Mes Que: ‘More than’ a bar for Buffalo soccer fanatics
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • April 30, 2012 @ 9:27pm
It really doesn’t take much to please soccer fans. Provide a desired match on television, several pitchers of beer, fellow futbol-addicted friends and a place to stand, sway and sing, and you’re golden.
Until last Saturday, Buffalo hadn’t established a consistent soccer-friendly pub. Sure, places like Papa Jake’s, Gecko’s and Caffe Aroma had done well to welcome World Cup fever and cater to U.S. men’s and women’s national team supporters like the American Outlaws, but with Mes Que (1420 Hertel Ave., Buffalo), the Queen City at last has its first soccer-only bar.
“You can’t be part-time with a soccer bar,” said Mes Que partner Tony Christiano. “It has to be all soccer, all the time—you can’t have customers worried about NASCAR being on TV.”
Roughly 50-60 people entered Mes Que to witness Manchester City’s 1-0 victory over Manchester United in the Manchester Derby—marked by a mixture of shrieks of excitement and hearty boos after Vincent Kompany’s first half header—including a “who’s who” list of the Buffalo soccer community that included FC Buffalo owner Nick Mendola, Buffalo State head coach Rudy Pompert, FunTime Presents promoter Donny Kutzbach, FC Buffalo defender Pat Zelko and more.
Mes Que had been in the works for nearly three years, explained Christiano, who still plays soccer in an over-30 league locally.
While the idea of opening a soccer bar stewed in his mind, Christiano decided to act after returning from a trip to Barcelona. Back in Buffalo, he witnessed hints that there was a swell of soccer fever locally, even if it was confined to a relatively small populace. He sported his Barcelona jersey at the Taste of Buffalo and received more and more points to the crest and thumbs up each year, a sign that the cultural obsession that had seized Europe at least had a heartbeat in Buffalo.
After joining together with at least three other partners—sources indicate that Christiano’s cousin, Michael Christiano, owner of the Left Bank restaurant, is involved as well—the ownership group navigated through paperwork with the city of Buffalo and opened officially last Saturday afternoon.
With the look and the feel of a Euro pub, Christiano didn’t want Mes Que to be too “in your face.” He referred to the small yet tidy space as a “secret soccer bar,” but considering the attendance he had for a “soft opening” for El Clasico—the ballyhooed match between Barcelona and Real Madrid two weeks ago—word has already gotten out. Three large HD TV screens adorn the walls—two behind the bar, one at the opposite wall—and an extensive beer list enhances the experience.
Inspired by Barcelona’s slogan—“Mes Que,” which in Catalan means “more than”—Christiano explained the historical context that enriches the bar’s name. In early 20th century Catalonia, a state long in search of freedom from Spanish oppression from Madrid, Catalonian men were not allowed to speak to each other in public—soccer stadiums, such as Barca’s Camp Nou, provided a safe haven to not only enjoy soccer matches, but to socialize in secret.
Blogger Darren Dalrymple, in his short post on deep-seated hatred in El Clasico, writes:
[Barcelona] grew in troubled times, nourished by oppression. The more the club grew, the more a collective identity and confidence of Catalonians grew with it. Barca offered protection whenever Madrid tried to impose itself, the Camp Nou provided a sanctuary for Catalonians. Whilst a fascist Madrid based government strained to strangle the Catalonian identity from the region, even outlawing the native language, the Camp Nou offered a platform for socios to celebrate success, express identity and defy oppression.
Lofty plans for Euro 2012 lie in wait for Mes Que, as the world’s second largest competition to the World Cup is scheduled for June. Drape a scarf around your neck, order a Franziskaner and yell loudly as your team takes the pitch. You won’t be judged at Mes Que.