The only thing that's more red-blooded American than watching a game in a stadium is gathering your friends, drinking beer, and watching the game at your local watering hole. The sports bar holds a special place in a spectator's heart — it's where you can collectively experience the triumphs, the heartaches, and the last-minute surprises of any game.
The American sports bar dates as far back as the early 20th century, writes Kevin Roose for ESPN. It began when runners would take the scores of the games from the stadiums and "run" them back to patrons. While Prohibition effectively killed the then-sports bar, the advent of television, and televised games, brought the sports bar roaring back.
But what's made the American sports bar what it is today goes far past the TV (though it certainly helps to be watching games on a 10-foot projector screen). Today's best sports bars reimagine what the collective sports experience really is. Some fans may want the loud, rowdy, in-your-face game-watching that you can get at bars like Dallas' Frankie's or Atlanta's Stats. Others may want the updated bar food that brings the comfort of home-cooking to the game, like at Philadelphia's Chickie's and Pete's or Brooklyn, N.Y.'s Red Star. Still others may want a more plush experience than the average watch party, for which Emeril Lagasse's Las Vegas outpost, Lagasse's Stadium, fits the bill. And then there are those that may just want to feel surrounded by the sports legends of the past, for which we recommend the "sports museum" in Kansas City, Mo., Chappell's.
But no matter the amenities, a sports bar is not truly a sport bar without the fans. Better get there yourself and see.
Pete's Tavern (San Francisco)
It’s called the premier sports bar of San Francisco for a reason — it's located just across the street from the SF Giants' AT&T Park — but it’s the cocktails and draft beer on offer that get us excited. Say hello to the Ballpark Cooler (made with Jeremiah Weed Sweet Tea Vodka and lemonade), the Pete’s Rye Manhattan, plus Drake’s 1500 ale, Speakeasy Prohibition brew, and Red Hook ESP. It’s spacious, it’s rowdy, it’s filled with TVs — what more could you ask for?
Number of TVs: 22
Number of Beers: 12 on draught, 15 bottled (including 10 wines)
Best Thing on the Menu: Bacon-wrapped dog, with onions and peppers
Coolest Thing About It: Proximity to AT&T Park, plus lots of space and seating, making it a great home for Giants games.
Chickie's and Pete's (Philadelphia)
This family-owned Philly sports bar chain has won numerous awards from ESPN, but they’re also known for one particular item on the menu: Crabfries. Imagine a crinkle-cut fry topped with the season’s leftover crab seasoning, with a cheesy sauce on the side — doesn’t get any better than that. Besides the seafood-heavy menu, it’s the fans and constant games on TV that make the Chickie's and Pete's outposts a favorite for game-watching. The South Philly location is known for legendary Eagles watch parties, but we’re sure any Philly team gets a lot of loving at Chickie's and Pete's.
Number of TVs: 18 in the flagship location, one in each private suite, plus one 12-foot projector and two 10-foot projectors
Number of Beers: 10
Best Thing on the Menu: The Magooby sandwich, made with Crabfries, cheese, shrimp, pickles, and onions
Coolest Thing About It: It’s home to the largest TV screen in Philly at the flagship, plus four bars — that will do the trick for fans.
STATS Restaurant and Bar (Atlanta)
What makes Stats stand out from the others? Six separate viewing areas for the games, which means you won’t rub shoulders with your rivals, plus there's a whopping 70 HDTVs in the bar so everyone can have a great view. And as if that wasn’t enough, wait until you see the beer tap system set up throughout the bar, so patrons can pour their own beer instead of relying on a waitress during a particularly intense inning — and that’s on top of the five bars. This mecca of sports (it’s the home of radio broadcast 790 The Zone) also serves classic American bar food, with a long list of draught beers. We’re already in the car.
Number of TVs: 15
Number of Beers: 70 +
Best Thing on the Menu: Beef brisket, made with Texas Pete hot sauce and served with mac and cheese
Coolest Thing About It: At the main bar are four high-top beer tables, complete with a built-in taps system. No more crowding the bar to get a cold brew.
Chappell's Restaurant & Sports Museum (Kansas City, Mo.)
Upon entering this Kansas City, Mo., bar, you’re immediately greeted with 100 years of sports greatness: 1,000 football helmets, Super Bowl rings, autographed Hall of Fame baseballs, and more — there’s a reason it’s called Chappell’s Restaurant and Museum. While taking in the relics around you, watch a game and dine on some classic American dishes, like the fish and chips and Chappell burger.
