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David Lissner
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Where To Watch March Madness

There’s certainly no shortage of sports bars in Chicago, but when it comes to them serving up great fare the list gets so much shorter. We know you came for the games, monster-sized screens and seemingly endless choices for beer, but you can get that anywhere. And please, let’s just get beyond those wings and things. You’ve grown up and deserve to treat yourself to something better. Check out these all-star sports bars that actually serve good food.

Fried chicken dinner at The Fifty/50 (Photo: The Fifty/50)

  • The Fifty/50. We’ve got so much love for this Wicker Park pub that’s also on the edge of Ukrainian Village. The buttermilk fried chicken is simply the best in the area and nicely complements creamy spinach and mac ‘n’ cheese topped with buttered bread crumbs. The chicken comes with two dipping sauces: honey-orange teriyaki and barbecue. Everything’s made from scratch and on premise
  • Frontier. Not too far from The Fifty/50 is another one of our favorites because chef Brian Jupiter’s got game. And by game we mean wild game, not the fact that both levels are plastered in plasmas for your viewing pleasure. Just some of the highlights on the share-able menu include antelope meatballs with smoked tomatoes and gnocchi; smoked Louisiana alligator ribs; and house charcuterie of elk sausage, wild boar Jaegerwurst and venison Knackwurst. The bar’s so incredibly busy that the owners built a yearround patio to accommodate the overflow with even more televisions.

 

Frontier’s antelope meatballs (Photo: Frontier)

  • LUXBAR. With former one sixtyblue chef Michael McDonald now at the helm, this scene-y Gold Coast sports lounge stealthy elevated the food and drink programs. We still love the sliders –especially the buttermilk fried chicken—but there’s so much more excitement on the menu now that McDonald uses local ingredients across the board. Many items burst with flavor like the spaghettini, which uses Laughing Bird Farm shrimp, local tomatoes and Slagel Family Farm sausage.
  • Municipal Bar + Dining Co. The River North newcomer boasts a grown-up menu for those coming out to watch the games. Starters like the lobster avocado salad with lemon aioli and steamed mussels with chili flakes in a white wine sauce get a slam dunk. Other stars include a bone-in pork chop, grilled NY strip steak and sautéed chicken breast with creamy herb polenta.

 

LUXBAR’s spaghettini with local shrimp, tomatoes and house-made sausage. (Photo: LUXBAR)

  • Old Town Social. Everything’s made in-house at the Old Town tavern that’s comprised of several components. Chef/owner Jared Van Camp’s a wiz and has made a name for himself for house-made ingredients ranging from an intense charcuterie and sausage program to a flour milling system that produces all in-house grains. That advantage takes his sandwiches to the next level, from the chicken bahn mi to a pork belly Reuben.
  • Public House. With so much competition in River North in the sports bar category how does one stand apart? One way is to offer unique takes on classic dishes. Best bets at Public House are the Spanish-style oysters Rockefeller with roasted garlic spinach, 12-month Manchego and grilled lemon; braised pork shoulder tacos with house-made corn tortillas; and a black tiger shrimp burger that’s topped with balsamic glazed red onions.

 

Old Town Social’s in-house charcuterie program of lonza, mortadella, toscano, spicy coppa, summer sausage and lamb. (Photo: Old Town Social)

  • Sweetwater Tavern & Grille. The popular Loop hangout also serves as a favorite brunch spot on weekends. Of note to chow down on as you’re tuning into the games is the Bailey’s French toast, with the chef stuffing boozy Bailey’s cream cheese into the bread. It’s accompanied by vanilla ice cream and berry compote. Those not fans of the sweet stuff should dig the wild mushroom potato hash with Portobello and shiitake mushrooms, bacon and an over easy egg.
  • WestEnd. Located near United Center is this hidden gem that’s great before and after Bulls and Blackhawks games (complimentary trolleys also take diners to UC). You’ll find the biggest winners on the appetizer menu: the Buffalo rolls of slow-roasted chicken with house-made Buffalo sauce and blue cheese as well as mac ‘n’ cheese rolls of Asiago, Fontina and chipotle cheddar with spicy Andouille sausage and sun-dried tomatoes. Both come wrapped in crispy wonton rolls.

 

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