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.
In the end, we raised our glasses to Standings in the east, The Corner Club in the west, and Cover 3 down in Texas. And now it's time to hedge, because as we learned over the past month, trying to pick just three "best" bars is a fool's errand. These eight nominees, listed alphabetically, are just as worthy of your dollars and merriment as our three marquee selections. One of them is even in Canada. (Toronto is close to the U.S., the place is deserving, and we're weak like that.)
New York, NY :: (212) 673-2467 :: ainsworthparknyc.com
"Even at a sports bar, there has to be a good mix for everybody," says Brian Mazza, VP of Paige Hospitality Group. "The TVs are not intrusive—when they're off, you don't see them—and it's crucial to have great food. We have a healthy foodie selection."
New Orleans, LA :: (504) 593-8118 :: facebook.com/ManningsNOLA
"We tried to create a new product," says general manager Scott Hellmers. "It's not just guys in jerseys. There's a more sophisticted clientele. My wife wouldn't be OK with me gone for four or five hours watching games with my friends, but at Archie's, she might. And Archie is very involved. He comes about three times a week. One time, he was standing by the exit, and a gentleman in the retail section had bought one of his old Manning Saints jerseys. Archie said, 'Sir, if you'd like, I can sign that for you.' The man didn't say anything, so Archie repeated himself. Turns out, the guy didn't know who Archie was. Archie introduced himself and the man's face turned bright red."
East Hanover, NJ :: (973) 887-1300 :: miamimikes.com
"I've been here 20 years, and I'm a sports guy so I know how to run a sports bar," says owner Mike Minervini (who reassuringly ends text messages to journalists with the phrase "Game On"). "A lot of other sports bars play music and stuff like that. I have the audio of all the games. We play fight songs for college football and touchdown songs for the NFL."
St Louis, MO :: (314) 588-7313 :: facebook.com/paddyosstl
"Our location is probably more fun than any other other sports bar in MLB," says manager Chris Dorr. "We are literally in the shadow of Busch Stadium, and we're only open the 81 days a year that the Cardinals have home games. We have six bars covering 20,000 square feet over three levels, plus beer tubs on the sidewalk and more than 40 TV's. Just do a YouTube search for the 2011 World Series at Paddy O's. There were people crowdsurfing."
Toronto, ON :: (416) 815-7325 :: realsports.ca
"The food here isn’t fussy. It’s an elevated version of the classics—wings, burgers, nachos, sandwiches—and we have 114 taps of beer," says Lise Gott, a marketing executive with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the parent company of Real Sports. "Then we have a two-story-high HD TV and 199 other screens spread out over 25,000 square feet, plus a live DJ to spin music in between games and during commercial breaks."
Spirit of 77
Portland, OR :: (503) 232-9977 :: spiritof77bar.com
"We've tried to build everything that we do around the essence of the Portland Trailblazers championship season in 1977," says general manager Brandon Bowden. "When the Blazers won that championship, there weren't riots in the streets or people tipping over cars or things like that. It was just a celebration in the the way thats celebrations used to be done. We embody. With the layout of the restaurant, with long tables, everybody sits together. When there's a big game on, there's not a sense of all these individual people. It's everyone watching and rooting together."
Raleigh, NC :: (919) 832-3688 :: tobaccoroadsportscafe.com
"What sets us apart is that you have people running the place who know about sports," says owner Brian Amra. "Lots of times at other bars, the games will end and the TVs will be showing infomercials."
Chicago, IL :: (773) 528-4400 :: willsnorthwoodsinn.shutterfly.com
"For the 2010 NFL Championship Game, we had a guy come dressed up as Vince Lombardi," recalls general manager Kevin Kruse. "Meanwhile, the place next door was having a viewing party for Bears fans, and there was a guy dressed up as Mike Ditka. When the two guys found out about each other, they started having it out. You would have thought it was rehearsed, but it wasn't. That's just the kind of atmosphere we have here. So many people I know change their travels plans to be here on game day. If you can't be at the game, you want to be here."