March Madness highlights the enthusiasm and energy of the final few weeks of the NCAA basketball season. With so many games going on at once at major schools across the country this month, check out the action at these great sports bars all around the bay.
128 King St
San Francisco, California 94107
Always rocking on days when the Giants are in town, Pete’s can also be a great place to catch a Saturday college football game or a midweek hockey game. The place is cavernous, guaranteeing no natural light obstructs your view of the many TVs, including large projection screens. Enough fans of a particular sport and you’ll even get sound. Staff is always willing to flip on your game for you, no matter how obscure (this is a staple of all the bars mentioned. If you can’t watch your game, what’s the point?). Sure, you’re going to pay near the ballpark prices for a pint but the chance to yell with and get respect from your fellow sports fans makes it worth it.
770 Stanyan St
San Francisco, CA 94117
True sports fans are always in attendance at Kezar. 4 p.m. puck drop for an out of market hockey game or kickoff for the Cal/Stanford game, and of course for March Madness, you can find them here en mass. Right off of Golden Gate Park, fans are always friendly and willing to banter. Banter is one of the best parts of watching sports and having always had a fantastic time here with fans of varying degrees of interest in varying different sports has enhanced the experience. Grab a table in the back, get your own TV and have the staff turn it, with sound, to your game. Bonus: the wings are some of the best in the city.
824 Ulloa St
San Francisco, CA 94127
For those of us that live in the far, desolate reaches of the city (The Sunset!), the Philly Club in West Portal is a welcome joint for sports watching. The epitome of the comfy dive bar, it is filled with locals and natives who are some of the most knowledgeable sports fans we’ve ever had the pleasure of chatting with. There is nothing better than getting an insight that you, the super fan, weren’t aware of. Long time neighborhood residents are happy to share a story of the player they knew back when. An ode to the Giants in mural form and football helmets from a number of high school, college and pro teams above the bar let’s you know this is a place where sports is taken seriously. Sound throughout the bar for important games, reasonable prices and super friendly locals make this a go to for March Madness.
1560 Powell St
San Francisco, CA 94133
A welcome corner of North Beach is reserved for this sports heavy bar. Almost always packed with fans of every conceivable team, serving up Labatt’s for all you hockey fans who miss Canada, fans at Northstar are chatty and fun. The pool table is free, as is the popcorn. Get there early to get the best view of the TV in the back from one of the back booths and chat away with respectful fans.
Steff’s Sports Bar
141 2nd St
San Francisco, CA 94105
Steff’s Sports Bar
Sometimes you’re stuck right around Market Street and need a place to duck in for a pint and a bit of sports watching. Steff’s is your place. For what the narrow space lacks in décor, it makes up for in giant flat screens. As people in the neighborhood are usually getting off work and have all sorts of different sports allegiances, finding a friendly patron to discuss the finer points of a game isn’t at all difficult. Everyone looking to unwind makes for a casual atmosphere backed by the constant stream of sports games and highlights.
1420 Lincoln Ave.
Walnut Creek, CA 94596
First, the important stuff: the Stadium Pub has 47 television screens and three big-screen projectors, 23 beers on tap, an impressive selection of Belgian beer and a staggering array of tequilas. Stadium Pub boasts a large menu leaning toward meat and potatoes and fried bar food. This place is popular with the locals, so come early for games and get a good seat. Of course with 47 TVs, it’s hard to find a bad spot in this pub.
1428 El Camino Real
Belmont, CA 94002
The Lariat is a casual, locals-only bar with a slightly divey vibe. For larger events, there is a cover charge, but the drink prices are affordable. The Lariat offers are a dozen or so HD flat screens to catch the action on, but the bar also has pool and shuffleboard to keep you entertained between games. The atmosphere is friendly, relaxed and unpretentious. Food is not served, but they’ll let you bring your own in, and Godfather’s Burgers down the street will deliver to the bar for you.
Legends Sports Bar & Grill
4050 Port Chicago Highway
Concord, CA 94520
Located at the Diablo Creek Golf Course, Legends Sports Bar and Grill is one of our faves to catch a big sporting event. Different games are shown in each of this watering hole’s three large rooms, so you’re sure to find YOUR game. The kitchen serves up typical sports bar offerings – burgers, dogs and sandwiches.
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Firehouse Grill & Brewery
111 S. Murphy Ave.
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
Why not settle in for March Madness in this slightly upscale brewery? This is a true brew pub, offering a hefeweizen, a pale ale and numerous seasonal beers all brewed on site. The large menu expands on typical pub fare to include salads, pizza, and a variety of seafood dishes.
