Travel Playbook: Portland, Brooklyn among weekend's top locales
Congratulations, you've accomplished the hard part. You got tickets to one of the weekend's biggest games. But travel comes with questions: where to eat, where to party, what mistakes to avoid. Well, fear not. Here's your traveler's guide to the sporting weekend.
Must-Watch Game: Broncos vs. Patriots (Sunday, Nov. 24 at 8:30 p.m.)
It's Manning-Brady round 14. The Patriots have looked more than vulnerable this season while the Broncos have looked nearly unbeatable. Both teams need this game for seeding in the playoffs. Both quarterbacks need this game for legacy purposes. The rest of the NFL week 12 schedule might as well not exist.
Best Sports Bar: The Fours
It says so much about Boston as a sports town that there is a solid debate whether The Fours, which SI named the best sports bar in America in 2005, is even the best sports bar in its own city. This classic-style bar has sat right next to the Boston Garden since 1976 and houses some of the most loyal -- if most spoiled -- fans in America.
Best Restaurant: Puritan and Company
Boston has an incredible selection of world cuisines, but the single best place to get traditional New England fare is in this Cambridge spot. Only about two years old, P&C has already redefined what can be done by bringing a new twist to classic dishes. Take for instance the dayboat skate wing with fennel, peppers and lentils, a nod to the past that pushes toward the future.
Best Layover Viewing Spot: Jerry Remy's Sports Bar and Grill
For the uninitiated, Jerry Remy has been a broadcaster for New England Sports Network for 35 years. He's a member of the Red Sox Hall of Fame and the official president of Red Sox Nation. No other airport bar in the country can more accurately simulate the experience of being in a city's downtown sports bar than Remy's.
Getting to the Stadium
Gillette Stadium is about 20 miles from downtown Boston. Traffic on game days is unsurprisingly nightmarish. Your best bet is probably to take the special trains running from South Station a few hours before kickoff. Be aware though, nothing that isn't allowed in the stadium will be allowed on the train. So be sure to have your stuff figured out before heading to the station.
While the tailgating at Gillette is as good as anywhere, you can take your pre- and post game experience to the next level by booking a sweet VIP tailgating package. There are booze buses that will get you to and from the game with a belly full of meat and brew. There are also slightly classier packages that could give you the chance to meet legendary Patriots players and even a cheerleader or two. Much better than shivering over a tiny charcoal grill.
Must-Watch Game: Coaches vs. Cancer Classic (Friday, Nov. 22 at 7:00 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 23 at 9:30 p.m.)
The No. 1 team in the county, Michigan State looks to maintain its standing in the conclusion of this charitable tournament. Saturday's final will feature some combination of the Spartans, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma and Seton Hall. It's killer stage to celebrate a great cause.
Best Sports Bar: 200 Fifth
The Brooklyn bar scene is trending toward divey, ultra-cool spots with weird names, artisan cocktails and PBR. 200 Fifth meets in the middle by offering great food and vintage décor while not skimping on the TVs (There's more than 100). Located just a stone's throw from the Barclay's Center, this spot will give you a taste of life in one of the borough's coolest neighborhoods, while not skimping on the fun vibe you've come to expect on game night.
Best Restaurant: Roberta's
If you're lame (like me) you probably missed the memo that Williamsburg is no longer cool. Now Bushwick is the neighborhood for the hip. The place-to-be in the new place-to-live is Roberta's, a pizza spot the New York Times called "one of the more extraordinary restaurants in the United States." The industrial exterior belies the rustic farmhouse vibe inside, which makes it all the more surprising when your waiter drops a straight-out-of-Italy pizza on your table. Roberta's is everything that is right about the foodie movement.
Best Layover Viewing Spot: New York Sports Grill
JFK's Terminal 5 has perhaps the best culinary selection of any airport terminal in the country. Alas, none of the top dining options (like Deep Blue Sushi or Brasserie La Vie) have TVs. Your best choice is this straight-forward sports bar that distinguishes itself through its killer selection of 48 draft beers.
