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Foam Finger: The Fan’s Guide To L.A.’s Best Bars For Watching Football
From the Bears and the Broncos to the Packers and the Saints, whatever your NFL team, we’ve found your watering hole.
Although Los Angeles is the largest city in the United States without its own pro football team, that doesn’t mean the season passes quietly here. All but four of the NFL’s 32 teams have some kind of watering hole in the greater L.A.-area. Hurrah! You no longer have to be the only person at your neighborhood bar with your face painted in team colors. Wherever you hail from, here’s where to join your fellow fans.
New England Patriots: Sonny McLean’s Irish Pub
Boston has one the strongest expat fanbases in the country, and Sonny McLean’s in Santa Monica has been one of their L.A. homebases for 16 years. The owners fly in Ipswich full-belly clams from Massachusetts. Former Red Sox outfielder and 2004 World Series hero Dave Roberts once stopped by with the World Series trophy. And regulars claim they used to see notorious Irish gangster Whitey Bulger, who was living incognito in Santa Monica when he was arrested, watching games at the bar. This is a transplant bar that transcends sports: After the Boston Marathon bombing Sonny’s held a fundraiser that netted $15,000 in three hours. 2615 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, 310- 449-1811.
New York Jets: On The Thirty
At On The Thirty, a gastropub in Sherman Oaks, a flamenco guitarist plucks staccato notes while a television plays black and white movies. There’s artisan pizza, wine, and a charcuterie station for meats and wines. Except on Sunday mornings. Starting this season, all nine televisions will be showing the Jets while the Gang Green utilizes the 38-foot-long bar. After bouncing around for the past couple years, L.A.-based Jets fans have finally found a home. 14622 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 818-788-0330.
Buffalo Bills: Busby’s West
Busby’s West in Santa Monica has been a Bills outpost for more than 5 years; the general manager grew up in the Buffalo area and brought his fandom west. Buffalo chicken wings and Labatt, a Canadian beer, are served on game days. 3110 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, 310-828-4567.
Miami Dolphins: Leo’s All Star Bar and Grill
The first game of the Dolphins’ season is probably the best one to watch at Leo’s All Star Bar & Grill. Leo, who grew up a contrarian Dolphin supporter in Buffalo, gets about 30 Phins fans in the bar for the first game. “But, after they’ve dropped a few, they slowly weed out,” he says. “I have probably 10 to 12 that show up even when they stink.” 2941 Honolulu Ave., La Crescenta-Montrose, 818-249-5858.
Cincinnati Bengals: 72 North
For four years 72 North in Pasadena has hosted 50 to 75 loyal Bengals fans for weekly games during the football season. The owner (a Dolphins fan) welcomes their annual Cincinnati chili cook-off and tolerates their rituals. He once walked out onto the patio to find a group surreptitiously burning an opposing team’s stuffed mascot. 72 N. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena, 626-578-9990.
Cleveland Browns: Chimneysweep Lounge
A group of Browns fans have been gathering at the humble Chimneysweep Lounge in Sherman Oaks for many years. The regulars, who have assigned seats, bring in stuffed dogs to create their own Dawg Pound. They eat orange and brown striped cookies and pack their own Stadium Mustard. Milly, the bartender, compares it to a high school reunion. “Browns fans are very sweet,” she said. 4354 Woodman Ave., Sherman Oaks, 818-783-3348.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Steel Pit Sports Grill
There are several booming Steelers bars in the L.A.-area, but the Steel Pit in Tujunga boasts the highest “Steelers” mention to review ratio (11 to 34) on Yelp. Eric, the owner, was a Rams fan until they left town, but as a graffiti artist he had worn Steelers gear. He switched allegiances and did the natural thing: He opened a Steelers Bar. Now, more than 150 fans dance to “Black and Yellow,” following big Pittsburgh wins. 7279 Foothill Blvd., Tujunga, 818-352-6020.
Baltimore Ravens: The Parlor
Four years ago, the West Wing, the Raven’s L.A. fanbase, began uniting former Baltimore denizens at the Parlor in the Fairfax district. During the last postseason, the bar hit capacity (345) and was the site of Los Angeles’ happiest Super Bowl party. Fans can be heard mocking Bawlmerese accents or debating the best crab cake houses. They have a podcast, their own chants, and are known to bring Berger Cookies and UTZ Crab Chips to games. 7250 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, 323-930-2100.
Denver Broncos: Brennan’s Pub
Cynthia, a bartender at Brennan’s Pub in Marina Del Rey, was looking for a fanbase. Jason, a diehard fan, was looking for a Broncos bar. The stars (which briefly included Tim Tebow) aligned and easy Sunday mornings at Brennan’s suddenly required two waitresses and four bartenders to serve the maximum capacity crowd of blue and orange-clad revelers known as Broncos Country. During the 2012 playoffs when Tebow led the Broncs to an upset over the Steelers in overtime, Cynthia swears she felt the bar move. 4089 Lincoln Blvd., Marina del Rey, 310-821-6622.
