Sports are great, and bars are great. But sports bars, unfortunately, often suck. The food is oversauced, the beer is overpriced, and there are usually five-to-six people unironically saying “dilly dilly” to each other, which is five-to-six more than should be legally permitted. If you’re looking for a place to watch the game that doesn’t feel like a chain you can find in a Tampa strip mall, head to one of the 10 places below.
With frequent live music, a hidden whiskey bar in the back, and a menu that includes steamed mussels, you wouldn’t guess this Inman Square spot is a sports bar. But once you’re in the dining room, you’ll find a TV roughly the size of a highway billboard that’s always got the game on.
Does Buffalo Wild Wings turn into a dance club at night? We have no desire to see that many tucked-in polo shirts requesting Will Smith songs, so we don’t actually know. But Phoenix Landing in Central Square definitely does. You can get half-priced apps here at 5, watch the game at 7, and then dance off the curry fries at 10 every night when the DJ takes over. It’s an Irish pub that does everything.
There isn’t a single Bobby Orr jersey hanging on the walls of Parlor Sports in Inman Square and there’s a decent chance that the TVs will be tuned to The Bachelor, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a sports bar. As evidenced by its many TVs and bartenders who will put on any game for you (not to mention its, uh, name), this is a great place for when you want to watch a game in a bar that feels like a neighborhood hangout. The menu is standard bar food, but the taps are constantly rotating and the can/bottle selection is big enough to keep things interesting.
If the abstract paintings of Ted Williams and Rocky Marciano on the walls at Vito’s in the North End don’t clue you into the fact that this is a more elevated take on a sports bar, then the menu featuring things like nachos topped with ground Italian sausage and a Nicoise salad with rare ahi tuna will. Head here when you’re more interested in eating than watching the game.
You can go to a random sports bar and watch the game on TV, or you can go to Bleacher Bar and watch the game on the actual damn field. Despite the fact that this place is built underneath the centerfield bleachers at Fenway and gives you a direct view of Jackie Bradley Jr.’s back pocket, you don’t need a ticket to get in. That makes Bleacher Bar pretty much the coolest sports bar you’ll ever find, and worth visiting even if the only thing on the other side of the glass is a groundskeeper mowing the field.
Sidebar in Downtown Crossing must have the highest TV-to-square foot ratio of any place in the city. That’s what happens when you stuff a Best Buy’s worth of TV’s into a place that’s roughly the size and shape of an 18-wheeler truck. Add in the fact that this must be the only bar left in Downtown Boston that sells $2 beers and you’ve got a great place to catch the game.
Rocco’s is a tiny bar on Commercial Street where you’ll feel like you’re watching the game in the hold of a ship. You don’t have enough room to bring your whole kickball team here, but if you’re looking for a more intimate place to watch the game that also has a decent menu of pizza and pasta (we are in the North End, after all) this is your spot.
With a drop panel ceiling, duct tape on the booths, and plastic chairs, Courtside in East Cambridge isn’t pretty. But it’s got its charm, and thanks to a bunch of TVs, arcade games, and karaoke, it’s basically the rec room basement you dreamed about having when you were 10. The food should probably only be consumed after you’ve had a few drinks, but since the drinks are cheap and not watered down, you’re going to want to have a few drinks anyway.
If RuPaul’s Drag Race happens to be on, then that’s what Cathedral Station’s TVs are going to be tuned to. But otherwise, you’ll find every Boston sports game, every night of the year. We recommend the bourbon steak tips from the traditional bar menu, and if you can eat them outside on the shaded patio, that’s even better.
You don’t need to know the rules to Gaelic football to go to Banshee in Dorchester because this is a friendly neighborhood place and chances are someone at the bar will be happy to explain the game to you. The Banshee should definitely be on your radar for soccer and other Eurocentric sports (we’re talking about things like rugby, not balancing a cigarette while riding a scooter) but you’ll also be able to catch any major sporting event at this dark, homey pub that serves traditional but well-made bar food.