There’s nothing quite like the electricity and fever of watching a big game in the stadium, surrounded by thousands of rabid fans.But the sports bar comes mighty close, and some might say reaches its own level of bliss as a gathering place that offers a unique version of the live sporting experience. The sports bar has come to hold a special place in a spectator's heart — it's where you can collectively experience the triumphs, the heartaches, and the last-minute surprises of any game.
The American sports bar dates as far back as the early twentieth century, writes Kevin Roose for ESPN. It began when runners would take the scores of the games from the stadiums and "run" them back to patrons. While Prohibition effectively killed bars in general during the 1920s, the advent of television and televised games brought the sports bar roaring back.
What's made the American sports bar what it is today goes far past the TV (though it certainly helps to be watching the game on a 10-foot projector screen). Today's best sports bars reimagine what the collective sports-watching experience can be. Some fans may want the loud, rowdy atmosphere at bars like Boston’s The Fours or Atlanta's Stats. Others may want the updated bar food that brings the comfort of home cooking to the game, like Mesa, Arizona’s The Draft Sports Grill. Still others may want a more plush experience, for which Emeril Lagasse's Las Vegas outpost, Lagasse's Stadium, fits the bill. And then there are those who may just want to feel surrounded by the sports legends of the past, for which we recommend the "sports museum" at Chappell's in Kansas City, Missouri.
We went deep into the outfield to compile our list of the best sports bars in America: We reached out to our wide network of contributors, combed through scores of local “best-of lists” and fan reviews, and asked our readers to nominate and vote for their favorites.
Those bars that made our list offer food, drinks, entertainment, and an atmosphere as electric as (or sometimes more electric than) the sporting events themselves. But no matter the amenities, what makes these 50 sports bars truly great comes down to the heart of the operation: the fans.
Fabiana Santana and Marcy Franklin contributed to this round-up.