San Diego Chargers: Slater’s 50/50
The signature “50/50” burger (half ground beef, half ground bacon) at Slater’s 50/50 was actually born out of a dare at a Chargers tailgate. Scott Slater, who owns the Southern California restaurant chain, is a diehard Bolts fan. The restaurant has a Football Breakfast Menu featuring the Donut Burger and fried chicken and pancakes, and fans will reserve seats for games or order Slater’s tailgate packages for home games. 61 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena. 626-765-9700; 8082 Adams Ave., Huntington Beach, 714-594-5730; 8009 Day Creek Blvd., Rancho Cucamonga, 909-803-1991; other locations throughout Southern California.
Oakland Raiders: The Bucket
The Raiders have numerous booster clubs but unlike the Rams they lack a unifying entity. Several dozens bars throughout the L.A.-area are considered Raiders bars. We like the Bucket, an Eagle Rock joint that makes a pub-quality burger without any of the gastropub pretension. And the beer taps flow with good suds. 4541 Eagle Rock Blvd., Eagle Rock, 323-257-5654.
Kansas City Chiefs: Kansas City BBQ Company
The Draft, a generalist sports bar in Valley Village, is the site of the largest Chiefs gathering, but who wants to share a bar with fans of other teams? The most Kansas City place to watch a game is in North Hollywood at the Kansas City BBQ Company. A group of Chiefs regulars eat brisket for breakfast while they watch the game and pretend they’re at Arrowhead. 10863 Magnolia Blvd, North Hollywood, 818-754-0030.
Houston Texans: Barney’s Beanery
As of last season a small group of Texan fans were meeting at Barney’s Beanery in Santa Monica, a generalist sports bar. There’s nothing particularly Texas about the place, but the community is growing. 1351 3rd Street Promenade, Santa Monica, 310-656-5777.
Indianapolis Colts: Draft Bar and Grill
Just like Syria’s anti-Assad rebels, Los Angeles Colts fans desperately need a leader. They have a sporadically updated Facebook page with lots of interested subscribers and even bars offering them a home, but no one spot has emerged as the winner. Some displaced Indy fans are meeting in Studio City at all-purpose sports bar The Draft. 12430 Riverside Dr., Studio City, 818-508-8652.
New York Giants: O’Brien’s Irish Pub & Restaurant
There’s more than one Irish pub in Santa Monica catering to East Coast fans. O’Brien’s became a fulltime Giants bar in 2009 when Willy, the owner, and Steve, the head of the G-Men fan group, joined forces. Now, they draw 125 fans a game and often have to turn latecomers away. After wins, they’ll blast “Empire State of Mind” and “New York, New York” on the stereo. If they make the Super Bowl, maybe Willy will ship in Sabrett hot dogs like he did for the 2011 game. This season, O’Brien’s will be quiet for only one game: On Dec. 8 when fans headed down to San Diego to watch the Giants play the Chargers. Don’t worry, Willy is serving them breakfast before they leave. 2226 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, 310-396-4725
Washington Redskins: Joxer Daly’s
Mehaul O’Leary, owner of Joxer Daly’s in Culver City, can remember standing on the roof on Sunday morning, turning the satellite dish until dozens of Redskins fans yelled, “Stop! Stop!” Although O’Leary has owned the bar since 1999, it’s been a Skins bar for more than 30 years. His guess is that Washington fans chose Joxer because it’s located on Washington Boulevard—and because there are two massive satellite dishes on the roof. O’Leary is a Giants fan, so he watches his own game in the corner. When the Giants play the Skins, O’Leary leaves his own bar and heads to O’Brien’s. 11168 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City, 310-838-3745.
Philadelphia Eagles: The Sports Harbour
Long live The Shack! For years, Santa Monica was home to one of the best transplant bars in the country. Philadelphia fans, including some of the It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia actors, would fill the place for any big Philly game. This winter, Janet and Pat, the owners, retired and moved back to Philadelphia. Spoiled by such excellent leadership for so many years, Eagles fans are now scattered. Do they head to the Sports Harbour, a Marina Del Rey bar with a solid Philly fanbase? Or Philly West in Westwood, which boasts Philly loyalty but shows all the teams? Or one of the dozens of cheesesteak shops in the San Fernando Valley that show games for handfuls of Birds fans? It’s going to take time for the dust to settle. 13484 W. Washington Blvd., Marina del Rey, 310-823-0933.
Dallas Cowboys: Keep It Like A Secret
Much like the professional team they root for, Southern California Cowboys fans assemble with grandiose yet robotic efficiency. They have a 1,000-member Meetup.com group that requires all members be approved by the organizer before learning the location of the meeting place. (You’ll have to swear your allegiance to the team to gain approval.) We like to imagine they meet in a giant underground bunker adorned with Yankees-Bulls-Cowboys posters.