Party Like a Rap Star: 40/40 Club
Jay Z may have dropped his stake in the Nets so he could start his sports agency, but Hova is still the face of Brooklyn Sports. Enter the 40/40 Club, a stadium version of his swanky downtown lounge. You might have a tough time getting past the bouncer at the exclusive Manhattan version of this club, but a game ticket is all you need to get inside here.
Must-Watch Game: Real Salt Lake vs. Portland Timbers (Sunday, Nov. 24 at 9:00 p.m.)
The marquee franchises in the MLS have gone down one after the other in these playoffs. With Seattle, Portland and New York already sent home, Portland must outscore Salt Lake by two goals or they'll join the other name brands on the couch.
Best Sports Bar: Spirit of '77
Built in honor of the city's greatest sports team ever, the 1977 Trailblazers, this spot is the perfect place to soak in the unique Portland scene. There's a 16-foot by 9-foot mega big screen TV, foosball, arcade games and great food and drink. It's the perfect spot to catch all of the breaks of the game.
Best Restaurant: Ava Gene's
There are a handful of things that define Portland: a connection to the environment, a penchant for rock 'n roll and an unabashed insistence upon being yourself. All these elements converge at this new Italian restaurant that combines meticulously sourced ingredients, an edgy vibe and a quirkiness all its own. Ava Gene's is as close as you can get to PDX on a plate.
Best Layover Viewing Spot: Rogue Ales Public House
Rogue is one of this micro-brewery-obsessed state's most prominent distilleries. It's a blessing that replaced one of their many "meeting halls" in the airport. The menu is adventurous for an airport joint and the beer is, obviously, great. Special bonus: the bar opens at 5 a.m. so you can get that evening pint regardless of whatever time your jet-lagged body thinks it is.
Necessary Fan Knowledge
Portland is legendary for its passionate fans. There are perhaps no more fervent supporters than the Timbers Army. But there is not just one Army. Indeed there are subgroups, usually divided by stadium section. There's the original 107 Woodshed, 104th Charlie Company, 103rd Ballistic Unit, and others. Do some Googling to find out what group you'd like to sit with and how to behave among them.
Must-Have Gameday Swag- No Pity Scarf
The No Pity Scarf is the unofficial symbol of the Timbers Army. In kind with Portland's style, it's fan-designed and usually sold at cost for no profit. Wrap an NPS around your neck and wave it over your head to fit in with the most die-hard of fans.
Must-Watch Game: Baylor Bears vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys (Saturday, Nov. 23 at 8:00 p.m.)
The Baylor Bears have a historically good offense, averaging more than 61 points-per-game, and a serious argument that they belong in the national championship game. The 10th ranked Cowboys are no slouches themselves, scoring at a clip of 40 points per game. Expect to see some bored punters on the sideline in this one.
Best Sports Bar: Outlaws
It'll be hard to miss this spot when heading down The Strip, the street that leads Stillwater proper into the OK State campus. Outlaws came to dominate The Strip when it opened a few years ago. It may be more of a club than a sports bar, per say, but it's still the best place to down some brews and get rowdy for game time.
Best Restaurant: Eskimo Joe's
The branding may be a bit culturally insensitive, but no other restaurant comes close to being an essential Stillwater experience like Eskimo Joe's. No need for the suit and tie, Joe's is built around greasy, delicious dinner food like cheese-covered fries and belly-busting burgers. Your grin will be as big as Joe's cartoon mascot.
Go-To TD Celebration
No, everyone in the stands is not trying to get someone's attention by waving their arms after a touchdown. OK State faithful celebrate a score with the Waving Song, a ditty to the tune of "In Old New York" and in place on campus since 1941. Sing along if you know the lyrics, or just wave one hand in the air back and forth with everyone else around you. Despite what you might hear, this motion is NOT called waving the wheat. That's what they do in Kansas.
Keep your Snickers to Yourself
You may find yourself stifling a chuckle as you approach Boone Pickins Stadium. Yes, it is a funny name, but the arena's namesake is no laughing matter. T. Boone Pickens, a Texas oilman and OK State alum, donated $165 million dollars to the school, which was used to renovate the crumbling old stadium. Yes the name is goofy, but the true Cowboy fans around you probably won't take kindly to you mocking the man who did so much for their school.