The pairing of sports and decadent cuisine has become a mainstay for OpenTable diners, who have discovered they don’t have to sacrifice fabulous food for the love of the game. Sports can transform a city and draw festive crowds to restaurants. The unofficial nighttime sports mayor of the Charlotte, North Carolina, Joanna Nix has been an ardent Carolina Panthers supporter for years and attended the Super Bowl with them. At her sprawling Nikko Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar, she went from having four televisions to 15 to meet diner demand for all sports, all the time. “Instead of staying home, these days everyone who loves sports goes out,” said Nix, whose South End eatery is central to all the stadiums including Panthers football, Hornets basketball, NASCAR races and the Hall of Fame. “We don’t have a mountain or ocean, but we are a sports town.”
During sporting events, Nix has a waiting list for her private dining rooms where her patrons gather at game time, watching the 85-inch screen with platters of sushi for noshing and imbibing on Nix’s curated sake collection. There are televisions at the bar and a viewing area in the lobby with chances high that diners will run into star athletes who frequent Nikko. “Like Nikko, when you mix fine dining with being sports friendly, the atmosphere is social and therapeutic,” said Nix. “You can’t buy with money the feeling you get cheering along with other fans in the spirit of watching sports together – it’s a little classy, a little sporty, and lots of fun.”
When the score is tied and leftovers are anything but appealing, fabulous eats and fellowship await at these restaurants for sports lovers. Leave the lifeless, bagged chips and jars of mass-produced cheese dip behind and venture out. Not near any of these spots? Find the right restaurant near you on OpenTable.com.
Magnolia Dogpatch, San Francisco, California
In the newest location from Magnolia Brewing Company, the indoor beer garden at this ultra-cool industrial space is inspired by American picnics and German beer halls. The bleachers and blue metal tables are in high demand, along with the 20 beers on tap and housemade bites like clams baked in the half shell with cioppino relish and herbed bread crumbs and the Magnolia Dogpatch burger made from fresh ground beef with gruyere cheese, shredded lettuce, dill pickle chips, shaved red onion, and house sauce on brioche. Make a reservation at Magnolia Dogpatch.
Bier Markt Esplanade, Toronto, Canada
In addition to the 150 biers (beers) in the house, one of many draws for sports fans to Bier Markt Esplanade is the 16 ft. television that centers the lounge – indeed, the smallest television screen at this game watchers’ paradise is a measly 65 inches with nary a bad seat in the house. There are also 40 local craft biers offered at Bier Markt Esplanade, including the only Goose Island in-house brews outside of the United States, plus European and specialty biers. Frenched chicken wings, poutine with hand-cut frites, pizzas, and a fresh ground chuck burger have become gameday favorites here. Make a reservation at Bier Markt Esplanade.
Nikko Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar, Charlotte, North Carolina
Steps away from the stadium where the Carolina Panthers storm the NFL, Nikko is as much about star watching as sports watching. This is where celebrities go when in town for concerts, plays, and movie shoots, as well as famous football, basketball, and racing athletes who hang out there for a taste of sushi artistry and traditional Asian flavors. Patrons gathering at Nikko for sports events often ask for a ‘sushi prescription’, the Nikko version of a chef’s table. Sushi platters, fun takes on traditional rolls (sexy salmon, OMG, and mango tango rolls, to name a few), gindara saikyo-yaki, Korean kalbi-style grilled ribs, and Nikko bento dinner boxes are all the rage during game time. Make a reservation at Nikko Japanese Sushi Bar and Restaurant.
City Works, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Walls of televisions and more than 90 craft beers on tap at City Works have sports fans returning for every game. The vast seating means patrons won’t miss a minute of the action. This is a place for sharing no matter how large the group – City Works is known for ‘The Works’, a four-pound dish of tater tots, pepper Jack cheese sauce, smoked pork shoulder, blackened chicken, beer-battered shrimp, cheese curds, beans, pickled jalapenos, pico de gallo, sunnyside eggs, ancho sour cream, avocado, and cilantro. Other snacks include duck confit nachos, mussels, and short rib poutine. Make a reservation at City Works.
