Football season has arrived. I’m not going to pretend to care much about college games—after all, I went to KU, and football isn’t exactly our thing. I will root, however, for my friends’ and family’s alma maters, including the Fighting Illini, the Buckeyes, and the Badgers. And I’ll be cheering on the Bears—or rather, cheering on The Boys cheering on the Bears—when I’m forced to watch the games on Sundays. Not that I don’t care about our home team, but the real fun for me is hanging out where the boys are. Whether you’re a real fan or just along for the ride, here’s where the guys I polled will be watching the games this season:
“I watch at Duffy’s because it has a solid viewing setup with plenty of plasma televisions, and there’s good bar food,” says 27-year-old David, who goes out even more than I do. “I also think [new bar] English will be a good spot. Places like Rockit lose points because the TV screens are too far away to enjoy the games. River North/Gold Coast is severely lacking in viewing options.”
Ohio State grad Brian from Toledo, 38, has a new favorite hang for weekend games. “I just went to the Hop Haus [646 N. Franklin St.], and they have tons of plasmas, photos of athletes on the walls, great bar food, and, although it’s a little pricey, it’s worth it,” he says of the former Leona’s space. Hop Haus stays open until 5 a.m. on Saturdays, so it’s also a good place to celebrate a win well into the wee hours.
Daryl, 37, who also went to Ohio State, watches college football at Players Bar and Grill (551 N. Ogden Ave.). “They have good food, and it’s never that crowded,” he says. “Plus, they have tons of other games on.” He also likes McGee’s Tavern: “lots of Buckeye fans.” For Sunday Bears games, Daryl prefers Piece in Wicker Park. “The food is good, and people really get into the game.”
“Brownstone,” says a friend of a friend, who goes there for the “hot chicks, hot stuffed pretzels, and plenty of big-screen TVs. What more could you want? Plus, for the early morning crew, the bloody marys are great.” Brownstone is part of the Four Corners Tavern Group, which also owns Gaslight, Schoolyard, Kirkwood, and Sidebar; the group’s newest bar, West End (1326 W. Madison St.), opens in October.
“For college football, I like Stanley’s,” says another acquaintance, citing the “relaxed crowd, good TVs, and great food. For pro football,” he says, “I love High Dive [1938 W. Chicago Ave.]. No face-painter types, plenty of comfortable seating, great food, and WiFi for fantasy football.”
The suburbs have some strong options, too. “I watch at Cubby Bear North,” says Mark, 38, an Illinois grad with three kids who’s lucky if he can sneak away on Sundays. With 30,000 square feet, Cubby’s suburban outpost has plenty of room for large parties. “A big screen, lots of smaller screens, rowdy crowds, and good bar food: It’s win-win all around,” Mark says.
And then there’s my friend Tim. “I wish you’d asked me this question when I was in my mid-to-late 20s rather than the advanced age of 33,” he says. “The purchase of a flat screen and the NFL package often means me hosting at my place on Sundays. A nice TV, every game available, grilling, buddies bringing beer, 20 degrees outside—why leave?” (I’m sure every sports bar owner in the city loves to hear that.)
After mulling it over, Tim adds: “When I do go out, I like Ditka’s, which could easily be a tourist trap, given its location off Michigan Avenue, but it has a few large TVs upstairs, a few flat screens at the bar, and some of the best bar food I’ve tasted. Their Fridge Burger and pot-roast nachos alone make the trip worthwhile. Plus, they serve Iron City beer—a great beer from Pittsburgh, home of Da Coach—and it’s hard not to get swept up in Bears nostalgia.”
Got a favorite spot not mentioned here? Post your own recommendations below in the “Comments” box.