Even if you still get Red Zone and every other premium sports package that exists, your apartment isn’t always the best place to watch sports. Bars, on the other hand, never run out of Yuengling, provide human contact whether you like it or not, and even if the game sucks, they ensure entertainment in the form of that one fan who got a full McNabb jersey tattooed onto their body in ’05.
Here are some of our favorite bars and restaurants to watch sports around the city. They all have good food (or let you bring your own in) and more than enough TVs to serve your athletic needs. Go team.
Nick’s is a sports bar that’s just like all the other sports bars in Old City, except for a few small differences. For one, they have way-above-average bar food - like a signature roast beef sandwich and a burger with bacon cooked into the patty. And maybe more importantly, they have a huge fish tank behind the bar. We’re not totally sure how they got that past the FDA, but if you find yourself here during a game that you’re not particularly interested in, you can just do what we do and create fake lives and names for all of the fish.
Walking through the doors at Brauhaus Schmitz is like finding a portal to Germany in the middle of South Street. There are German flags everywhere, pretzels that look like they’ve been supersized in a Willy Wonka factory, and bartenders wearing yellow and red soccer jerseys carrying plates of sausage and sauerkraut. The best thing about Brauhaus Schmitz, though, is the huge beer hall in the back that can fit pretty much any size Sixers watch party. You can rent it out by the hour and, if you give them two weeks notice, they’ll prepare an entire suckling pig for you all to share. It will require at least 12 people to finish the entire thing, but it’s worth it.
There are two locations of City Tap House - one in University City and another in Logan Square - and while they’re both ideal spots for watching a game, the University City one wins on crowd alone. It’s a staple for both students and non-students, and no matter what’s on, there’s always a big group of people staring intently at a TV while blindly feeling around the table for a rogue wing or piece of pizza to grab onto.
Sancho Pistola’s isn’t so much a sports bar as it is a restaurant that happens to have a TV within view of every table, but that’s exactly why we like it so much. There’s never really a huge crowd here (except during Happy Hour), so if you want to watch the Flyers lose in peace while you taste test a bunch of way-above-average tacos, this is the place to do it. They also have another location, Jose Pistola’s, in Rittenhouse that’s basically the same deal, so you can head there instead if you’re not a North Philly resident.
McGillin’s isn’t just a sports bar - it’s an institution. It’s been around since before income tax existed (the real good old days) and, despite its age, has a bunch of new TVs with all of the sports packages that you refuse to pay for at home. McGillin’s gets pretty rowdy during day games - especially those 1:15pm Sunday Eagles games - so showing up on the earlier side is encouraged if you want to take over one of their long tables.
If you want to watch the Eagles, Sixers, or even the Philadelphia Soul, you can pretty much walk into any bar with a working TV and find them on it. But if you’re a soccer fan, your choices are a lot more limited. There are, however, a few places around the city that play the matches and Fado is the best of them. Unlike most other soccer bars, Fado doesn’t play favorites on which matches they show, and they’re usually showing multiple at a time. You can also download their entire viewing schedule on their website so you don’t have to wonder what you’re about to walk into.
Tradesman’s is part BBQ restaurant and part sports bar and it’s huge. It can seat over 200 people between its two floors and has one of those enormous multi-screen TVs behind the main bar that’s constantly playing so many different games you may feel like you’re being brainwashed a la A Clockwork Orange. But especially during March Madness and playoff seasons, it’s one of the best places to multitask while sharing a plate of brisket and tri-tip with your 10 closest friends.
You can get wings and mozzarella sticks at pretty much any bar in the city, but if you want to eat something a little more interesting while you watch a game, go to Gojjo in West Philly. They do have the same classic bar food you’d see anywhere else, but what you’re really here for is the more traditional Ethiopian dishes like gomen besega and chicken tibs. And if you’re in the mood for a cheesesteak, Gojjo has a version marinated in berbere spices that’s one of the better ones we’ve tried.
Chinatown doesn’t have too many sports bars, but it doesn’t really need a ton because it has Bar Ly, and Bar Ly is awesome. There’s nothing different or unusual about this bar between a bunch of dim sum and hot pot restaurants, but the bartenders are friendly, it’s never super crowded, and, most importantly, there’s always a full table available for the taking. That makes it kind of a magical third dimension in Philly, where it’s almost impossible to get a seat at any bar during an Eagles game unless you show up four hours early and aggressively guard a table. Plus, it’s about a block from Dim Sum Garden, which is exactly what you’ll want after a bunch of anxiety-induced Bud Lights.
Stats on 17th is one of the newer sports bars in the area, and we have a kind of love-hate relationship with it. We love it because the space is huge and there’s about a one-to-one ratio of huge leather sectionals to projector screens. So if you can commandeer a couch with a bunch of friends, you can basically make this place your own personal living room. Just maybe avoid it on weekend nights, when they bring a DJ out and it turns into more of a club scene with strobe lights and the occasional appearance of a fog machine. Unless that’s what you’re into, in which case, please proceed.
A lot of sports bars are dark and cramped with about as much space as a shipping container, but Garage, which has locations in both Fishtown and East Passyunk, is none of those things. It’s a large space with garage doors that are thrown up as soon as the temperature hits 60, and it has one of the biggest selections of canned beers in the city. The TV situation is a little more tenuous than other places on this list and they usually play music instead of the commentators’ voices, but listening to Tony Romo do what we can only assume is a bad Paul Rudd impression should be silenced anyway.
Going to a sports bar usually means excited crowds of people who are certain the players can hear them through the TV as long as they yell loud enough. Founding Fathers in Grad Hospital, though, is a much quieter, more upscale version of a sports bar that’s good for when you’re watching the game with your in-laws or clients. They also have some solid bar food that’s a little fancier than what you’d normally see, with things like blackened ahi tuna tacos and Korean fried wings.