(Editor’s note: We’ll update this post with places we forgot, but you didn’t. All suggestions are welcome!)
For the second year in a row, the University of Louisville’s men’s basketball team is headed to the NCAA Final Four, but this year as the odds-on favorite to win the national championship.
We celebrate their success week after week in bars and restaurants where fans gather in front of flat screens watching, eating, drinking and ringing up fantastic revenues for proprietors. Just try and get a seat a places like BBC St. Matthews without showing up at least an hour – maybe two – in advance.
And it’ll only be more crowded come Saturday and, we hope, Monday night.
Last year Insider Louisville posted a list of great places to gather for the games, and this year we’ve realized just how short our original list was. This year’s team effort included three more men and women about town, and indeed, it’s a deeper lineup. And when we say “great,” we mean the whole experience including the food, the beer and the ambiance.
So, let’s start with new places, our secret places you may not have visited or the places you forgot about, but are as much fun as you remember:
Brewery, 426 Baxter Ave.: Don’t forget the Brewery reopened about a year ago after being Big Blue Country for awhile. The (new) Brewery is a well-lit sports bar with ample beer and spirits selections and TVs for game viewing.
Decca, 812 E. Market St. in NuLu: Decca isn’t new, but if you’re looking for someplace posh to watch a game without a bunch of people screaming, the basement bar at Decca might be just the ticket.
DiOrio’s Pizza & Pub, 917 Baxter Ave.: The St. Matthews pizza joint just opened on Baxter Avenue in the former Tequila Factory. IL general manager Ken Hardin says this place has more giant TVs per square foot than just about any other spot and great pizza. Plus, Ken noted management kicked out a group of people last week for cussin’, so this is a sure-fire family friendly gathering place for the game.
Drakes St. Matthews, 3939 Shelbyville Rd. in the Burdorf Building: You go to mingle with the beautiful people, which is cool. But it’s also one of the beautiful spaces in town for a game … if you can get in.
Impellizzeri’s, downtown location at 110 W. Main St.: Picture yourself in this beautiful new restaurant in a restored 19th Century building within the shadow of KFC Yum! Center, the sacred center of the basketball world, eating superb pizza and drinking beer on game day. Well, so are 10,000 other people. But you never know …. its a big place.
Spring Street Bar & Grill, 300 S. Spring St.: It pains Ken to tell you about this place because it’s his favorite, and you might grab his table. Best chicken wings in the city, and it’s a seriously rabid U of L fan stronghold.
Troll Pub Under the Bridge, 150 W. Washington St.: Admit it … you’ve never been there, have you? Steve Coomes had to admit he’s forgotten all about it. Steve Kaufman told you last year about this incredibly good bar and restaurant with cavernous innards designed to hold a crowd like ones you’ll see this weekend. Lots of quiet nooks, along with the coolest bar you’ve ever seen. Even Terry Boyd, who’s never sat through an entire sporting event in his life, would enjoy the game here.
The sure things:
Against the Grain Brewery and Smokehouse: IL restaurant expert Steve Coomes is being forced to ‘fess up about this one. In fact, Terry Boyd made him do it last year because he’s all about being fair. But this is Steve’s current fave hoops and hops place and he don’t want his seat taken by all you Grainies Come Lately. A great place run by cool dudes making dandy brew and who love dollars too. (Bring ones. They’ll dance for them on the bar.) So if you’re coming here to take in the game, please leave Steve C. six empty seats at the long table — facing the TVs.
Bluegrass Brewing Co.: Pick one. All have great beer, great atmosphere, TVs everywhere. Get there two hours early to get a seat. Show up starving and sober so you can make the most of your time at those servers’ tables.
Boombozz Taphouse, Eastern Parkway at Bardstown Road: A zillion TVs, swell draught selection, great seating, great grub. And a devoted crowd who show up even when it’s not game day. Good luck getting in here.
BJ’s Brewhouse, Oxmoor Center: Yeah, yeah, it’s a chain and it’s at the mall. Quit your bellyaching! We usually choose locals first, too, but BJ’s has a great bar menu, really good beer, solid service and the video wall is amazing. Trust us, you’ll like it.
Brick House Tavern & Tap, 871 S. Hurstbourne Pkwy.: Just imagine a Mammoth Man Cave where they serve good food and drink.
