Wondering where ALL the guys are this Valentine’s Day? They’re probably hanging out at Stretch Run (544 N. LaSalle St.), a “live race wagering” sports bar and grill, as the owners call it, in River North. We call it a man magnet, with more than 220 plasma TVs spread across 16,000 square feet of space. Think ESPN Zone meets off-track betting—with a dash of upscale sports-bar panache. This is not your sketchy uncle’s OTB joint; opening week in late November drew boldface names such as former Bear Richard Dent.
Casual bargoers will head downstairs, where the majority of the TVs are tuned to sports. If your game’s not on, just ask, or flip the channel yourself (owner Bill Marovitz, a former state senator and self-proclaimed sports nut, says he wants the customer to control the experience). Each table has its own set that can be tuned to games or to simulcast programming from horseracing tracks in the United States, Canada, and Australia. The focus is on booze and betting, not cutesy drinks, and beer specials are available on certain nights.
The vibe is entirely different on the second level, which resembles a Vegas sportsbook, only legal—meaning wagering is restricted to horseraces; betting on anything else is verboten in Illinois. Seasoned vets who’d rather not use the on-site cashiers can place their bets via automated machines located throughout both floors. Die-hards can even dine without abandoning their perches: Stretch Run is one of the few places outside of Manny’s where you can get the deli’s famous lean-cut corned beef sandwich. (“[Manny’s owner] Kenny Raskin is a friend of mine,” Marovitz says.)More sociable patrons—i.e., those who aren’t glued to the betting monitors—can rent out private rooms for events such as March Madness games (a $700 minimum for a group of 20 includes food and drink). One note: Bringing your own female guests may be the only way you see many women in here.
Photography: Chris Guillen