For true fans, football season is a balancing act. You try to watch every game you can, without alienating the people in your life who don’t understand why you tend to disappear from September until February. Starting over next year with a new friend draft, like you can with a fantasy team, isn’t an option. (Well, technically it is, but that’s pretty aggressive.)
Instead, include the non-believers in your weekend plans by hitting up spots that are good for more than just watching football. These places all have great food (and a lot of pizza, but it’s not our fault that pizza and football are soulmates like Brady and Belichik), as well as plenty of ways to watch the game - and best of all, no one needs to paint their face or wear a jersey. Unless your long game works, and you expose your friends to so much football that they end up going crazy for it, too.
The downstairs of the Lincoln Park Pequod’s is 100% a sports bar, but the upstairs feels like a normal restaurant. A normal restaurant with discreet television sets - and some of Chicago’s best deep dish pizza. You won’t miss out on the game, and any non-fans who appreciate great deep dish won’t mind being here.
Your book club wants to discuss A Tale of Two Cities, but tonight is the night you’re pretty sure the Bears might win. You aren’t caught up on your reading, but you at least know part of this book takes place in England. Head to Owen & Engine, a cozy British gastropub that has fantastic food and plenty of television sets where you can watch the Bears not lose.
This Edgewater restaurant specializes in New Orleans-style food, and also happens to be a great choice for watching sports. It basically has everything you want in a sports bar, with great drinks and large TVs, but the Southern food is good enough to keep the people who don’t give a sh*t about the game excited.
Little Bad Wolf is definitely a bar, but sets itself apart with its great food and an excellent craft beer selection. There’s an interesting mix of food on the menu, and you should try the pork belly bao and tacos. Plus, the understated space won’t make you feel like Hank Williams might pop out screaming, “ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?”
There are plenty of burger spots in Chicago that are great for watching sports. We like DMK in particular because it has a wide variety of really good burgers and milkshakes, and the space is small enough that you don’t have to sit in any specific spot to see the screens. Come here with that person who pretends to like football, but only watches the Super Bowl for the commercials.
It’s boozy party-brunch time with your friends, and they don’t understand how much pride (and money) you’ve invested in your office Fantasy Football league. SteakBar is the move: it has solid food from the team at Au Cheval, and enough over-the-top brunch stuff like a donut wall and a Nutella crepe station to distract everyone from the fact that you’re going to start screaming at the TV.
Stella Barra is Summer House’s underappreciated twin. They share an entryway, but bright and healthy Summer House is the popular cheerleader, and darker Stella Barra is into LARPing. During football season, the best bet is to take a right, and head into Stella Barra. You’ll discover that in addition to great pizzas, the menu has plenty of gluten-free salads and side dishes for Summer fans, and there are lots of spots to watch the game. LARPing strictly optional, of course.
This River North restaurant calls itself an “Italian pub,” and has its fair share of dimly-lit corners with comfy armchairs and couches -- but also plenty of televisions to keep you updated on the game. The solid Italian brunch has stuff like a mortadella breakfast sandwich and a satisfying but very un-sexy “spaghetti and meatballs” Bloody Mary.
If you’re with people who are fans of great Italian food and getting drunk, then this clubby restaurant in the West Loop is a solid game day move. It’s definitely not a sports bar, but it has enough televisions to rival Hooters, and it’s loud enough for you to get excited without ruining anyone else’s good time.
Yes, this is another pizza place, but it can’t be denied that the pizza/beer combo pairs perfectly with watching sports. Plus, Piece makes an excellent pizza with a chewy New Haven-style crust, and the beer they brew is really, really good. Since Piece is in Wicker Park, it’s ideal for hipster friends in denial about being sports-loving Midwesterners. It’s also roomy and has a huge collection of TVs that manage not to feel intrusive.
You planned to watch the game, but now your buddy’s bringing his girlfriend and her annoying friends. Go to Homeslice, a crowd-pleasing pizza spot in Lincoln Park with plenty of neon signs, swing sets, and a patio Airstreamer that’s perfect for occupying people with Instagram photography. The menu has an extensive variety of hand-tossed pizza - basically a really great version of the kind you used to have delivered to your dorm room. There are lots of couches and TVs, and there’s a large patio, making this an overall good spot for a game day hang.