Here at MatchPint we’re all about the sports bar in its many incarnations. It may be old-school or new-school; serve draught stout or craft lagers; the menu might consist of anything from honest-to-God fish and chips to pan-fried scorpionfish cakes wrapped in katafi and served with spuds dauphinoises.
When it comes to sports bars, the most important thing, as any fule kno, is that they should be showing the old ludus you’re after (that’s Latin for sport, and we wouldn’t have had to explain if this was 1813). No matter how many megascreens, bells, whistles or novelty urinals somewhere may possess, if you turn up expecting to see Arsenal-Norwich and instead are greeted with the swarthy gob of growly tenniser Rafa Nad slogging it out in the Abu Dhabi XL Invitational – well, you’re gonna have a bad time.
Funnily enough, that’s exactly what MatchPint is here for (and if you didn’t know that, then frankly I’m baffled as to why you’re reading this). We’re a happily ambivalent bunch at MatchPint Towers, however, and personally I wouldn’t like to speculate on what the “best” sports bar in Blighty may be.
Such reservations do not, however, extend to the rest of the globe, and it’s with a fair amount of relish that we can now present to you a comprehensive (maybe) list of some of planet earth’s best venues for watching sport on TV. From darkest India to – surprise surprise – the good old US of A, here are, in no particular order, some of MatchPint’s favourite watering holes from around the world.
The United States of America
No prizes for those of you who have already guessed that a good proportion of top sports bars are located within the fifty Yankee doodle states. Our cousins across the pond practically invented the format around the turn of the last century by hiring small children to run in between drinking establishments and baseball games with updates on the score – a cruel and barbaric practice, some might say, but heaven forbid that put you off your pint; the kids probably loved a bit of exercise. Nowadays the Americans have got sports bars down to a fine art, with buffalo wing and Miller Lite pitcher combinations a staple; nay, a veritable delicacy. Check out the cream of the crop:
Ricky’s Sports Theatre and Grill, San Leandro, CA
If it wasn’t for Ricky’s aptly-named Sports Theatre and Grill, I really can’t see whether there’d be any reason Google Earth (or equivalent cartographical authorities) would even put the town of San Leandro, California on the map. As it is, Ricky’s has been something of a national landmark – up there with the Grand Canyon and Mt Rushmore – since 1946, famed from Dakota to Decatur for its impressive collection of sports memorabilia, ninety-plus televisions (including in the loos), and especially its affiliation with NFL team the Oakland Raiders. Indeed – so the legend goes – after winning their first Superbowl, in the pre-VCR days of 1977, the Raiders pitched up at Ricky’s a fortnight later as it was the only place around that had recorded the game, and (presumably) proceeded to tuck into a whole heap of buffalo wings whilst watching a replay of their trophy-winning performance. Pretty Meta, if you ask me. Interesting fact: nobody knows the identity of the eponymous “Ricky”.
The Four’s, Boston, MA
I went to Boston earlier this summer. Very nice place – very clean. Also, apparently, home to popular US magazine Sports Illustrated’s number one-rated sports bar in the land. For almost forty years, from its original position next to the Celtics and Bruins stadia, The (Famous) Four’s has commanded a reputation as the home of innumerable sporting knick-knacks, great match day atmosphere and, inevitably, award-winning buffalo wings (I’m more of a clam chowder man myself). There are now three branches in the Boston area, all no doubt quintessentially American and boasting obscene numbers of TVs.
Lagasse’s Stadium, Las Vegas, NV
Nothing is what it seems in Vegas, and this maxim extends to Lagasse’s place, which isn’t actually a stadium at all. Nor, indeed, is it your average sports bar; set up by celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse a few years back in a site on the Strip formerly occupied by rhyme-spittin’ mogul Jay Zed’s own 40/40 Club sports bar (a rococo affair of gold-plated baseball bats), the so-called Stadium offers fine dining under the soft glow of a hundred-plus TV screens. As if that wasn’t enough, the presence of plush arena-style seating and luxury boxes facing a sixteen-by-nine monster of a screen affirms still further the already more than passing resemblance between modern professional sport viewing habits and a bunch of chaps in togas baying as Christians get torn apart by lions (a bit like Raith Rovers taking on Man City).