Buckhead Mountain Grill: There are a few of them around town, but none rivals the one on Jeffersonville’s riverfront, a location that was remodeled lavishly after a fire in 2011. Flatscreens everywhere and an exceptional beer program.
Buffalo Wild Wings, 1055 Bardstown Rd.: Our Niki King and Melissa Chipman say this Highlands location is the one. Forget the suburban locations …..
Cardinal Hall of Fame Café, 2745 Crittenden Dr.: Surely this place will be nuts. Don’t even go if you don’t like civil insanity. But if you want the authentic C-A-R-D-S experience, no other place like it.
Champions Grill in the Marriott Downtown at Third and Jefferson streets: Not sure what it is about partying in the shadows of tall buildings — maybe it’s the faux-big city feel — but that’s part of what makes this a fun place. Good vibe. Someone spent a mint on this place, and it shows.
Coals Artisan Pizza, 3730 Frankfort Ave.: This is fantastic pizzeria in the heart of St. Mathews. We don’t remember there being that many TVs, but we do remember great pizza amid a very inviting space.
Equus-Jack’s Lounge, 122 Sears Lane in St. Matthews: Sure, like you’ll find a seat there. I’d bet the moneyed crowd is paying po’ folks to cue up for them like some iPhone launch campout. But if you get lucky enough to enter this swanky spot, there are ample TVs, cushy seats and good eats.
Frankfort Ave. Beer Depot, 3204 Frankfort Ave.: Duh, right? Arguably the best neighborhood beer joint in town. Great atmosphere and some real surprises on draught. Great ‘cue, too.
Granville Inn, 1601 S. Third St.: A classic near campus. Loud, sweaty and besotted students rule here, so factor that in.
Joe’s Older than Dirt: 8131 New Lagrange Rd.: Honestly, we were younger than this week’s dandelions when we last went there, but the good buzz about the place never dies down and demands we mention it. Just prepare for trash talk and curse words older than Joe’s.
Johnny Brusco’s Pizza, Norton Commons: Here you go, Far-East-Enders and Oldham Countians, a clean, well-appointed place with good pizza.
Monkey Wrench, 1025 Barrett Ave.: Niki King and Melissa Chipman endorse the Monkey Wrench, along with the crowds of people who pack the rooftop bar area every summer night. This place is unique in that it’s part sports bar, part music club. Perfect for game night.
O’Shea’s Family of Pubs: Pick any one of them and you’re set. If you haven’t seen Patrick O’Shea’s on Main, Street you need to visit.
Rocky’s Sub Pub (Jeffersonville): Great pizza, even greater beer selection, TVs aplenty, and if your team loses, you can conveniently get all mournfully and cry into the river.
Rootie’s Sports Bar and Grille, 12205 Westport Rd.: We’re told the wings are rockin’ and that the TV options are aplenty. Good option on a side of town that lacks ‘em.
Rooster’s in Clarksville: Our buddy John White, publisher of Food & Dining magazine, says this place has been a madhouse for every U of L tourney game. The boy likes a good time, so we’re taking his word for it. Plus, he’s a superstitious fan and hasn’t left his seat there in weeks.
Shenanigan’s Irish Grille, 1611 Norris Place: If, in our formative days, we had invested our money in stocks instead of spending it on beer at Shenanigan’s, we’d not be writing this stupid blog. Great neighborhood joint.
Sports & Social Club, Fourth Street Live: Your tax dollars paid for this place. And you know what? There isn’t another place in town that’s designed this precisely for viewing sporting events.
Sportstime Pizza: This is the more family-centered half of the New Albanian Brewing Co.’s Grantline Road options. Solid pizza, brilliant beer, lots of TVs. Need we say anymore?
The Original Impellizeri’s Pizza, Locations on Main Street and Bardstown Road: Pounds of pizza, bottomless beer and tons TVs. What else do you need? Oh, Benny making the pizza? No way. He’ll steal your chair when you go to the bathroom.
Zanzabar, 2100 Preston St., We didn’t think of this as a place to watch the game until Niki King nominated it. But why not? Complete food menu. Complete beer list that runs from Bud to Belgian. And like the Monkey Wrench, great local bands.