The March to Madness
Spring is my favorite season -- the time of year when young men's and women's thoughts turn to basketball. Between conference championships, Selection Sunday and the NCAA tournament, passions are running high in offices all over the area, including ours. (Things are getting particularly feisty between the Terrapins and Hoyas.) We figure that a lot of people will be scheduling "doctor's appointments" and making a point to watch their alma mater over the next few weeks, so if you're looking for a spot with high-definition screens, cheering alumni, cheap drinks or a combination of all three, we have plenty of suggestions.
Bailey's Pub and Grille (Crystal City)
Not only can you get discounted beers while watching all the games, but you might take home your own Pop-A-Shot game, too. Doors open at 11 a.m. daily, and the large restaurant has 27 flatscreen TVs ranging from 36 to 65 inches. Drink specials include buckets of five Miller Lite bottles for $15. Ask about signing up to win your own basketball arcade game.
Cleveland Park Bar and Grill
The sports bar and pizza parlor is opening at noon during conference tournaments this Thursday and Friday and the first round of the NCAA tournament next week. The celebrating continues with a happy hour that runs until 7. Specials include $2 Miller Lites, $3 Yuenglings and rail drinks and $4 house wines. The newly tented-and-heated roof deck will be open all day on weekends. There are 25 TVs on both levels, including 11 flatscreens.
Crystal City Sports Pub
The planned second-floor expansion isn't open in time for March Madness, but the city's best venue for college sports is soldiering on regardless. Dozens of alumni groups pack the bar for games, cheering as their teams play on 65 televisions, many of which are large flatscreens. The menu is geared toward basketball fans for the next few weeks, with specials like half-price wings and other appetizers during games. (The daily happy hour, which runs from 4 to 7, includes half-price domestic beers and appetizers.) If you're coming to watch a specific game, it's best to get there at least an hour before tip-off. (No, seriously.) Groups of 10 or more can call ahead and make reservations.
With more than 150 high-definition TVs, the Zone is the biggest player on the March Madness scene. If you're lucky enough to get a spot in front of the huge 10-foot screens in the aptly named Screening Room, be aware that you need to spend an average of at least $10 in food and drink for every hour that you're there. Seats at the bar, meanwhile, remain first-come, first served. Just beware of long lines -- especially at peak hours -- and closures for private parties: you won't be able to watch games in the Screening Room on Thursday after 3 p.m., and the Studio Grill is closed all day Friday. Members of the MVP club get priority seating -- see espn.com for more information -- and can reserve seats for particular games. Finally, anyone who asks can get a scratch card that might be worth a trip to the Final Four.
One of the top sports bars around, Mister Days has more than 60 TVs, including two jumbo 119-inch projection screens and numerous plasma and high-definition sets, which provide great views from most seats. Food and drink specials are frequent.
Old Dominion Brewhouse
Walls covered in flatscreen TVs, plenty of tables and a large selection of local brews should make the Brewhouse a popular basketball viewing spot. During games, specials include platters of wings (25 for $15.99, 50 for $30.99 and, if you're really hungry, 100 for $59.99), $3 bottles of Heineken Light and $4 Absolut drinks. Honestly, though, the daily 3:30-6:30 happy hour sounds better: $2.99 pints and a selection of half-price appetizers, like wings, nachos and quesadillas.
The Original Steakhouse and Sports Theater
You won't miss a minute of the action at the Original Steakhouse and Sports Theater, where the main bar contains 10 vertigo-inducing 6-by-8-foot screens. There are 10 smaller TVs in the dining room and seven in the foyer, so one manager jokes that even if you're waiting for a table, you'll still catch your game. A solid lineup of drink special includes 22-ounce mugs of domestic beer for $2 every day from 4 to 7, and there are daily deals, like $1 domestic bottles during Thursday's Ladies Night promotion.
Porter's Dining Saloon
If you're planning a "business lunch" during the NCAA tournament, Porter's is a good place to schedule it. Seventeen plasma televisions of varying sizes are arranged over three levels of this brick-walled saloon, and the best spots -- especially near the main bar -- go quickly, often to Boston College and Maryland fans. The low-ceilinged basement is often standing-room only.
The Pour House
The sports bar of choice on Capitol Hill, the Pour House has a "video wall" jigsaw of television screens, and there are 40 TVs over the bar's three floors, though only the main bar will be open for all games (the other floors will open during the bigger match-ups, though). The Pour House is opening for all games, including some 11 a.m. starts during conference championships and early rounds of the NCAAs next Thursday and Friday. During games, domestic beers are $3 a bottle and $10 a pitcher, while food specials change on a daily basis. Since the Hill attracts young people from all over the country, most teams will have at least one supporter.
Packed with Georgetown students and Ohio State and Syracuse alums, Rhino Bar is a great place for watching games in a college-bar atmosphere, with three huge projection screens, 25 other televisions and nightly specials. Rhino will be open early for every game, with 25-cent wings and $8 Bud Light pitchers during every contest and the usual roster of outstanding deals, like $2 Coronas and Yuenglings (Thursdays) and a bar-wide half-price sale (Fridays from 5 to 9).
A relaxed spot for watching college sports, Tommy Joe's is showing every game on its 22 TVs, which range from 32 to 42 inches. While the basketball's on, a rotating selection of appetizers is half-price and Miller Lite and MGD bottles and drafts are $3.50.
Hill staffers in search of cheap drinks should high-tail it over to the Union Pub, which will be open for every game and has a number of specials for folks watching their wallets. Pitchers of Bud Light, Miller Lite, PBR and the house amber are $8, for example, and Sam Adams seasonals are $4 a pint or $12 a pitcher. On weekends, Miller Lite bottles and drafts cost $2.50. This is along with the pub's usual roster of deals, like $1.50 Bud, Bud Light and Miller Lite bottles from 11:30 to 10 on Wednesday. Oh, and for people who want to see the games -- there are 13 televisions throughout the two bars and on the spacious patio, including four high-definition sets and a projection screen.
Formerly the Park Bench Pub, the basement-level Uptown Tavern is a great place to watch a game. Packed with twenty-somethings rooting primarly for ACC and Big East schools, the bar has a large projection screen, nine high-definition plasma TVs and -- this is key -- cheap nightly drink specials. Uptown is opening at noon when there are early games. Until 8, wings are half-price, Miller Lite pints are $3 and rail drinks are $4, and there may be additional beer or shot deals, depending on the day.
Ventnor Sports Cafe
Going out bar-hopping in Adams Morgan and need to catch your school's game first? Ventnor has a downstairs bar with a number of flatscreen televisions and a second-floor lounge with leather couches and more flatscreens -- 14 overall. Ventnor is opening at 11:30 a.m. for all NCAA games, and if there's basketball on, you'll pay $3 for Yuengling or Miller Lite, and wings are half-price. The University of North Carolina alumni turn out in force, as evidenced by those 32-ounce blue cups available during their games.
Willie and Reed's
Don't expect much in the way of specials here -- the usual 4-7 happy hour is all that's in effect, though it includes cut-price drafts ($2 Miller Lite and Yuengling, $3 Stella and Sam Adams) and a bunch of $3 appetizers. Even if you're paying full price for drinks, Willie and Reed's is still the best place in Bethesda for March Madness because its 25 high-definition plasma screens will be on for every game.
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