most popular gathering spots in Lake Norman. But the next time you’re strolling Birkdale Village, venture off the main drag. Spy the nondescript tavern around the corner from the Gap? It’s The Kilted Buffalo. Stop in for a drink, and you may not make it back to Birkdale’s hub for the rest of the evening. Open since July 2010, The Kilted Buffalo is the brainchild of proprietor Shawn Shrader, who brings years of restaurant and service industry experience to the venue. Two things immediately grab your attention and make you scratch your head with curiosity. The first is the name. “I came up with Kilted Buffalo for two reasons,” explains Shrader. “’Kilted’ invokes the local Irish pub images, and ‘Buffalo’ is a tribute to my alma mater, Marshall University.” For those not familiar, students and alums of the West Virginia school cheer the Marshall Thundering Herd.The second head-turner is the pub’s concept – a full-service upscale grooming center situated inside, next to the bar and tabletop shuffleboard. Scheduled appointments and walk-ins are welcome to the three-chair barbershop that offers haircuts and other services found at salons. Just swap the spa scene for the sports bar atmosphere. “We offer a higher-end grooming salon for men,” says Shrader. “Men want a nice haircut minus the atmosphere often found at spas. This is a guy’s salon.” Pairing the salon and saloon was also a business decision Shrader made after doing significant research. “I was so burned out from the food service industry, and restaurants go out of business so quickly,” he says. But statistics show that in a down economy, people aren’t willing to give up their local watering hole. “Even when times are tough, people want to enjoy a drink with friends,” Shrader says. “And guys need a good haircut, whether they’re job hunting or employed.” Voila, The Kilted Buffalo is born. But while it’s a guy’s salon, the saloon suits any guy or gal searching for their hometown pub. Shrader has heard many customers say The Kilted Buffalo feels like a neighborhood bar they used to frequent back home. In addition to the “haircuts and beer” crowd – the mature businessmen who take advantage of the salon services – other patrons include couples and friends venturing out for drinks to a younger crowd that gathers in the late evening and early morning hours. “I’m happy when I hear people say we make them feel at home,” says Schrader. While there’s outdoor seating for warm evenings, the inside décor is warm and welcoming year-round. When the glass-enclosed grooming studio is closed, the focal point is the bar and pub games. They’re not just your typical video games, although vintage Ms. Pac Man is on site. Other offerings include darts to shuffleboard to Shut the Box Dice Game. One corner is reserved for BiminiRing Toss, a game believed to be invented in old British pubs that’s now a big hit in the Caribbean Islands. Guests can sample over 40 beer selections, including seasonal and microbrews. Many customers stop by to watch their favorite sports, including NFL and college teams. (Yes, Marshall alums and fans can catch every game.) While there’s no food menu, The Kilted Buffalo caters food for big sports events. During last year’s Final Four Basketball tournament, Shrader organized a neighborhood cookout. Look for free pizza, wings and subs to be offered during this fall’s football season. If you’re looking for entertainment, be sure to check The Kilted Buffalo’s Facebook page for a list of events and nightly specials. Live music is featured on occasional Friday evenings and there’s a plan to start a trivia club. But unlike many trivia nights that are organized by outside trivia game vendors, The Kilted Buffalo’s will be offered by its own bartenders. “We’re doing things other pubs are doing, just a little differently,” says Shrader. Shrader takes pride in the fact that he employs his original staff from a year ago. Bartenders and patrons alike are regulars. It may be off the beaten path, but it appears The Kilted Buffalo has found a home.
Want to go? The Kilted Buffalo8625 Townley Road, Huntersville (Birkdale Village)704-892-7571, www.thekiltedbuffalo.comPub hours: Mon. – Wed. 10 a.m. - midnight; Thurs. 10 a.m. - 1 a.m.; Fri. – Sat. 10 a.m. - 2 a.m.; Sun. noon - midnight Grooming salon hours:Mon. – Wed. 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Thurs. – Fri. 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Sat. 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sun. noon – 6 p.m.