Sports Illustrated listed their top 25 sports bars in America in a February 2005 issue. Turned out that I'd been a number of them. Some of them I thought were pretty neat and worthy of the mention, some were sort of surprising that they even made it on the list. And there are a few I've been in that I would have put on this list before a couple others that made it.
Here's my take on those that I've been in:
Major Goolsby's - Milwaukee. Right across from the U.S. Cellular Arena (formerly the Milwaukee Arena) and down the street from the Bradley Center. Great burgers and good beer selection (see my review in "Burger Joints"). My cousin told me that former U. Wisconsin-Milwaukee basketball coach Bruce Pearl went in there after every home game, win or lose, to have a beer and a burger and to hob-nob with fans.
It's a good sized place and I've only been in during the middle of the day to get a burger and a beer, but I understand it can be standing room only before and after games downtown.
McDuffy's - Tempe. It's just west of Sun Devil Stadium. Tons of TVs and tons of games. Good sized place. I went there in 1993 to watch an Iowa basketball game when I was down visiting my sister. Actually, I went to the Vine in Tempe first (owned by Joe Kennedy, who owns the Vine's in Iowa City), but they didn't have the game on satellite (they only had cable). The girl behind the bar said, "Oh, you're looking for a game on satellite, go to McDuffy's..." So I did.
The Cubby Bear - Chicago. Been to both of them - the one in Wrigleyville and the one up north in Lincolnshire. I used to stay at the Hampton Inn and Suites just caddy-cornered from the one up in Lincolnshire so I know that one very well. But their bloody mary's before a game across from Wrigley are a must.
Griff's - Houston. Went there a couple times when I lived in Houston in the mid-80's. Actually, a buddy from Newton who was living down there took me to the place after an Astros game one night and I went back and had lunch there another time when I was working over by the Galleria. More of an Irish pub, if I remember right. I remember the burger being good, though.
Chappell's - Kansas City. Now Chappell's is a neat place. If you ever get a chance to get to Chappell's it's worth the trip. They have so much sports crap in there, I've been there a couple three times and I don't know if I've seen everything in there. It's fun to just grab a beer and wander around the place. It's kind of down in the bottoms north of downtown KC where a lot of other good restaurants are. The food is pretty good for a sports bar.
Majerle's - Phoenix. Right down town about two blocks from America West Arena and three or four blocks from the Bank One Ballpark, aka the "BOB". My sister took me in there for drinks and appetizers when I was down in Phoenix in 1993. Majerle's had a lot of NBA memorabilia in there and some good pictures. Not very big, from what I remember. But a fun place.
Rusty's - Manhattan, KS (see map) I about crapped when I saw Rusty's on this list. I remember my exact words when I saw them listed, "Holy shit! They've got Rusty's in here!"
Rusty's is in Aggieville, the mid-campus down town equivalent to Dog Town over in Ames. Rusty's was right across the street from The Sound Shoppe, the place I used to call on in Manhattan.
I went there almost every time I went to Manhattan. I really don't remember it being a sports bar, any more than the Fieldhouse or the Airliner in Iowa City could be called sports bars, but it was sure fun, nonetheless.
Man, I had so many great nights in Manhattan. I may have to make up an excuse to go out there sometime this spring. What a great little town Manhattan is...
State Street Brats - Madison. It actually says "The Tavern" on the sign out front, but everyone knows it as State Street Brats. Been in this place so many times I can't even begin to count them up.
We were in there after the Iowa football win a couple years ago for a beer. I just had to go in there that night. I wanted to go back in after we had dinner across the street when Iowa beat Wisconsin again in 2005, but the line to get in was long - too long to stand in just for a beer. The red brats at State Street Brats are great and the beer selection is wonderful.
Joe Senser's - Bloomington. There are actually three Joe Senser's around the Twin Cities (Bloomington), (Roseville), (Eagen), but I usually stay at the Hampton Inn next to the one in Bloomington and have eaten and drank in there on many occasions.
In fact, I was going through receipts this morning and there was a receipt from Joe Senser's the last time I was up for a hot beef sandwich (which is outrageously great) and a couple beers while watching the American and National League play-offs - at the same time. Good sized joint, lots of TV's. I like sitting at the bar and watching two or three games at one time.
Orlando Ale House - If this is the same one that I'm thinking of, I had lunch there with my buddy, Pat Clarke, a TV sportscaster in Orlando, when I was down there three or four years ago. But I think this one was up in Altamonte Springs.
I remember it was called the Ale House, but I don't remember it called Orlando Ale House, unless there's more than one. It was a pretty good sized place, though. Lots of TV's and the food was very good, from what I remember. Of course, Pat knew everybody and everybody knew Pat.
He also took me to Sam Snead's in Orlando - an unbelievably neat place if you're in to golf. And good food, too.
The National Sports Grill has three locations in Orange County. I was at Angel Stadium when I was in So. California on business last January. I mean, I was in the parking lot, looking at the two big red Angels hats at the front entrance of the stadium. I wish to hell I'd known about the National as one of their restaurants is literally in the shadow of the stadium.
Regarding Playmakers, it's not like I never made the effort to go. I asked my dealer, Rod Shafer of Arctic Audio up in Fargo about Playmakers and he said, "Oh, God, Will. The place is huge. They've got a sports bar and a little concert hall and a casino and a big room for receptions. It's a neat place. I forgot you're a big sports fan. When you come up this summer we'll go out there for lunch."
So I go up in May and Rod and I go over to the place for a sandwich. He kept saying, "Oh, man. You'll love this place. It's really cool."
We get to the door - locked. They weren't serving lunches any longer. Rod said, "Well, that had to just happen. I wonder if they do that for the summer months." The place didn't open until 4 p.m. and I wasn't going to stay around town that long. Next time I go up, I'll spend the night and head over.
The ones I visited were all pretty neat places, but I've seen a number of others that I'll comment on later.