Number of TVs: 10 +
Number of Beers: 9
Best Thing on the Menu: The London Broil, marinated flank steak served au jus with potatoes
Coolest Thing About It: Obviously, the relics of sports legends — a Babe Ruth signed baseball, for starters.
Duffy's Sports Grill (Florida)
We can see why Miami Dolphins fans love this bar. A Dolphin Express bus to all Miami Dolphins football games?! We’re in. For those sticking around the bar for the game at the Miami outpost, there are a mere 700 seats to fill and 200 flat screens to watch the action on. And the extras are what keep this bar at the top of its game: gluten-free items on the menu, a wine list, a poolside bar (yes, really) and dockside parking for all you boaters.
Number of TVs: 200
Number of Beers: 15 +
Best Thing on the Menu: The Rachel Burger, with pastrami, Swiss cheese, coleslaw, and spicy brown mustard
Coolest Thing About It: Did we mention the poolside bar?
Even if you aren't a sports fanatic, it's worth heading to STATE if only for the food — filet mignon burger, sockeye salmon, and quinoa salad aren’t your typical sports bar offerings. And making STATE that much more impressive? The bar’s 124 HD plasma TVs to keep fans watching all night. If that’s not enough, STATE also has a giant draught beer selection: 100 total. We’ll take it.
Number of TVs: 124
Number of Beers: 100
Best Thing on the Menu: Filet Mignon Santa Fe Toast, with USDA Prime filet mignon, Fire Sky barbecue sauce, and pepper jack cheese
Coolest Thing About It: Trivia nights, with prizes up to $1,000 cash. Yeah, we’ll take it.
The Four's Restaurant & Sports Bar (Boston)
Ah Boston, home to the Red Sox, Celtics, Patriots, Bruins, and The Four's, a bar known to be a relic of sports history in this town. Come to see the walls covered in sports memorabilia, and stay for the clam chowder (they’re known for it) and rowdy crowds. Just steps away from TD Garden, The Four's has been named the number one sports bar by Sports Illustrated, among others — you know this is a bar home to the true sports greats.
Number of TVs: 42
Number of Beers: 9 on draught, 19 bottled
Best Thing on the Menu: Clam chowder
Coolest Thing About It: It’s transitioned from gritty hockey bar to a "sports-themed" restaurant, thanks to the microbrews, sports memorabilia, and mahogany bar.
Red Star (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
New Yorkers, rejoice: you have a full, state-of-the-art sports bar to take in all your MLB, NFL, NHL, NBA, and NCAA games. It’s consistently ranked as the best place to watch March Madness, the Super Bowl, and any other televised sporting event on its 40 TVs. With 14 beers on draught (including the Red Star Amber Lager), plus an extensive wings and food menu, the bar sets you up perfectly for a night of sports. (Or tequila, if you go on a Tuesday.) We recommend the crispy curry wings and the bacon Cheddar wings — two stellar recipes.
Number of TVs: 40
Number of Beers: 14 on draught, 8 bottled
Best Dish on the Menu: The raspberry barbecue wings
Coolest Thing About It: Wednesdays are 50-cent wing night — if that’s a deal on award-winning wings, we’ll take it.
Walk-On’s Bistreaux & Bar (Louisiana)
Walk-On’s is the passion project of two Louisiana State alumni, Jack Warner and Brandon Landry, which may explain why the Louisiana state chain is such a favorite among locals. The bar most recently beat out others national sports bars in ESPN’s mobile contest, and continues to draw in sports-hungry fans with traditional Southern bites like Louisiana alligator, catfish, crawfish, and jumbo Gulf shrimp. (Be sure to check out the Final Four challenge, too — complete a 2-foot sandwich of shrimp, crawfish, and catfish served with cheese fries, a cookie skillet sundae, and a 32-ounce Coke in less than 30 minutes and the meal is free.) The beer menu is your traditional Miller Lite, Coors Light, and Budweiser taps, but you won’t even notice you're not sipping a craft beer when watching the game.
Number of TVs: 100 +
Number of Beers: 10 +
Best Dish on the Menu: Tie between Cajundillas (made with chicken Andouille sausage, boudin, and caramelized onions), and the Crawfish Mac and Cheese
Coolest Thing About It: The history of the bar: two college friends dreamed it up on a trip back from a Louisiana State/ Tennessee game. That’s the stuff sports nuts dream about, and they made it happen.
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