Food & Drink

The 5 best March Madness bars in Chicago

Published On 03/18/2014 Published On 03/18/2014

Face it, you’re gonna be mailing it in at work during the first two rounds of March Madness, anyway; might as well call in sick with a very real-sounding disease that’s untraceable on WebMD (like plumeria or super diarrhea) and duck into one of Chicago's five best sports bars (with AM hours!) for the tourney (oh, and if you're looking for where to root for Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Iowa, or Nebraska specifically, you might want to check out our Big Ten Chicago bar guide over here).

Joe's Bar

Joe’s Bar (click here for address and deets)
Near North Side 
You’ll be surrounded by 120 plasma TVs and five HD projection screens inside two main rooms that fit up to 1,000 fans. They’ll have March Madness swag, a bracket challenge (last year’s prize was a full-sized Pop-A-Shot), a guest panel of sportswriters breaking down the bracket on Tuesday, beer specials, and smoked chicken wings. For AM tournament start times, grab a Bloody Mary garnished with fried pickles -- we know how much you love ridiculous Bloody Marys.

The Fifty/50

The Fifty/50 (click here for address and deets)
Wicker Park
With 25 TVs playing games in three bars on three different floors, you’ll have plenty of room to sneak away and call your bookie/offshore betting agency in Antigua. Even when your bracket is blown to hell in the first hour (damn you, Dayton!!!!!), The Fifty/50 can comfort you with $2 domestic bottles, $5 Templeton Rye shots and maple-cinnamon brined & smoked chicken wings.

Sean Cooley

American Junkie (click here for address and deets)
River North
Hello, BIGGEST TV IN THE MIDWEST. No joke, this bar has a 16x8ft 1080i LED screen on the second floor sunroof loft that’ll be showing parts of the tourney, so you can root for NC Central (Go North Carolina Eagles! Yes, that's really their mascot!) in style, while downing any of the 26 beers on draft along with the requisite chicken nachos and BBQ wings.

Bull & Bear

Bull & Bear (click here for address and deets)
River North
With table beer taps, you won’t have to worry about flagging down a waitress amongst the throngs of people rooting for an Eastern Kentucky upset. Pour your own Goose Island, Bud, Guinness, Hoegaarden, or Stella drafts (there are 110oz pilsner glasses available!?!), watch alllll the games on their 25 plasma screens, and put down salami sliders & DIY chili, like the salami-slider-and-DIY-chili-eating boss that you are.

The Anthem

The Anthem (click here for address and deets)
Ukrainian Village
This throwback sports bar is decked out with vintage lockers, a trophy shelf, two giant projectors, and four 50in TVs. Look for open-air seating later into the tournament, 11am openings on weekends, and a well-rounded beer list to complement their stuffed Juicy Lucy burger and Cholula Buffalo drumettes.

Sean Cooley is Thrillist's Chicago Editor, and he lives his life by Anthony Kiedis lyrics. Follow him @SeanCooley.

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1. Joe's Bar 940 W Weed St, Chicago, IL 60622 (Near North Side)

Joe's Sports Bar is exactly the place to be when any Indiana game is on. Their crazy-cheap beers lure in many walks of life... but really, just mainly those looking to scream at a TV or listen to some quality live music.

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2. The Fifty/50 2047 W Division St, Chicago, IL 60622 (Wicker Park)

The 50's a tri-level sports temple serving gluttonous fare like in-house smoked meats (ribs, pulled pork, wings), mac 'n' cheese toppable with everything from chicken to chili, and the "Double-Secret Probation"-esque "Triple Secret:" a tri-meat fatburger with a classified recipe.

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3. American Junkie 15 W Illinois St, Chicago, IL 60654 (River North)

American Junkie is a 320-seat, two-floor industrial restaurant and bar, sporting American flags carved everywhere. The food's as American as the decor, with Chef Kendal Duque (Sepia, City Tavern) running the kitchen and turning out awesome meatiness like pork & apple pizza, bison burgers, and shaved prime rib. The dinner menu is worthy of a sit-down trip, but if you're just looking to have a beer and munchies while watching a game, there might be no better place in Chicago. American Junkie claims to have the largest TV in the Midwest -- a 16x8ft 1080i LED behemoth, located on the second floor sunroom -- making it the perfect place to go in springtime to catch March Madness, or in summer to watch the Cubs and White Sox. With 26 beers on tap and a killer bar menu (think grilled octopus, 30-minute wings, and shrimp ceviche), American Junkie has everything you need to distract you from the score of the Cubs game.

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4. Bull & Bear 431 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60654

Located in the heart of North River, B&B is a perfect spot for any meal of the day. They feature the likes of fantastic burgers and especially tasty brunch options, all in a space decked out with classic, rustic materials.

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5. The Anthem 1725 W DIvision St, Chicago, IL 60622 (Ukrainian Village)

Because sports and nostalgia are natural companions so long as you aren't a Cubs fan, the folks behind Bangers & Lace are opening The Anthem, a retro-themed athletics bar decked with a 19thC American flag, reclaimed school lockers, and station-wagon-esque wood paneling along the L-shaped bar, which is presided over by a mere four flats and a couple of projectors, though just tell those bitter dudes to shut up and confront their dad, already!



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