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.