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Posted at 5:17 PM ET, 02/23/2007

Better-Than-Average Sports Bars

By Fritz Hahn

With the Wizards atop the Southeastern conference and college basketball entering the all-important final stretch, sports bars will be packed the next few weeks. But what if you want something above and beyond the usual TV-packed pub?

A Got Plans? reader from Washington, D.C., wrote in with a very timely question: "Where can I go for a classy dinner and drinks but also be able to watch a sporting event on ESPN? I'm looking for a good meal with some nice wine and maybe wine/scotch/whatever afterwards, in a nice atmosphere, but also with a good crowd (but not overcrowded). In other words, where can do you recommend to catch a game but in a nicer atmosphere? (A couple steps up from chicken wings and Bud Light.)"

Having eaten more than my share of scrawny wings and so-so burgers over the years while watching sports, I know exactly what this reader means. But there better establishments out there where you can have some good food while catching a game on TV.

One spot you might not think of is Ceiba, Jeff Tunks's popular Latin-flavored downtown restaurant, but there is a TV at the bar where I've seen a few Nationals games in the past. The full menu is available and the counter's wide enough for plates of ceviche or a steaming volcanic rock bowl that holds the bubbling queso fundido cheese snack. Settle in with one of the bar's well-crafted cocktails, like the Hemmingway mojito, and enjoy.

I like the large selection of beers (30 drafts, 250-plus bottles) and the tasty pizzas and sandwiches at Rustico in Alexandria, but new chef Frank Morales has taken the food up a level since arriving from Zola. His selection of small plates is clever without being cutesy, the high-definition screens behind the bar are huge, and though brews are the focus, wine and martini fans will find little to complain about here.

The Adams Morgan branch of Bourbon is a favorite spot of mine because of its huge collection of Kentucky whiskeys, but don't overlook the thoughtful selection of American beers and wines by the glass (note the state-of-the-art draft system). The menu runs toward classics like crab cakes, ribs and a tasty grilled-cheese-and-tomato-soup combo, and seats around the room offer views of well-positioned (if not enormous) flat-screens.

Town Hall in Glover Park has good American food, some better-than-average draft beers and an array of high-def flatscreen TVs over the bar and around the room.

While I like Matchbox, the Gallery Place pizzeria can be pretty hit-or-miss, simply because it's so popular. Right after work, the narrow bar gets so slammed that it's hard to move. But stop by on a slower night or on a weekend afternoon and you can grab a chair at the heavy wooden bar, sip one of the house-infused martinis or a good scotch, order a brick-oven pizza and watch the game on one of the TVs overhead.

-- Fritz

By Fritz Hahn  | February 23, 2007; 5:17 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs  
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Bro - Ventnor Sports on 18th St. Come on, man, you are better than that - get on your game!

Posted by: Bill | February 24, 2007 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Sette in Dupont has two really nice tvs over its bar but you don't feel like you're in a sports bar at all. they have soccer on a lot but I imagine they'll show the ncaa's in March. For some reason, that is one place I still feel classy while staring up at a tv above a bar.

I'd also recco' Bar Pilar. only one tv but it's nice and big and you have good beers on tap and good food.

Posted by: mcmc | February 26, 2007 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Ventnor Sports bar in Adams Morgan is one of the worst places I've ever been. The place always smells dank and has an dark, unwelcoming feel to it. The owner greeted us last time I was there and recommended the burgers--they were the worst I've had in DC. Go ANYWHERE else.

Posted by: Shay | February 26, 2007 6:58 PM | Report abuse

I'll second the Rustica recommendation and add 2 other points in their favor - friendly staff who know a lot about beer and the generous amount of seating in the bar area.

Posted by: Mark | February 27, 2007 6:07 AM | Report abuse

Champ's in Crystal City is a legit sports bar with tons of TVs, but the food is better than you'd expect.

Posted by: Raj | February 27, 2007 9:33 AM | Report abuse

You asked:

But what if you want something above and beyond the usual TV-packed pub?

And I ask:

Yes, and what if that something above and beyond that I want is a sports pub that airs cricket matches? With the cricket World Cup coming up in a fortnight, I'd appreciate any recommendations about the pubs that might carry that event.

Posted by: Dave | February 27, 2007 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Dave asked:
"Yes, and what if that something above and beyond that I want is a sports pub that airs cricket matches? With the cricket World Cup coming up in a fortnight, I'd appreciate any recommendations about the pubs that might carry that event."

Try Solly's U Street Tavern at 1942 11th St NW in the District.

As was written in the Weekend section of the Post on January 5, 2007; "Solly's plans to show international cricket, too, starting with the Cricket World Cup in March."

Posted by: See The Cricket on 11th Street | February 27, 2007 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Refined sports nuts who live in FC know that the bar at Silverado is great--2 tubes, great food, excellent selection of beverages.

Posted by: Falls Church | February 27, 2007 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Any Euro sport event will be on at Summer's in Arlington (Court House metro). It is the bar to watch EPL, F1, etc. Also lots of fun during NCAA tourney, tons of TV's that are a lot closer to patrons than Mr. Dudes or Baileys.

Posted by: Matt | February 27, 2007 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Ella's on 9th has great beer, wine by the glass and is a great place to catch a game...

Posted by: Victoria | February 27, 2007 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Union Jack's in Bethesda has great food and brew and a nicer atmosphere, and they're also always willing to switch one of the TVs to a different game if you ask.

Posted by: Bethesda | February 27, 2007 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Ventnors is by far the worst bar in DC.

Posted by: adam morgan | February 27, 2007 1:34 PM | Report abuse

That comment on Ventors is silly. It CANNOT be the worst. It has its issues, but it's much better than a lot of DC bars. Plus, if you get a good seat, I think it's a decent bar for sports-watching. At least the staff is friendly and attentive.

Posted by: mcmc | February 27, 2007 3:35 PM | Report abuse

In Bailey's Crossroads there's a new place called Babylon Futbol Cafe, I think. Don't know if it's open yet. It's off Rt. 7 by the Skyline Towers, in the shopping center opposite the one that has the Giant.

Posted by: Futbol | February 27, 2007 4:51 PM | Report abuse

I like Bobby Van's Grill at 1200 New York Ave. Great steaks and seafood.

Posted by: LynnJ | February 27, 2007 5:27 PM | Report abuse

ventnor can get packed, at which point if you are not seated at the bar, you can't see anything. the food is hit or miss, not by item, but by night you're in there. but the bartenders are super friendly, and will hook you up with the game you want if you come early. they are always nice. it is def not the worst sports bar in DC, come on.

Posted by: ventnor fan | March 1, 2007 3:54 PM | Report abuse

There's also Shelly's downtown. I guess it has retained its cigar bar status, but considering that they keep the place rather spotless. They have one really big TV and a handful of smaller hi-defs so there is a range of viewing options from bar to couch to dinner table.

Besides the price, and the somewhat-limited beer selections, this is my favorite non-sports sports bar.

Posted by: Warren | March 3, 2007 10:47 AM | Report abuse

VENTNOR'S sports bar on 18th.

There are two good things about Ventnor's-- It is in a convenient location, and the few customers they had were quiet and polite like we were.

The "service" was terrible. The bartenders were strangely rude. We had to request several times to have just one of their five television sets tuned to the Georgetown game... even though most of the customers seemed to be there for that game.

The food is a joke. We had been warned not to eat there. Still, we thought how can you ruin pigs in the blanket? They seemed like frozen food from a discount store that had been nuked way too long. We will NOT ever go back to Ventnor's.

Posted by: disappointed customer | March 16, 2007 9:03 AM | Report abuse

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