Where to Watch March Madness
When March rolls around, there's a competitive spirit in the air. Whether the game is shuffleboard or college basketball, everyone wants to win and win big. For the next few weeks, bars across the area are going to be packed with basketball fans rooting for their teams. (Or, if you went to a D.C.-area school that's not American, you're hoping the teams in your bracket do well.) In these budget-conscious times, food and drink specials are just as important as the number of TVs, so we've included as many as possible in this guide.
Bailey's Pub and Grille (Ballston)
Home to Wake Forest, Michigan State and LSU, among others, Bailey's has 50 televisions, ranging from 52-inch flatscreens to a 102-inch projection unit. Drink specials are offered all day on Thursday (the start of the NCAAs) and from noon to 7 on Saturday and Sunday. Get there early for seats at the bar, which drastically reduce wait times.
There's a good view from every seat at BlackFinn, thanks to individual screens at every booth and 30 HDs hanging over the bar and around the room. Bring the gang and get a giraffe tower, which holds 144 ounces of beer, to share for $20. Other game-time specials include $2 Miller Lites, $10 pitchers of beer and a special menu of appetizers.
Though best known as a place to shoot pool, Buffalo Billiards is a pretty good place to catch a game. There are dozens of TVs throughout the cavernous space, including six large projection screens. When there are noon games during the tournament, the bar will be opening at 11:30 and Bud Light bottles will be $3. On Sunday, March 15, the Junkies will be hosting a Selection Sunday party and broadcasting live from 5:30 to 7:30. This year, Buffalo has become a hangout for Duke alumni.
Champions of Georgetown
"America's Original Sports Bar" is acting more like a nightclub during the NCAA tournament. Doors open at 5 on weeknights, so if your team plays early, you're out of luck. (Saturday and Sunday have a more reasonable 11 a.m. opening.) Champions, which reopened in September after spending a few years as the upscale Blue Gin lounge, has 27 TVs, $3 Bud Lights during all games, and servers and bartenders who wear tight referee costumes.
Cleveland Park Bar and Grill
A neighborhood bar with 27 large flatscreen TVs, Cleveland Park Bar and Grill's best feature is its rooftop deck, which has its own bar, plenty of tables and six HD screens. (The owners realize it's still March, so the roof area is heated and tented in bad weather.) While the bar usually opens at 5 on weekdays, it will open early for all conference championship and NCAA games.
Crystal City Sports Pub
The Crystal City Sports Pub doesn't run specials during March Madness, and frankly, the managers don't need to offer cheap drinks to pack the house. The three-story bar has over 100 TVs, including a 10-foot HD screen and a pair of 8-foot HDs on the spacious third level, and the loyalty of dozens of alumni groups, from Arizon State to Xavier, all of whom want to see their teams in action. "It might work where we'll have the ACC on one floor, the Big East on another and the SEC on a different floor," says owner Jim Madden. "We try to predict which game will bring the largest turnout and the biggest interest and cater to them." While waiting for your school to play, pool, darts and foosball are available.
Grand Slam Sports Bar
The Grand Hyatt's comfortable sports bar has 17 TVs for watching the game, a great sound system and rentable Nintendo Wiis and Playstation 3s for times when your team's not on. Happy hour specials include $4 draft beers from 4 to 7 on weekdays.
Owner and namesake Kevin Grevey played for the Kentucky Wildcats in the 1975 NCAA championship game, which they lost to UCLA despite his 34 points. He went on to help the Washington Bullets get their first NBA championship before opening this Fairfax sports bar, where college basketball is the big draw. Stop by before the tournament begins to fill out a bracket -- the top predictor wins a party for 25 guests. There are 54 TVs in the memorabilia-filled bar; too bad there aren't any big specials for the games.
With more than 60 high-definition TVs, including two brand-new 127-inch projection screens, Mister Days should be in your list of top places to watch college hoops. On Selection Sunday, the bar's Basketball Challenge allows patron to shoot baskets and answer trivia questions to win prizes, and Bud Light bottles are $2.50 from 4 to 6. Once the tournament's underway, there are food and drink specials during all games, including $2.50 Miller Lites and $9 buckets of Budweiser, Bud Light and Corona pony bottles. (Food specials rotate daily, like $5 pizzas on Thursdays.) A raffle for box seats for the Bruce Springsteen concert will take place on Saturday, April 4, after the last Final Four game, and more concert tickets will be given away during the April 6 final, when there will be additional specials, like $2 Budweisers.
