MINNEAPOLIS - Sports bars will be packed in the coming weeks with crowds gathering to catch the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics. For some fans, the experience rivals attending a game in person. "This is the golden age of for sports bars. The TV viewing experience has gotten so good," says Darren Rovell, an ESPN sports business reporter. He shares some favorite spots to cheer on your team with Larry Bleiberg for USA TODAY.
Some sports bars have discovered customers' tastes are more sophisticated than burgers and chips. This Twin Cities watering hole just blocks from Target Center, home to the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves, is lauded for offerings like buffalo chicken wontons and truffle asparagus. Even the drinks are a cut above. "They're doing some really nice craft brews," Rovell says. "They serve 21st Amendment. That's one of my favorite beers." bar508.com
Stadium View Bar & Grill
Green Bay, Wis.
This tavern across the street from the Packers' Lambeau Field is an example of how bars have given football franchises a bit of competition, attracting fans who would rather watch a game on HD television in comfort than shiver in a seat high up in the stands. "The bar scene competes with actually sitting in the stadium. On game days, it's like a party,"thestadiumview.com
Chappell's Restaurant & Sports Museum
Kansas City, Mo.
Fans love the atmosphere and décor at this 28-year-old bar, which displays the owner's collection of sports memorabilia. "There's some really awesome stuff. Tons of football helmets, autographed baseballs. It's the closest thing to Cheers. You feel like you're back in time." chappellsrestaurant.com
When the game's a continent away, soccer fans need a place to gather. This Indy pub, which serves beers from Belgium and England, airs live broadcasts of games from the English Premier League, UEFA Champions League and European Championships. And it's sure to be packed during the World Cup in June. "It really is like a true English pub from the outside to the inside, which is pretty cool," Rovell says. chathamtap.com
Going to a sports bar doesn't mean you have to sacrifice food or atmosphere. But don't expect this Manhattan eatery to be a cheap outing. "It's the ultimate high-end New York City sports bar. Some people would say it's hoity-toity. It's New York-tough to get into on a Sunday," Rovell says. He recommends the ahi tuna burger. ainsworthnyc.com
Chickie's & Pete's
In sports-crazed Philly, it takes something special to stand out from the crowd. This mini-chain has found a winning formula with crab fries — french fries flavored with crab seasoning. "Anyone can have TVs, but you have to have one (signature) item. The fries come with cheese sauce. (They're) going to get you there," Rovell declares. chickiesandpetes.com
This plush sports book glows with what seems like hundreds of HD monitors. "The amount of TVs is ridiculous," Rovell says. Because it's affiliated with celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, the food is notable too. A visit can be pricey, however, often with extra charges for seating in luxury boxes and suites. "It's not the cheapest place, but it is a kind of heaven." emerilsrestaurants.com/lagasses-stadium
Don & Charlie's
This bar has built its reputation as the go-to spot for baseball's spring training season. Located in chi-chi Scottsdale, it has a higher-end setting with a wine list. But it's also known for baby back ribs "and a really cool burger bar," Rovell says. donandcharlies.com
The Cubby Bear
Across the street from Wrigley Field, this bar has long attracted fans seeking a stadium atmosphere without going to a game. "You can feel the energy when a home run is hit," Rovell says. Crowds also drop in for a beer or a Chicago-style hot dog before the game. cubbybear.com
Above all else, sports bars need televisions, and this spot delivers. "It's got great TV distribution and an awesome layout," Rovell says. "They've figured out that instead of 8 million huge TVs, they go smaller and get more games. Sometimes a 32-inch TV perfectly placed in front of your face is better than a 60-inch (set) far away. statsatl.com