Moxie’s Grill & Bar, Plano, Texas
Sleek and contemporary is the vibe at Moxie’s Grill & Bar as potstickers and nachos tempt diners from the open kitchen. Moxie’s is also famed for its specialty cocktails like the avocado gimlet with rosemary and olive-infused gin, avocado, simple syrup, and fresh pressed lime, plus a strawberry ghost pepper margarita with ghost pepper-infused tequila, fresh strawberry, Texas orange, and fresh pressed lime. Between beers, spirits, touchdowns, and three-pointers, guests nibble on sushi cones with tempura shrimp, chicken wings, poutine, prime steaks, blackened Mahi Mahi, and chipotle mango chicken. Make a reservation at Moxie’s Grill & Bar.
Dutch & Doc’s, Chicago, Illinois
The Chicago Lakeview neighborhood joint Dutch & Doc’s is every baseball fan’s dream vantage point with views directly onto Wrigley Field, flanked by large windows and framed photos of popular baseball sayings and players. Fans strolling up and down Clark St. make this American brasserie a stop for Buffalo chicken wings, sticky pork ribs, and elotes-inspired corn fritters with domestic and craft beers, a solid wine list, and classic cocktails. Make a reservation at Dutch & Doc’s.
Boulton & Watt, New York, New York
Patrons come here for the signature Boulton & Watt mac and cheese, but it’s also one of New York’s best places to watch sports. Between orders of chicken sliders and taquitos carnitas, diners can watch events on seven televisions and indulge in IPAs, rotating seasonally, and other beers like Modelo and Southern Tier Stout. Make a reservation at Boulton & Watt.
The Sportsbar LIVE! At Rogers Arena, Vancouver, British Columbia
Nothing rouses up a crowd like hockey and in Canada it’s like an alternate sports universe. In Rogers Arena, fans get to root for their favorite team to the tune of thumping audio and visuals of the games and on 100 4K high-definition televisions. This is Vancouver’s longest bar where hockey, football, basketball, and all other major sporting events run the length of the NHL blue line at 90 feet. Bar favorites include sweet chili cauliflower, grilled farmers sausage with sweet onion jam, Canuck burgers, AAA prime rib, and fish n’ chips with fresh and local ingredients. Of course, there are signature cocktails, craft beers, wines and spirits aplenty. Make a reservation at The Sportsbar LIVE! At Rogers Arena.
The Katharine Brasserie, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Football Sundays at The Katharine take place in this historic former headquarters of the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco empire, now restored into a super-chic eatery and hotel. In what could be a whole new reason to love sports, the Katharine Brasserie offers a jam-packed chili bar with all the fixings. Patrons find it hard to leave The Katharine without an order of the chef’s fried Brussels sprouts with Vadouvan curry aioli or the grilled pork chop with white bean cassoulet and smoked ham hocks. Make a reservation at The Katharine Brasserie.
Brooklyn Chop House, New York, New York
For steak and chop aficionados, Brooklyn Chop House in the Financial District is a more upscale option for tasty treats like dim sum, dry-aged steaks, and burgers on bao buns. The bar boasts an avid sports crowd, plus a private dining area with two televisions in addition to the main dining room. Make a reservation at Brooklyn Chop House.
Peli Peli, Houston, Texas
Peli Peli is the place to be for guests who want their sports with a dash of class. The bar is gorgeous and has eight televisions, and this Houston hotspot is known for South African cuisine that sounds as good as it tastes. Expect exotic flavors in dishes like the South African samosa, Great Karoo lamb chops, espetada, and Capetown skillets. The dish to share during the game here is the South African sampler, with boerewors, biltong, chicken sosaties, bobotie, and stuffed peppadews. Make a reservation at Peli Peli.
Del Frisco’s The Grille, Nashville, Tennessee
Next to Nashville’s trendy The Gulch area, Del Frisco’s Grille has become a neighborhood haunt for sports fans seeking classics eats with distinctive Nashville craft cocktails. The streetside patio is the place to hang during halftime along with multiple dining rooms with large, flat screen televisions and mod lighting. Among the best sharing options are the artichoke beignets, baked goat cheese, fontina, and mushroom flatbread, and brick chicken. Make a reservation at Del Frisco’s Grille.