Competing in a March Madness bracket contest with your friends? Nellie's is opening early so you can watch all the games on 12 flatscreens and a pair of large projection TVs. There's also free Wi-Fi so you can follow your teams' progress. During the tournament, the regular beat-the-clock drink specials will be extended so you can grab $3 beers after 8 p.m. and cheese quesadillas for $5 each. Visit Nellie's before the tournament starts to enter its bracket contest -- there will be cash prizes for the winners.
Old Dominion Brewhouse
The Old Dominion Brewhouse has its own Sweet 16 of specials during March Madness. There are almost too many to list here, but while you're watching the game on 25 TVs, you can take advantage of $5 personal pizzas, $7 plates of sliders, $6 chicken quesadillas, $17 buckets of Bud or Bud Light and $6 Patron shots. Bring a group to take advantage of two big specials: $31 mini-Heineken kegs, which contain five liters of beer and are served with a plate of 10 wings, and the $27 beer towers, tall tubes filled with 130 ounces of beer that sit at your table. Purchase a mini keg before March 28 and you'll be entered into a raffle; the winner gets a table for four for the championship game with all food and drinks provided.
The Original Steakhouse and Sports Theatre
The bar area at this sports-crazy Ashburn steakhouse is one of the best places to watch multiple games, thanks to a dozen 6-by-8-foot screens that circle the bar. There are around 30 TVs in all, if you count the much-smaller ones in the dining room. Happy hour runs from 3 to 7 on weekdays, with rotating specials like $1.50 beers.
Penn Quarter Sports Tavern
Sixty-three alumni groups, representing powerhouses like U-Conn and Pittsburgh down to minnows Dayton and Temple, regularly gather at this two-level bar, located just down the street from D.C. Superior Court. Doors open at 11:30 a.m. daily, and all games will be shown on the 10 55-inch flatscreen TVs. (With so many fans wanting to see their games, certain televisions will be assigned in advance; Look for schedules taped underneath each screen.) A long list of drink specials will be offered when games are on, including 23-ounce mugs of Miller Lite for $4 ($10 pitchers), $3 shooters and $16 margarita pitchers.
The Pour House
The best place to watch games on Capitol Hill opens at noon when there are early games, so you can watch on more than two dozen TVs. (The video wall in the main bar, which has multiple screens set to different channels, is a dizzying but fun way to follow the action.) During all games, pitchers of Miller Lite and Bud Light are $10.
If you're out with a group of friends, it's hard to beat Rhino Bar's March Madness deals. Whenever a college basketball game is on, wings cost a quarter and pitchers of Coors Light and Miller Lite are $8 each. (Talk about college prices.) Rhino boasts 25 flatscreens and three 110-inch screens. While it usually opens at 6 p.m., Rhino will open early for all noon games.
The Sideline isn't taking its drink specials beyond the usual 4-7 weekday happy hour ($4 rail drinks and Heinkens, $6 martinis, $5 for an all-you-can-eat buffet), but there are 34 flatscreens, and a new lunch service from 11:30-1:30 if your team has one of the early games. (Even better for those who had to sneak out of the office: Your meal arrives in 15 minutes or it's free.)
Sign of the Whale
While it's not loaded with TVs -- there are five, plus a 110-inch projection screen -- Sign of the Whale gets a good lunch and happy hour crowd from nearby businesses. It's also the a popular spot for Syracuse and California alumni, who get preference if their games are on. Look for drink specials once the tournament begins.
The Bethesda bar offers Budweiser, Bud Light and Stella drafts for $3.50 and specials on select appetizers during all games. There are 25 TVs, including a couple on the patio if you want to take advantage of good weather.
Both the Bethesda and Ballston branches of the British-inspired pub chain are offering $10 "Burger and Beer or Wings" platters -- that's a 22-ounce Budweiser or Union Jack's Ale draft with your choice of a burger or order of wings -- and $10 pitchers of Bud Light or Yuengling during all games. Wear your school's colors and get $1.50 cans of PBR. There are 25 high-definition TVs in Ballston and 20 in Bethesda.
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