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7 Mile House Sports Bar & Grill
2800 Bayshore Blvd.
Brisbane, CA 94005
Definitely one of the more unique settings in which to enjoy March Madness, 7 Mile House was founded in 1853 as a stagecoach stop (a “mile house”) and has experienced incarnations as a 19th century gangster hangout, biker bar and illegal gambling den. Today it’s a family restaurant and bar featuring many Filipino specialties, as well as Italian and Mexican offerings, and more familiar pub grub standards.
Buffalo Wild Wings Grill and Bar
3712 Dublin Blvd
Dublin, CA 94568
Unless you go to the bathroom or pass out face down on the floor, it will not be possible for you to have a bad view of the games here–there are more than 80 screens. Another benefit of watching at Buffalo Wild Wings is that you can enjoy March Madness guilt-free. Instead of slinking off to the bar and leaving the spouse and kids at home, you can bring the whole family to enjoy some of the best wings in Northern California. This joint takes a simple, vestigial appendage and elevates it to gastronomical excess with 16 different sauces.
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The Britannia Arms
173 W. Santa Clara St.
San Jose, CA 95113
This downtown San Jose hotspot is just a few blocks from the SJ Sharks’ home at the HP Pavilion, and people flock to the Brit for a bite before and a pint after. The bar, giving back all that love shown to it, knows what it takes to make a great place to watch a game, celebrate a win or mourn a loss. There are 24 HDTVs, $20 towers of beer, Pint Night during Tuesday games (featured beer comes with a free glass pint), $1 draft and $1 wings on Monday Night. Happy hour is from 3 p.m.-7 p.m. on weekdays, so if you sneak away from work in time, you can order a Brit Bulldog Burger and a beer for $10.99. If you don’t make the happy hour, don’t worry. From breakfast burritos to salads, sliders, steaks and more, the menu is large and the food is good.
954 Villa St.
Mountain View, CA 94041
Tied House creates its own beers–all ales–grinds its own beef, mixes its own secret spice blend and smokes meats over a dark ale-soaked cherry wood. All this and the bar still manages to keep prices under $20, which has helped this popular local microbrewery become the go to place for folks who don’t want to dumb down their taste buds while cheering for their team. But before you lift your pinky and think it’s all about good eating, take a look at the massive 120” HD TV and the other 11 HDTVs that make this a sports bar of choice. Get there early for happy hour (4 to 6:30 p.m. weekdays) and start game night with $3.25 pints and half off the kick-ass black bean nachos smothered in jalapeños and beer salsa.
Rookies Sports Lodge
1535 Meridian Ave.
San Jose, CA 95125
Rookies Sports Lodge is loud and fun, which is pretty much the exact description for a great sports restaurant/bar combo. Add in the sports gear hanging on the walls, the 15 HD TVs and the good sight lines throughout, and you have one of the best sports bars around. When you walk into Rookies, you’ll find families, people on dates, usually several groups of single sports-minded girls, and of course, groups of guys who look like they know how to party. Happy hour goes until 7 p.m. on weekdays, so you can get there for the cheap eats and drinks, but you can also plan on dinner. If so, go hungry and try the gigantic ultra-sloppy Hangover pork sandwich that’s topped with onion rings and an egg. It’s gluttony as an art-form.
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Double D’s Sports Grille
354 N. Santa Cruz
Los Gatos, CA
It’s not what you think. Double D’s are the initials of the owners, two brothers who opened this Los Gatos bar in 1996. That aside, Double D’s is hugely popular and well-known for hosting enthusiastic crowds that gather for games and a staff that keeps service coming with a smile, even when the action is heating up. Double D’s is on practically every South Bay sports fan’s top list for sports bars, but it is a restaurant first and a good place to go with your date, your sister, and (not to be a buzz kill), but you can even take your cousin from out-of-town as a gauge for her readiness to see the other places where you hang. Of course, there are TVs everywhere – 22 HD screens including two big screens, and a great bar menu. Unfortunately, happy hour ends at 5:30 p.m., so that’s not much help for game nights, but Double D’s does run drink specials, so if you want know in advance, find up-to-minute offers on the Facebook page.
1431 Plymouth St.
Mountain View, CA 94043
So you’re trying to get a job at Google but can’t quite crack the who-do-you-know code for the best way in. Just head to Sports Page, jokingly referred to as a “Google annex” because of its location just down the road from the search giant. For big games, though, it’s not really the networking that packs them. It’s more the dive atmosphere, the 24 tequilas, 25 taps, bar fare, HD Projector TV, 15 flat screen HDTVs, indoor-outdoor seating, and Sports Page’s “OK, whatever” attitude toward the influx of techies. Just for the record, the tavern was there first.