STATS, Atlanta, GA
The South may have a reputation for huge income disparity and poor race relations, but boy, do those guys like their sport. College football may replace ice hockey in the schedules, but at STATS wanting to watch something a bit more obscure isn’t a problem – with three floors, seven private viewing areas and over seventy HDTVs, you’re unlikely to have to wheedle with a mulish, remote-wielding publican. On top of an ultra-chic aesthetic featuring five discrete bars, STATS (which presumably stands for Sports Television And Television Sports) boasts “tap tables” where patrons can help themselves to their own beer. Food is top-notch fare, and the place is unsurprisingly popular with private parties and events. Canoeing weekend-trippers possibly unwelcome.
Rest of World
Real Sports Bar & Grill, Toronto, Canada
Few word pairings are as satisfying to the ear as “bar” and “grill”; and few vittles are as satisfying to the stomach as Real Sports’ “sliders” – miniature burgers to you or I. Food, however, is but one of this bar’s many fine features – indeed, when confronted with the palatial 25,000 square foot building or the two hundred hi-def televisions, including a thirty-nine feet wide behemoth, a stiff drink might be your first priority. There may be thirty-six beers available on 114 taps and fourteen chicken wing flavours on offer, but it’s the unparallelled viewing experience that makes Real Sports Bar & Grill ESPN’s number one sports bar in North America. I have a good bunch of buddies from Toronto, and their description of watching the NHL at this place is almost as unbelievable as the fact they play lacrosse on a regular basis.
The Office, Bangkok, Thailand
My own gap year experiences in Indochina coincided with the 2010 World Cup, and I can certainly attest to the fact that Malaysia, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam are chock-a-block with bars offering live coverage, cheap brews and attractive Australian tourists around such periods of serious sporting action. Also people of questionable sexuality offering themselves, but that’s another story. The Office, situated in Bangkok’s relatively salubrious Soi 33, shows the city’s widest range of sporting action all year long on its seventeen screens and two projectors. If that’s not enough to tempt you into “staying late at the office” when in Rome, sorry, Bangkok, then the forty accommodating hostesses may well be.
Cheers, Sydney, Australia
It may be that not everyone knows your name, but if you hang around long enough at Cheers, located near to the water in the heart of Sydney, a few of them might. And with the place open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, there’s ample opportunity to do so. Cheers screens sport around the clock, including those must-watch 5am Premier League games, and enjoys a particular dalliance with schnitzel as far as the kitchen goes. Hope those Aussies haven’t been staying up too late watching this last Ashes series…
Underdoggs, New Delhi, India
The largest sports bar in the world’s largest “democracy”, bigger is clearly better at the curiously misspelt Underdoggs. A host of oversized “American-style” dishes are available, while forty screens, thirty beers and cocktails by the litre observe a running theme – think more Bollywood than Slumdog Millionaire. Or Slumdog Millionaire after he wins the million. All the usual suspects are screened live, as well as IPL matches, and between the three branches a whole host of sport-related events take place on a regular basis. Rumours of investment from Snoop himself are unfortunately baseless.
The Moose, Paris, France
Should ever you find yourself in the deeply unpleasant position of having to find a place to catch the game whilst in the French capital, never fear: The Moose is your man, err, moose. Ostensibly Canadian-themed (hence the name), poutines – allegedly the national dish – and rye whiskey are up for grabs at this sports bar, located in the historic district between L’Odeon and Saint Germain, but so too is a host of sporting options. The place is particularly popular with North Americans hungry for a taste of home after a long day’s walking extremely slowly and taking photographs, and the sport shown reflects this. However, if you’re in particular need of a break from your significant other during a “romantic” trip, The Moose are sure to be showing something of interest on their twelve TVs or 3D projector.
Paddy Flaherty’s Irish Bar, Barcelona, Spain
Irish pubs are something of an inevitability for the Continental traveller – and oftentimes they yield mixed results. Stereotyped and probably fictional Irish gent Paddy Flaherty has in this case however, pulled a blinder, as his Irish Bar provides some of the best sports coverage in Catalonia. With seven big screens, pleasantly if unsurprisingly rustic pseudo-Irish décor and, you guessed it, Guinness on tap, Flaherty’s makes for an attractive option when you’re looking for somewhere to watch the big game, although with some of the world’s best football just down the road, I’d be more tempted to try and catch the action in person.
So there you have it – the 10 best sports bars in the world! You can now travel assured that you’ll never be short of a place to grab a beer, watch the game and moan to some strangers at the bar about how lame your team is.