By Ryan Glasspiegel
For big sports fans, nothing can truly compare to being at the game. That said, when a sports bar gets it right, it can come as close as possible to replicating the experience -- ideally with the added bonus of a more convenient location, less traffic, and cheaper and better food and drinks.
|Slideshow: America's Best Sports Bars|
There are any number of criteria on which to evaluate sports bars and compare them against each other. In no particular order, these characteristics are as follows: Quality and quantity of TVs, food, drinks, value, location, friendliness of the staff, décor (which for sports bars means unique, nostalgia-inducing memorabilia as opposed to sleek interior design), and clientele. Does the bar cater to certain team fan bases or to specific sports? Could a deep-pocketed investor open a competitor nearby and do a better job catering to fans?
These tenets meld together to create an unquantifiable but readily noticeable factor which, above all else, determines the worthiness of a sports bar: Atmosphere.
At the best sports bars, you can go to grab a delicious meal, have a couple of drinks, and catch a game by yourself, leaving a few hours later with a group of new, like-minded friends. Especially if your favorite team wins.
This Irish pub, which serves as headquarters for fans of the local MLS squad, the Seattle Sounders, opens as early as 4:30 a.m. to show important international matches from the World Cup, Euro Cup and English Premiership League.
It was recently named the best soccer bar in America by Prost Amerika, narrowly edging out the Globe Pub in Chicago.
Located across the street from Fenway Park on Ipswich Street, Jillian’s is a three-floor, 70,000-square-foot behemoth that features 32 pool tables, a 22-lane bowling alley, and more than 50 television screens. Head here before or after a Red Sox game, or on any other day or night when you want to catch a game in a spacious, high-energy atmosphere. It is a great all-in-one bar where you can eat, drink, watch, and play, but if you find the bowling and pool to be distracting for game-viewing purposes, head to Cask 'n Flagon, Bleacher Bar or The Fours.
With eight locations in Philadelphia's metropolitan area, the much-decorated Chickie's and Pete's (we're talking memorabilia and best sports bar awards) is famous for its crab fries and lobster Philly cheesesteak. Its 26,000-square-foot Packer Avenue location features 18 private suites, one 12-foot HD projector screen, two 10-foot HD projector screens, and more than 25 beers on tap.
-- America's 10 Best Cookies
The Caesar's Palace sports book is one of the ultimate sports bars because in addition to the food, drinks, and screens, you can wager on the games! Here, customers will not only cheer for wins and losses, but for a garbage-time bucket that extends a team's lead from six to eight or a late missed field goal that clinches the under. Caesar's Palace has the best atmosphere of any sports book on the strip. Grantland's Bill Barnwell, who is living in Vegas this football season, writes, "This is a massive space carved out for sports bedlam, and when there's a big game going on, you'll hear the shouting from the sports book throughout most of the casino. It might have the best energy of any sports book in Vegas."
An oasis in the heart of Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood, the Wisconsin-themed bar embodies all of the jolly spirit from Illinois's neighbor to the north: Delicious beer, burgers, brats and deep-fried cheese curds, as well as a sincerely neighborly spirit amongst the patrons and staff that is unsurpassed. Will's always has a great sports crowd, supporting the Cubs, Bulls and Blackhawks, but especially comes alive for Packers and Badgers games, often hosting more than 700 fans in its three rooms and expansive outdoor patio. It is not uncommon to see fans of rival teams come to Will's because its vibrant atmosphere is not replicated anywhere else.
Click here for TheDailyMeal.com's complete slideshow of America's Best Sports Bars.