Now that musicians and nerds are the cool kids and jocks are the villains, liking sports has become distinctly uncool. So where are reasonable people of average coolness supposed to go to share their now-lame passion for twentysomething physical freaks throwing or kicking roundish objects for millions of dollars (or, in some cases, for an “education”)? Never fear. For though it may not be cool anymore to talk about sports at parties, concerts, work or school, there is always your friendly neighborhood sports bar.
Traditionally a humble place, with simple (read: fried) food, good beer at decent prices, plenty of TVs and a lively atmosphere, a good sports bar is an oasis of casual fandom, free of pretensions and full of camaraderie and congenial competition. We have scoured this city, watching game after game, making new friends and rivals, pounding nachos and sampling brews to bring you the following list: the 10 Best Sports Bars in L.A.
In recent years the Sunset Junction section of Silver Lake has become a symbol of the neighborhood, with iconic newish spots like Intelligentsia, Pazzo Gelato, Secret Headquarters and more. Just a short block or two east on Sunset, there's a place that's been around a bit longer but doesn't get much credit for the area's vitality. Despite its lower profile, though, good Microbrew is a popular destination for local beer and sports fans. Yes, the lack of a printed tap list and the hipper-than-thou bartenders can be frustrating, but the selection is solid and the TVs are high-quality and visible from just about everywhere. The food is better than average, the crowds get lively during games, and you're welcome to sit there for hours. 3725 W. Sunset Blvd. Silver Lake; (323) 660-3645.
9. ESPN Zone:
Deep in the bowels of downtown's L.A. Live, steps from Staples Center but also steps from giant screens looping ads for cellphones and cars, the brick-and-mortar representation of the “worldwide leader in sports” occupies an entire corner. Based on the brand and the location, it should be stellar, but to be honest, the bar is not that nice, the TVs are too high, the food is only fine and the beer is mostly crappy (New Belgium's Ranger IPA is labeled an import. You know, from Colorado). Then how could this possibly be a decent sports bar, much less in the top 10, you ask? Every single person in the entire place is there for one reason — watching whatever sport is taking place about 50 yards away in Staples, or cheering on those teams when they're away from home. The Lakers score, and the crowd erupts; they fall behind, and there is a collective groan. When they lose, the misery breeds camaraderie, and the burden is shared. And when they win, the high fives are on the house. 1011 S. Figueroa St., downtown; (213) 765-7070.
8. The Oinkster:
OK, fine, you caught us. This isn't really a sports bar. But with a beer to your left, a plate of Belgian-style fries to your right, a pulled pork sandwich in between and the game on a flatscreen above you, we promise you won't know the difference. If you come for a big event like the World Cup, World Series or March Madness (which, according to our calculations, is just around the corner) the place will be jumping, and the energy in the room will rival any sports bar around. 2005 Colorado Blvd. Eagle Rock; (323) 255-6465.
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7. Barney's Beanery:
Much as it pains us to admit it, this chain of large, garish bars turns out to be a pretty damn fine place to watch a game. There are so many TVs that it looks like someone told Xzibit and the folks at West Coast Customs that they liked TVs and let them loose in a Best Buy. There are TVs at your table, in the bathrooms, on the ceiling, and plenty of other places that you would never look. There's a miniature movie theater that has about eight TVs in it, which sometimes show the same thing and sometimes don't. We were actually disappointed to see that our pint glass didn't have a TV in the bottom for mid-chug viewing. As you might expect the crowd is radically different depending on which location you visit, from the students in Westwood to the business bros in Old Town Pasadena, but wherever you are in this city, you can rest easy knowing you're not too far from a great place to have a beer and watch the game. Just don't try to go on a non-game weekend if you value your sanity. 1351 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica; (310) 656-5777.
