I received a mass text message the other day that read: “Do you know what COLTS stands for? Count on Losing the Superbowl.” (I’m willing to forgive the sender’s misspelling of Super Bowl since COLTSB just doesn’t have the same ring.)I think it’s safe to say every red-blooded Chicagoan has the Bears on the brain this week (including the staff of Chicago magazine; check out the web exclusive “Now and Then,” in which staffers recount where they were when the Bears clinched this Super Bowl and when the team was last Super Bowl-bound). Even if you claim to watch the game only for the commercials (ladies), you’ll need to do it somewhere with unobstructed sightlines. And if, like me, you’re staying in Chicago-call me crazy, but I’d rather watch the Bears in Chicago than Miami-don’t count on showing up at a sports bar mid-afternoon Sunday with a group of friends and snagging comfortable seats.
To illustrate: Last week I called around to a few local hangs in search of a space that could accommodate my group of 15. My first choice: State Restaurant and Caf‚ (935 W. Webster Ave.; 773-975-8030), a Lincoln Park BYOB with a $35 all-day Super Bowl buffet. Aside from actually being at a game, it’s the best sports-watching spot in Chicago for my money: Everywhere you look, there are at least four plasmas in sight. The caf‚ features no less than 58 HD screens, plus computers that patrons can use free of charge (for whatever it is that guys do on computers when the game is on TV right in front of them). But I wasn’t the only one who thought of State. The caf‚ is so popular that staffers actually took names for a reservations lottery (they drew winners last week); as of last Wednesday, they’d received 3,300 calls. The bad news: Unless you were one of the winners or know someone who was, you won’t be able to get in on Sunday.
But enough about my plans. For those of you who’ve yet to plot your own play for the big day, let’s huddle together and provide an open forum for people to post suggestions on where to watch. Feel free to share recommendations for bars or parties; I’ve gotten the ball rolling by listing a few standbys and, when possible, linking to their websites for more information on Super Bowl packages (expect these to fill up fast). Most of the major sports bars are offering Sunday seating on a first come, first served basis, which means plan on getting to your chosen spot as soon as it opens. Kickoff is 5:25 p.m.-and don’t even think about a halftime bathroom break; Prince is sure to tear it down!
My picks for the best spots to actually view the game-and get blitzed:
940 W. Weed St.; 312-337-3486
At 20,000 square feet, bigger is better in this case-and with more than 120 TVs and 14 10-foot screens, it’ll be hard not to see the game. It’s $20 to get in if you didn’t make an in-person table reservation, which are all now booked. But the enclosed outdoor patio and limited bar seating still gives you a shot at a seat. At this point, it’s first come, first served.
Junior’s Sports Lounge
724 W. Maxwell St.; 312-421-2277
Management isn’t taking reservations, so you might have a chance at scoring a seat at this University Village spot if you show up when doors open at 11 a.m. Sunday. There’s a $30 all-you-can-chow buffet starting at 3 p.m., and the bar features 25 HD plasmas, plus individual monitors in the booths. Even if the Bears end up losing, you can still watch the team win when the staff replays the 1985 Super Bowl at 11 a.m.
43 E. Ohio St.; 312-644-3776
Only the downstairs is open for the Super Bowl, which is outfitted with HD plasmas (20 to 30 in the restaurant area; eight in the bar). Seating is first come, first served, and there’s a $10 per person per hour beverage minimum. So, um, that’s a lot of beers if you get there when doors open at 11 a.m.
Players Bar and Grill
1675 N. Elston Ave.; 773-486-2086
Although the entire bar will be dedicated to Super Bowl viewing, management has already booked more than 200 reservations, so don’t count on getting a seat, even if you arrive when doors open at 11:30 a.m. There are no minimums and no packages offered, just the usual 16 HD plasmas and a whopping 160-inch projection screen.
Grand Central: 950 W. Wrightwood Ave.; 773-832-4000
The Central: 3466 N. Clark St.; 773-880-2222
Union Park: 228 S. Racine Ave.; 312-243-9002
All three of these spots, owned by the same group, offer the same deal-so, if you can’t get into one, you have other options in other ‘hoods: $20 entry includes a tailgate buffet (ribs, burgers, chili, wings, mac and cheese, pasta salad) and great sightlines. Grand Central and Central both have about 15 HD plasmas (42 inches and 50 inches) in the main bars; Union Park has the same, plus one 120-inch HD projection screen. Doors open at 3 p.m., and table reservations are available as of today (Monday).
2610 N. Halsted St.; 773-348-5600
Doors open at 11 a.m., and it’s first come, first served at this bar; no reservations are being taken. If call liquors and Bud and Bud Light wet that whistle of yours, go for the $40, five-hour drink package. A concession stand-themed tailgate buffet will also be available (think nachos and hot dogs). Most important to note are the 29 42-inch HD plasmas, plus a massive 116-inch projection screen in the back room.
Where are you planning to watch Super Bowl XLI?