Chicago Bears: Tin Horn Flats Saloon & Grill
Tin Horn Flats in Burbank is such a popular place to watch a Bears game that their reservation system is not unlike Soldier Field. The bar is filled to capacity (165) for every game so fans reserve their seats and games before the start of each season. Mike Ditka pictures and Illinois license plates cover the walls. On Sundays they serve a Chicago-style Italian beef sandwich with slaw. A few years ago, when the Bears lost to Green Bay in the playoffs, a couple Packers fans showed up talking trash. A pitcher of beer was thrown; the manager who separated the groups said it was like getting between the Sharks and the Jets. 2623 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank, 818-567-2470.
Green Bay Packers: Pickwick’s Pub
Pickwick’s Pub is just a family friendly, soccer-loving British pub in Woodland Hills that has supported the Packers for the past 25 years. Never mind that former Packers wide receiver Antonio Freeman stopped by or that the owner, who was born in England, has taken his children to Green Bay on several occasions or that their website is thepackerpub.com or that they serve brats. Never mind that they get 70 to 80 Packer fans in on Sundays. For a little British pub in The Valley, Pickwick’s feels a lot like Wisconsin. 21010 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills, 818-340-9673.
Coney Dog, a West Hollywood restaurant serving Detroit-style hot dogs and Faygo, the favorite soda pop of Insane Clown Posse fans, was once the place where Lions fans gathered. They eatery recently came under new ownership and will no longer open early enough to show games. The decision has left a void among L.A. Detroiters with disenfranchised fans taking to Facebook to inquire about other Lions bars. No responses yet.
Minnesota Vikings: T2 Bar & Grill
Over the past five years, a group of 50 or so Viking fans moved from McCabe’s in Santa Monica to the Varsity in Beverly Grove to Carson House in Beverly Hills before settling, this year, on T2 Bar & Grill (also known as Tompkins Square Bar & Grill) just north of LAX. The group of Minnesota transplants (and, occasionally, vacationers from the land of ten thousand lakes) is hoping a Super Bowl run will set gatherings on fire. 8522 Lincoln Blvd., Westchester, 310-670-1212.
St. Louis Rams: Malecon A La Playa
After the 1995 Los Angeles football exodus, broken-hearted Rams fans gathered in scattered groups like outlawed freedom fighters to watch televised St. Louis Rams games. In 2004, Ralph Valdez united those groups into one rebel alliance. The So. Cal Rams Booster Club draws between 250 and 1,000 fans for games and events at privately rented spaces. This year’s meeting place is the seafood-centric Mexican restaurant Malecon A La Playa, which draws its inspiration from the cuisine of Mazatlan. 5201 Clark Ave., Lakewood, 562-666-6738.
San Francisco 49ers: San Francisco Saloon
If you want to get into the San Francisco Saloon in West L.A. for a 49ers playoff game it’s best to arrive by 8 o’clock—that’s 8 p.m. the night before. Fans show up to mark their place until the bar closes, then they tailgate or sleep in their cars until the bar reopens up the next morning. To pass the night, they set up a generator and T.V. out in front and the line has been known to stretch for blocks. When the Giants won the World Series, one bartender said he thought the place was going to come down. 11501 W. Pico Blvd., West L.A., 310-478-0152.
Seattle Seahawks: The Backstage
Eight years ago, Cedric walked into The Backstage in Culver City and decided he was going to turn it into a Seahawks bar. After speaking with the owner, he created a Seahawks MeetUp.com page and 50 people showed up for the first game. Now, a line forms outside the bar hours before kickoff. At halftime, complimentary blue and green shots are doled out to jersey-wearers. They serve Seattle beers like Rainier Beer. A Seattle DJ plays Seattle-themed music. Former Seahawk quarterback Dave Krieg stopped in for a visit and the Seahawks current head coach Pete Carroll (who USC fans still pine for) acknowledged the bar on Twitter. 10400 Culver Blvd., Culver City, 310-839-3892.
Throughout 2009 and 2010, a group of fans tried valiantly to establish a Cardinals viewing post in Southern California. Nothing surfaced then or since.
New Orleans Saints: Five0Four
Named for the New Orleans area code, Five0Four in Hollywood has quickly become the West Coast hangout for Saints fans. Entering its third season, the bar’s patrons spill out into the courtyard and surrounding restaurants on Sundays. The owner, a New Orleans-native, says that they’ve successfully alienated all other fans. In one instance, a band hired by an adjacent establishment was booed off stage for trying to play during a tight game. 6541 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, 323-960-0224.
Atlanta Falcons: The Hollywood Way
Atlanta transplants have a Meetup.com page with about 50 members, and for part of last season they met at the Hollywood Way, a generalist sports bar in Burbank. Despite the team’s exceptional record, the Meetup page updates ceased abruptly after game five. Maybe some more Julio Jones and Roddy White receptions will light a fire under the Falcons’ fanbase. 1333 N. Hollywood Way, Burbank, 818-845-4400.
Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Carolina Panthers
Sorry, you’re out of luck. These teams seem to have no organized Los Angeles fanbase.