Brother Jimmy’s, New York, New York
In what has become one of Manhattan’s most beloved and long-lasting barbecue joints, both the 8th Avenue and Murray Hill locations offer southern food — think hush puppies with warm maple butter and Jimmy’s Pig Pick for four people, including choice of barbecue, sides, and cornbread. On Saturdays, the crowds come to the Murray Hill Brother Jimmy’s for the University of Miami football game and on Sundays for the Cleveland Browns game, but the staff at this bustling bar and restaurant appreciate sports fans every day. Make a reservation at Brother Jimmy’s.
Open Road Grill, Falls Church, Virginia
A whopping nine televisions in the Open Road Grill main dining room and an additional five televisions on the patio and endless beer buckets make this Falls Church grill the viewing spot of choice for sports fans in this region of Virginia. Nachos and Old Bay wings (one of five different types of chicken wings) are on the menu along with loaded burgers to fuel all the beer drinking and cheering. Make a reservation at Open Road Grill.
CIRCA at Chinatown’s Dragon Bar, Washington, D.C.
Stop by CIRCA at Chinatown’s Dragon Bar on the way to a game at Capital One Arena, home of the Capitals, Wizards, and Mystics, or make it the destination for a group. Here 15 hand-painted portraits pay homage to District of Columbia athletes like Alexander Ovechkin and Bradley Beal, plus a menu of Bulgogi lettuce wraps tuna poke nachos, jambalaya, sandwiches, and burgers. Make a reservation at Circa at Chinatown’s Dragon Bar.
David’s Club Bar & Grill at Hilton Orlando, Orlando, Florida
Standing by the fire pit, beer in hand and waiting for the game to start, it’s hard to imagine a better place to watch sports than David’s Club Bar & Grill. Here diners can grab a game of pool during halftime. Football Sunday staples include the Hemmingway house-ground burger with pork sloppy joe, fried onions, and herbs, church lady-style deviled eggs, and a ribeye rice bowl with bourbonyaki ribeye, gold rice, collards, a fried egg, and sweet corn remoulade. Make a reservation at David’s Club.
Virgil’s Real BBQ, New York, New York
For decades Manhattanites have trekked to the theater district’s answer to southern food, Virgil’s Real BBQ, where sports fans order some of the best onion rings with blue cheese dressing for dipping in the city. Virgil’s has one of the largest projection screens in Times Square, broadcasting football, soccer, hockey, and whatever else is in play. The emphasis here is on real southern barbecue, plus wings, fried chicken, and a pig out platter that gives guests a sampling of signature dishes. Make a reservation at Virgil’s Real BBQ.
Grain & Cane, Berkeley Heights, New Jersey
The Berkeley Heights gem Grain & Cane is home to a loyal fan base of its Buffalo chicken pops, seafood tower, fried chicken with red beans and Carolina gold rice, and housemade sourdough pizzas. Along with seven televisions, a Solari train board hanging above the bar heralds rotating oyster specials. Guests watching the action on two televisions outside by way of massive glass garage doors stay warm with heat lamps and fire pits. Make a reservation at Grain & Cane.
Warren 77, New York, New York
Tribeca’s Warren 77 is lower Manhattan’s take on a contemporary sports bar. The walls are lined with hockey locker shelves full of memorabilia and decorated in vintage black-and-white photos of New York athletes Yogi Berra and John McEnroe among others. The oak bar harkens back to old school days when sports was all about sportsmanship and the game itself. In tufted banquettes and vintage couches throughout, guests indulge in Warren wings, Philly cheesesteaks, and los tacos. Make a reservation at Warren 77.
Shaughnessy’s Irish Pub, Syracuse, New York
A side of history is on the menu at this 1924 hotel, now the Marriott Syracuse Downtown in the Finger Lakes at Shaughnessy’s Irish Pub. Fans of Syracuse University’s Orange team won’t miss a game here, where ESPN broadcasts a pre-game show live right from the Pub. There is more to do here than just drink and eat, like raffles, trivia, and listening to Dino Barber’s Radio Show hosted by Dino and Matt Park, “The Voice” of the Orange. But the food is outstanding as well in dishes like potato and Dubliner soup, pretzel pups with cheddar rarebit, and Shepherd’s pie. Make a reservation at Shaughnessy’s Irish Pub.
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Photo credits: Ryan Gleason (Boulton & Watt); David Martinez (Magnolia Dogpatch); Kathy Tran (Moxie); Galdones Photography (Dutch & Doc’s).