March Madness has tipped off, with games in eight host cities across the U.S. this week. If you’re not lucky enough to land a ticket for one of the venues, all is not lost: There’s a nearby sports bar guaranteed to be showing all the games, complete with drinks, pub grub, and some fans to share in the fun. And really, wouldn’t you rather be spending your hard-earned money on cold beers rather than courtside tickets?
So as a public service, we at Yahoo Travel have picked outone of the best sports bars in each of the host cities of Louisville, Ky.;Columbus, Ohio; Pittsburgh; Omaha; Jacksonville, Fla.; Seattle; Charlotte, N.C.; and Portland, Ore. Now just be careful not to spill your drink on your bracket.
Before heading inside for the game, be sure to take a photo with Louie, the friendly 8-foot troll that guards the entrance. (Photo: Troll Pub Under the Bridge/Facebook)
No basketball viewing party is complete without 60 types of bourbon and an 8½-foot troll. This is what you’ll get at the Troll Pub Under the Bridge located near the arena in downtown Louisville. The establishment bills itself as an “underground dining adventure” in a historic Whiskey Row building.
Whatever your opinion on the theme, the bar does have 20 55-inch TVs and a 100-inch high-def projection screen, so even that 8½-foot troll isn’t going to block your view. The menu is filled with the usual pub grub, including burgers and tater tots. Since it is located on the city’s Urban Bourbon Trail, the bar is stocked with plenty of the good brown stuff, as well as more than 20 draft beers.
Whether it’s before, during, or after the game, My Varsity Club is sure to be packed full of Ohio State fans cheering on their team. Go Buckeyes! (Photo:My Varsity Club/Facebook)
A few pubs near the arena (like R Bar and The Three Legged Mare) are having tourney-related viewing parties, but for an authentic college sports bar experience, go to the Varsity Club, across the street from Ohio State’s football stadium. Open since 1959, it’s been said that the bar has been visited by more students than any classroom on campus. While the Varsity Club is more of a neighborhood pub than the latest showcase for high-tech walls of TVs, there are still plenty of viewing spots available, and it even has free Wi-Fi with which to track your brackets. The pizza gets decent reviews, and the hot subs with banana peppers are a campus tradition.
At Silky’s, it’s all about the burger. (Photo: Marc/Urban Spoon)
Silky’s Sports Bar & Grill in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood is considered a go-to place to watch tourney games (or to just grab a beer and a burger). It’s so much of a locals bar that it doesn’t even have a website! The burgers and wings get rave reviews, as do the huge plates of nachos. They have plenty of regional beers on tap and TVs for game viewing. It’ll get pretty crowded on game days, so arrive early. The bar should not be confused with the nearby Silky’s Gentleman’s Club, which hosts a different sort of entertainment.
With five locations sporting wall-to-wall TVs, DJ’s Dugout is the perfect place for game day festivities. (Photo: DJ’s Dugout/Facebook)
DJ’s Dugout has been voted Omaha’s best sports bar, each of its five area locations popular for a collection of more than 50 high-def big-screen and projection TVs streaming all the latest games. The downtown location is a couple of blocks from the stadium, a good place for pre- and postgame parties. It’s not a gourmet-dining, attentive-service sort of place, but you’ll probably get a better view of the game action than you will at the stadium, and it may have a more lively atmosphere.
Let’s say it all together now: 40. Foot. TVs. (Photo: Mindy D./Yelp)
The next best thing to seeing the game in person at the arena in Jacksonville is watching the game at one of the two Jacksonville locations of Sneakers Sports Grille. Their largest TVs measure 40 feet diagonally, covering the entire side of the interior of the building. If I had watched Chris Webber call a time-out on a screen this size in ’93, my head probably would have exploded. The bars have more than 30 beers on tap and popular chicken wings, although during the tourney, expect to be waiting a bit to be served, and just pray your team is doing well on those giant screens.
Grab a pitcher and watch the game. (Photo: Quality Athletics)
Located in Pioneer Square, the newish Quality Athletics puts a different spin on a sports bar, with a foodie-focused, gourmet menu of burgers, wings, and exotic small bites in an environment that has the feel of a bright cafeteria connected to a retro sports geek’s basement — with an AstroTurf backbar, snow-cone machine, and some novel décor. The big screen offers great views of the big games, with plenty of other flat-screen TVs on which to catch other action.
Cozy-rustic Draught has plenty of beers on tap and good food to get the party started. (Photo: Draught)
Within hailing distance from the stadium, Draught Charlotte is the rare sports bar that actually features good food, with a variety well beyond nachos and chicken wings. The duck tacos and Korean barbecue wraps get great reviews, but never fear, the exotic food doesn’t overshadow the 40 regional craft brews on tap, the array of TVs, and the plentiful seating. Enter its Pop-a-Shot Tournament for a chance to win tickets to a game down the road at the arena.
Burgers, beer, and sports: is there any better combination? (Photo: Thirsty Lion Pub & Grill Downtown/Facebook)
The Thirsty Lion Pub & Grill is one of Portland’s top sports-focused pubs, notable for its 32 craft beers on tap, good selection of signature cocktails, and hearty food menu (the traditional sausage-wrapped Scotch eggs are the choice for early games). It gets high marks for the TVs, sound, and atmosphere for big games. The pub will be running happy hour specials during the tournament to tempt you to cut out of work early for a burger, brew, and some early-round upsets.