One month ago Extra Mustard put out a call: We wanted to crown the best sports bars in America, and we wanted you beautiful lushes to help us do it. Nominations poured in, and we took it from there: Talking to patrons, consulting Yelp reviews, having reporters make the rounds. It wasn't hard work, and we didn't have to do it. But boy, did we enjoy it. Over the next few weeks we'll be posting the results of our comprehensive survey. Today, we start with the eastern United States.
You can begin telling us how wrong we are … now.
East region selection: Standings
43 East 7th Street • New York, NY 10003 • 212.420.0671 • standingsbar.com
The first thing you notice about Standings is its size. Unlike other (rightfully) nominated New York sports bars like Foley's or Jimmy's Corner, Standings in its entirety is a single, small room, with 10 barstools and three tables on the opposite wall. A packed crowd would be 40 or so of your closest friends. This is not a bad thing, especially for a sports bar: It's possible to see the bar's eight flat screens (Standings has all the major sports packages) from nearly everywhere, and the 12 draft lines are never more than a one friendly pass away. When owner Gary Gillis opened the bar in 2005, he wanted to mix good sports with "good" beer, hence the 10 domestic craft lines with options such as Wild Onion Hop Slayer Double IPA, Greenport Harbor Other Side IPA, and Harpoon Brewery's UFO Raspberry Hefewizen. Of course, there's Guinness and Bud Light, too, for those fall Sundays when football spans 12 hours and the endurance drinkers need something lighter.
Then there's the sports paraphernalia. Or, rather, there's the absence of naked wall. Team gear is everywhere, randomly assorted but non-discriminatory, a collection spanning leagues and years. A small sample of the offerings pinned to every available surface: Triangle pennants from nearly every MLB and NHL team, a poster of the 2011-2012 Michigan men's basketball squad, a handwritten KG No. 5 sign, a New York Post front page from Johan Santana's no-no, the 2005 Oakland Athletics team photo. Jerseys, Fatheads, and souvenir cups (!) hang from the ceiling.
Granted, the enthusiastic deployment of sports tchotchkes is hardly an innovation exclusive to Standings. Foley's, for one, is dressed head-to-toe with noteworthy memorabilia. But the cozy confines of Standings heighten the sense of saturation. If patrons bring it, Gillis will hang it— provided it doesn't break one of the two house rules: He won't let a team banner cover one of its rival (so the Ohio State flag someone brought a year ago hangs far away from the Michigan one) and no Yankees apparel (an outgrowth of Gillis's Mets dedication).
With sportsy eye candy at every turn, it's almost possible to overlook the namesake decoration: A chalkboard with elegant, up-to-date MLB (or whatever else is in season) standings that hangs just to the left of the entrance, halfway up the wall. But only almost, and once you notice it you'll be glad you did. "I won't let anybody else update it because I don't like their handwriting," says Gillis, who always throws in a few personal touches: Instead of "Pittsburgh," the name of the surprise NL Central leaders reads "THIS IS NOT A JOKE."
The Mets, meanwhile, are simply "Harvey/Wheeler."
This is a place that knows its sports.
Number of TVs: Eight. At 5pm on a Monday, four were tuned to PTI, three had the Mexico-Panama Gold Cup match, and the last one was showing NFL Network.
Furthest-away location represented by paraphernalia on the wall: University of Alaska Anchorage
Most random picture hanging from ceiling: Keith Hernandez in full Mets uniform, smoking a cigarette
Best Gillis quote about writing the chalkboard standings: "I really hate the Phillies, so if Cole Hamels blows a game, I'll just write 'Cole Hamels' and everyone knows what it means."
Wisest phrase on the Standings business card: "ALWAYS GAME SOUND (We hate music!!)"
People allowed to sit in the two Shea Stadium seats, according to Gillis: "Only Mets fans."