Hoops fans live for March and the three-week-long tournament among the best college basketball teams — think the excitement of Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day, and Mardi Gras all in one. These hoops-and-hops spots are slam-dunks for celebrating a W with a pint — or to commiserate a bracket bust with a pitcher. Let the tipoffs begin at one of these top restaurants for the college basketball championships!
Tony C’s Sports Bar & Grill, Somerville, Massachusetts
Massive walls of 90 HD-TVs and a four-sided Jumbotron in an 11,000-square-foot space, hoops fans huddle here for the tournament. A roster of forty beers on tap and a scratch kitchen that delivers American comfort food like chicken wings and tenders (buffalo or honey barbecue), Parmesan truffle fries, lobster macaroni and cheese, and Tony’s signature #25 burger (Vermont cheddar, crispy pork belly, fried egg, and smokey hoisin sauce on a sesame brioche bun). Half-priced apps at “Appy Hour” are served from 10:30 to 11:30 every night. Score! Can’t make it to Somerville? Cheer on your teams at any of Tony C’s Boston-area locations. Make a reservation at Tony C’s Sports Bar & Grill.
Public House, Chicago, Illinois
This 10,000-square-foot gastropub sports 12 signature table tap booths with beer and liquor taps with customization capabilities. Translation: You can pour your own beers or cocktails without getting up and risking a missed foul, tipoff, or slam dunk. Chances are slim you’d miss anything: a 30-foot video screen spans the length of the bar, so you’ll practically be courtside when rooting for your teams. And, there are 27 additional screens throughout the space. Drink specials include $25 Bud Light bucket specials and $6 Kentucky fire shots. Make a reservation at Public House.
Moxie’s Grill & Bar, Dallas, Texas
This Canadian chain restaurant has those requisite hi-def TV’s, and just as important, perfect-for-sharing apps like sushi cones (tempura shrimp with fresh avocado, pea shoots, nori crisps and sesame chili ponzu), crispy dry rib tips (dry, bone-in-pork button ribs with biryani rub or sea salt and cracked pepper), and chicken wings (with a biryani rub, salt and pepper and honey garlic.) Local beers are available, too. Bonus: The restaurant is open until 2AM weekends for late night games and until midnight Sundays through Wednesdays. There is also a Houston location. Make a reservation at Moxie’s Grill & Bar.
City Works, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Basketball bites and brews — 90-plus craft beers on tap and shareable plates like The Works (a four-pound dish of tater tots, pepper jack cheese sauce, smoked pork shoulder, blackened chicken, beer-battered shrimp, cheese curds, and more). Some nailbiter games will call for a Bloody — order the Churchill Bloody Mary (spicy house mix with Tito’s Handmade Vodka crowned with a loaded skewer of cubed pepper jack cheese, grilled shrimp, a cornichon, a cherry tomato, a Gibson cocktail onion, and a Slim Jim stir stick, served in a 20-ounce goblet with a Chesapeake Bay-seasoned rim.) Go, team! Check out the other five locations, too. Make a reservation at City Works.
Old Town Pour House, Chicago, Illinois
Walls of TVs and 90-plus craft beers on tap are two reasons to make this sports restaurant your home court for watching all the b-ball madness. Other reasons: a video DJ, branded fan towels to show your colors, and Oskar Blues Brewery’s Mama’s Little Yella Pils (a 4.7 percent ABV beer built with 100 percent pale malt, specialty malts, and Saaz hops) — ideal for drinking during long hours of clapping or drowning your sorrows. Now through April 2, beers are just $6 a pour. Make a reservation at Old Town Pour House.
Macchialina Taverna Rustica, Miami Beach, Florida + The Saint Austere, Brooklyn, New York
The all-star teams behind these sister restaurants will be kicking off in a pasta-packed event during the tourney. Each restaurant will serve two unique pastas per week during and the dishes with the most orders by the end of each week will advance to the next round — the winning pasta receives a permanent spot on each restaurant’s pasta menu. “I first developed my love for basketball growing up as a kid in Queens watching the Heat in the Tim Hardaway days and playing ball with the kids in my neighborhood — it’s been history ever since,” says Macchialina’s chef Mike Pirolo. “I still play three to four times a week; the guys on the courts don’t call me ‘Crockpot’ for nothing.” Make a reservation at Macchialina Taverna Rustica or The Saint Austere.
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Laurie Bain Wilson is a Boston-based journalist, author, and essayist who writes often about travel, food, and baseball. Find her on Twitter @laurieheather.
Photo credit: Kathy Tran (Moxie’s Grill and Bar).