Hoops heaven

Make these six new sports bars your NCAA headquarters

March 12, 2013|By Kate Bernot, RedEye

March Madness, the mass basketball hysteria that bubbles up each spring, is just around the corner. Beginning Tuesday with the First Four round, otherwise rational adults will be reduced to cheering and screaming crazies, capable of making choices only when options are presented in bracket form. (What's for dinner? Let's check the chicken-versus-salad bracket!) But while the tournament is full of upsets and surprises, most fans end up watching the games from the same boring couch year after year. Luckily, Chicago has seen the opening of plenty new sports bars since the 2012 tournament, enticing both die-hards and casual fans with craft beers, big burgers and, of course, gigantic screens. Here's what each bar brings to the table; make your own bracket if you must. kbernot@tribune.com | @redeyeeatdrink

Fatpour Tap Works

2005 W. Division St. 773-698-8940

Basketball affiliation: Wisconsin

The digit: 52. The number of beers on draft at Fatpour.

This beer-centric Ukrainian Village spot has stiff competition from plenty of other sports bars on the Division strip, but it's managed to earn its own following with dozens of draft beers, plenty of burgers and bar snacks (including Wisconsin nods such as a Badger burger [$13] and fried cheese curds [$8]) plus TVs that guarantee an equally good view from the bar, high-top tables and wrap-around booths. The crowd leans masculine, but anyone can appreciate the signature Fatpour, 22 ounces of draft beer served in a frosty mug. Month-long specials include $4 Sam Adams drafts and $5 Big Gingers (2 Gingers Irish whiskey and ginger ale) and the bar will open at 11 a.m. for the Big Ten Tournament and March Madness games.

Park Tavern

1645 W. Jackson Boulevard 312-243-4276

Basketball affiliation: None

The digit: 100. The size, in inches, of Park Tavern's largest TV.

Hockey fans may already be familiar with this spacious West Loop tavern located a half mile from the United Center, but college hoops will look just as good as the Hawks do on the bar's 100-inch screen. Everything about the 10,000-square-foot space seems super-sized, from the wide U-shaped bar to the formidable egg-, gravy- and pulled pork-topped animal tots ($9). Tons of taps—most focused on hoppier American and Belgian styles—plus $10 cocktails and a menu of tacos, salads, sandwiches and pizzas fuel the game-watching. March Madness specials include $3 beer-of-the-month pours and $12 domestic buckets through April 9, in addition to half-price appetizers daily between 3 and 7 p.m.

LP Stadium

2423 N. Clark St. 773-661-9710

Basketball affiliation: None

The digit: 800. The number of degrees Fahrenheit the bar's pizza oven can reach.

This Lincoln Park bar includes "stadium" in its name because it guarantees everyone has a prime view of the game, thanks to eighteen big-screen TVs plastered to the walls and even the ceiling rafters. Half-pound angus burgers—such as the B&B ($10) topped with brie, bacon, caramelized onions and horseradish sauce—are popular, as is the Cuban sandwich ($8). Gameday drink specials such as $4 pineapple upside-down shots, $4 Jager bombs and $3 mystery beers (the tap's labeled only with a question mark; order it and venture a guess) help wash down the hefty sandwiches and pizzas baked in the bar's wood- and gas-fired oven.

Flagship Tavern & Grill

1622 W. Belmont Ave. 773-426-6692

Basketball affiliation: Indiana University

The digit: 13. The number of burgers on Flagship's menu.

This Lakeview bar from the owners of The Stretch and Cortland's Garage has all the trappings of a traditional sports bar, from the wooden high-top tables to the bartenders in logo tank tops. But burger fans will want to take note: The patties here are the work of the same chef who's behind the popular burgers at Cortland's. There's a wider selection of toppings—including mac 'n' cheese ($12) or pear and gorgonzola ($12)—plus a line-up of draft beers and a cocktail list ($8-$12). If you're really thirsty, order one of the 32-ounce Mason jar cocktails ($14). Specials include daily $15 domestic buckets, $3 Blue Moon drafts and seasonal bottles on Thursdays, $15 Miller Lite and Coors Light buckets on Fridays and Saturdays; and $3 16-ounce Busch Light and PBR cans and half-price Skyy vodka bombs on Sundays.

Suite 25

2529 N. Milwaukee Ave. 773-360-7478

Basketball affiliation: None

The digit: Two. Suite 25 is located on the second floor, so look carefully for its door at street level.

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