The lounge wing of the Coffee Table operation is not exactly a traditional sports bar. The menu swing more toward lighter café plates, for one thing, and the clientele is perhaps skewed young and plaid. But the giant projection TV, supplementary flatscreens, nachos, and pitchers of beer are all classic sports bar. There's plenty of parking, the beer list covers both micros and macros, and the still mid-gentrification neighborhood leads to an interesting mix of fans who gather there for game time. 1958 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock; (323) 255-2200.
Wedged into an alley behind a second-run movie theater and around the corner from a cobbler shop that serves BBQ on the weekend, you'd think T. Boyle's Tavern was a hidden gem. But then you probably haven't been there on a Tuesday night for trivia, or during any sort of sporting event. Because when there's a big game on, the massive bar fills up, and even seats on the second-floor balcony can be hard to come by. It's not hard to see why, with the generously priced pitchers of good beer, ample televisions and mounted moose heads. And if you do happen to snag a seat on the balcony, when your team wins, you can use the bowls of free peanuts to make it rain on the losers below. 37 N. Catalina Ave., Pasadena; (626) 578-0957.
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4.38 Degrees Ale House:
With all of the ridiculously good noodle shops in the SGV you probably didn't need another reason to drive east on the 10 freeway, but just in case you did, there's always 38 Degrees, Alhambra's premier beer-and-nightlife destination. (Don't you dare mention the dueling Ultra Lounges down the street.) But 38 Degrees is also an outstanding sports bar, the kind of place where dudes in Raiders jerseys rub elbows with Sunday brunch-goers, and a place that will satisfy both the sports fan who wants to watch the game and his or her less athletically inclined date. There are plenty of screens and there is always a crowd there for the game, but it's also nice inside, there's art on the walls instead of taxidermy and neon signs, and even the great Vin Scully gets the mute treatment other than on the very rarest of occasions. Practice your peripheral vision, then face your date away from the TVs, order a plate of fries and a nice beer, and only cheer when the action lines up with something awesome that he or she says. 100 W. Main St., Alhambra; (626) 282-2038.
3. Blue Dog:
Blue Dog in Sherman Oaks is the kind of place that somehow seems to attract exclusively nice people. Of all the sports bars we visited, its patrons were the most welcoming, and the most excited to chat about the game, no matter which sport was on or which side we were rooting for. We've been known to support some unpopular teams, including whoever is playing against the teams in Purple or Red and Gold, but, believe it or not, we never felt threatened, and all of the shade we got was good-natured. So Blue Dog feels homey and friendly, and to top it all off, wouldn't you know? They have great beer and solid bar food, including some of the most intense garlic fries we've ever had. 4524 Saugus Ave.,
Sherman Oaks; (818) 990-2583.
2. Blue Palms:
Yes, craft beer is trendy, and some of its greatest champions ride fixed-gear bikes, sport ironic mustaches, listen to bands you haven't heard of, and cook in separate vegan and non-vegan kitchens. But beer is first and foremost the drink of everyman, and Blue Palms understands and embraces that idea. It is a place without frills or pretensions. The tap list is superb, the TVs are both gargantuan and abundant, the vibe is laid-back, the food is excellent, and the owners wear their Ohio loyalties on their wall. Though they may be on the verge of temporarily closing due to leasing issues, we're leaving them on this list because we're confident that before too long we'll be able to #OccupyBluePalms again. Until we can, our Thursday nights will be distinctly less full of basketball and cheap wings. 6124 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; (323) 464-2337.
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It is perhaps the least likely sports bar ever, a Koreatown pub with a German name (translated into Korean underneath) that used to have the finest ladies' night around, and which specializes in craft beers and interesting fusion-y eats. But come game time, the giant projector flips on, the American football jerseys come out, and the crowd gets perfectly rowdy. As it turns out, kimchi pancakes and dense Belgian Quads pair pretty damn well with playoff football, and there are always house-made potato chips and pitchers of Hite for the more traditional among us. 206 N. Western Ave., Koreatown; (323) 466-4860.
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