214 Caledonia St.
Sausalito, CA 94965
www.smittysbar.comSmitty’s is a friendly neighborhood bar that has been a fixture on Caledonia Street since 1938, when the street was the main thoroughfare of Sausalito. Fans refer to Smitty’s as the perfect “dive bar,” which seems to be just fine with Smitty’s. With five HD screens at the bar, watching your favorite sporting event is easy, and you will be in great company as the darts, pool and shuffleboard games and monthly karaoke sessions bring in the sociable Smitty’s crowd.
In store for tournament viewing are “buckets for buckets,” a “buckets of beer version” of shooting a bucket. At $16, any domestic beer, like Coors, Bud Light and Budweiser, translates into five beers for the price of four. Plus, menus from surrounding restaurants that deliver food will be on hand and bar customers are encouraged to take advantage of them. In addition, customers are also welcome to bring in their own food if they would like to. Now that’s evidence of a friendly, welcoming bar.
877 Grant Ave.
Novato, CA 94945
Finnegan’s Marin has become a Novato favorite as a popular restaurant and bar serving award-winning food daily for lunch and dinner, and weekend breakfasts. Finnegan’s is open 365 days a year and offers HD TVs at the bar for sports viewing, or have a seat on the outdoor dining patio. Finnegan’s celebrates all sports and is especially known for its support of local youth sports groups. Finnegan’s is the North Bay’s family gathering place. Tournament specials at Finnegan’s Marin include: $3 draft beer specials and discounted Irish nachos during any tournament game in the bar and bar dining area and kids in any basketball jersey/shirt eat free during any game (12 and under from the $3.99 Kids Menu, 1 child per dining parent).
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Traxx Bar & Grill
219 Lakeville St.
Petaluma, CA 94952
www.traxxbarandgrill.comLocated across the street from the historic 1914 train station in charming Petaluma, Traxx offers a great spot to gather with friends or family for a lunch or dinner, or to hang out at the comfortable bar and watch your favorite sporting events on multiple screens. Here is a bar with a wide selection of beers on tap, plus a variety of local Sonoma County wines to try. Traxx owner Chris Cheney welcomes tournament fans with several cool deals: discounted menu items such as burgers and more, specials on cocktails and beers in the $4 to $5 range and special beer glass giveaways, just for the fun of it.
465 1st St. W.
Sonoma, CA 95476
www.steinerstavern.comHistoric Steiners Tavern is a casual restaurant and sports bar located in beautiful Sonoma’s downtown plaza. While Steiners opens at 6 a.m., it’s the coffee and chat crowd that gathers to wake up with the town. The restaurant opens at 11 a.m. for classic pub grub: salads, seafood, pizza and even tamales — this place has it all. Plus, the tavern’s well-stocked bar includes fine local wines. Steiners shows all the games on 10 HD TVs, plus has two pool tables, dartboards and sponsors league teams for each sport. There is live music too, almost every weekend. Steiners invites enthusiasts to enjoy food and drink specials geared to the games, plus when it hits the final 16, there are beer glass specials too.
The Mayflower Pub
1533 4th St.
San Rafael, CA 94901
www.themayflowerpub.comThe Mayflower Pub is proud to be Marin County’s oldest and most popular English pub. With a well-stocked bar, soccer games shown almost daily, fine food and two weekly quizzes, there is definitely something for everyone at The Mayflower. If you enjoy a good dart game along with fine Irish music, then Tuesdays are for you. Love jazz? Then come over on Wednesdays for live jazz, and show your singing talent, which everyone knows improves after several beers, at karaoke night on Fridays. The Mayflower is totally into sports: American, British and beyond, professional and college. The pub is equipped with six HD screens around the bar, so no one is left out of viewing range. The college basketball tournament is a popular time here as well, so look for the Mayflower’s daily drink specials chalked on the board.
San Francisco: Lisa Tennenbaum
North Bay: Melanie Graysmith is a writer, artist and educator based in San Francisco. She writes on adult education, art and lifestyle topics, and enjoys writing short stories and poetry. She is also a member of an independent filmmaking group. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.
South Bay: Marketing communications professional Amy Rabinovitz is a Bay Area writer who has lived in Marin County, San Francisco and now resides in Silicon Valley where, for 15 years, she has been a digital and social media marketer. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.
East Bay: Robyn Chelsea-Seifert is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. Her work has appeared in The Miami Herald, Creem, Hit Parader, The South Florida Sun-Sentinel and International Musician. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.