Food & Drink

The 12 best bars to catch your Big Ten team

Published On 10/14/2013 Published On 10/14/2013

Since Chicago's inarguably the best city in the Midwest, it's not too surprising that alumni from all 12 Big Ten schools (soon to be 14!) frequently settle there. But when it comes time to watch the game, you still want to be surrounded by like-minded people who remind you of your days in the inarguably inferior town where you went to college (yes, Evanston, that goes for you, too). Here are the best places to do just that.


Durkin's Tavern, Lakeview
Best known as a Steelers bar (and once upon a time a Purdue bar, before they went turncoat), Durkin's has become the next-best-thing to sitting in Kam’s. Catch Fighting Illini hijinks like a live marching band, as well as Saturday football feast packages, O&O’s, and walk of shame shots that, given the state of Illini football, should come in handy.


Joe's Bar, Near North Side
When Jay Cutler’s not taking the stage in '80s gear, Joe's is hosting Hoosier fans with 110 TVs, morning mimosas, and a country vibe that would put Jimmy Chitwood totally at ease -- just keep Shooter out of here.


Merkle's, Lakeview
This sports bar is compact, but right on the money come game-time (not unlike Nate Kaeding). Owned by Hawkeye alumni, dig into their extensive craft beer list as you look to catch the next Drew Tate-caliber miracle.

Casey Miller

Penn State
AJ Hudsons, Lakeview
Also a haven for fans of the OTHER kind of football, this saloon is all-American on game days with hand-packed half-pound burgers like the Hell's Kitchen (cayenne, jalapeno salsa, Sriracha, pepper jack), or the Hawaiian (smoked ham & char-grilled pineapple), and 25 47in flat-screens.


Ohio State
McGee's, Lincoln Park
Chicago's slice of Buckeyeland will brace you for a day of excess with build-your-own mac 'n cheese, as well as ticket giveaways, and bus trip tailgate packages to keep you distracted as you brace yourself for the next inevitable NCCA investigation.


Duffy's, Lincoln Park
We don’t know how Desmond Howard can sit on the College GameDay set without backhanding Lee Corso. No better place to admire Desmond's restraint than Ann Arbor safe haven at Duffy's with weekend brunch buffets, Michigan mugs, 42 flat-screens, and room for 500... so things can get just as loud & obnoxious as the Big House.


Michigan State
The Tin Lizzie, Lincoln Park
The MSU/Detroit sports hub has everything except Andre Rison's sunglasses from ESPN's "Broke" 30 for 30. There's beer pong, pole dancing, and turtle races. As in the animals. Though racing little Jerry Ferraras would be cool, too.


Red Ivy, Lakeview
Full disclosure, Redmond's also caters to Purdue and... Georgia Tech (?). You just don't see big packs of Minnesota fans the way you do for some other schools, which either speaks to the drawing power of the Twin Cities or the state of their athletic teams.


Kirkwood Bar, Lakeview
Husker Saturdays involve tot-chos, mini burgers, and Big Red fish bowls you'll be happy to share... as long as no Oklahoma fans walk in. But really, shouldn't they also involve corn husks?


Lion Head Pub, Lincoln Park
Just because you've strayed South of Nevin's doesn't mean there isn't Wildcat pride to be found with beer towers aplenty and $3.25 Coors Light 20oz drafts.


Fireplace Inn, Old town
The Fireplace Inn is as permanent a Purdue fixture as that weird thing on Drew Brees's face. There's 40 flat-screens for your viewing pleasure, just as their signature ribs are there for your eating pleasure.


Will's Northwoods Inn, Lakeview
This Sconnie sports bar gears up for the fifth quarter with Wisconsin brews from Capital and Lakefront, breakfast pint deals, cheese curds, free popcorn, and ornamental moose. You couldn't feel more like you're in Wisconsin if you crawled inside a wheel of cheddar.

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1. Merkle's Bar & Grill 3516 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60657 (Lakeview)

Merkle's is a standard bar-fare joint that's serving up massive Iowa pride and delicious grub to really get in the spirit.

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2. A.J. Hudson's Public House 3801 N Ashland, Chicago, IL 60613 (Lakeview)

Because epic soccer comebacks are best done Solo (hey, why don't YOU try to make a pun off of Wambach), the original owner of Ginger's Ale House has returned to his old stomping grounds after a long hiatus (which saw him open The Globe), taking it over from his former partner and remaking it into A.J. Hudson's Public House, a still-soccer-crazy saloon rocking a brightened interior/facade, 25 fresh 47in flatscreens, and a pool table.

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3. McGee's Tavern & Grille 950 W Webster Ave, Chicago, IL 60614 (Lincoln Park)

A reliable staple in the Chicago sports bar scene, McGee's is known for a stellar bloody mary and bar food specials on Wednesdays.

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4. Duffy's Tavern and Grille 420 W Diversey, Chicago, IL 60614 (Lincoln Park)

Duffy's is a sports bar in Lincoln Park where you can catch all your favorite games, plus a serious unlimited brunch buffet on Sundays.

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5. Tin Lizzie 2483 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614 (Lincoln Park)

Tin Lizzie is an alternative sports bar in Chicago.

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6. Red Ivy 3525 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60657 (Lakeview)

Red Ivy is the place to hangout when you're in the mood to hang with some Browns fans and drink cheap booze. Bar grub is above average and tasty enough to lighten the blow of many a few losses.

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7. Kirkwood Bar & Grill 2934 N Sheffield Ave, Chicago, IL 60657 (Lakeview)

This dark-wooded sports den's got dozens of bottles and taps plus delicious bar eats.

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8. Lion Head Pub 2251 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60614 (Lincoln Park)

This Lincoln Park sports bar has a bunch of awesomely cheap weekly specials to help bolster your team spirit on a budget. Also hosting a ton of parties, special events, and an upstairs dance club ("The Apartment"), the Lion Head Pub has plenty to offer.

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9. Fireplace Inn 1448 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60610 (Old Town)

You into BBQ ribs and gourmet burgers, your favorite sports teams playing on 40 HD TVs, and huge, year-round outdoor patios with two bars? Get into The Fireplace Inn in Old Town and watch your dreams come true. You're welcome.

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10. Will's Northwoods Inn 3030 N Racine, Chicago, IL 60657 (Lakeview)

In the heart of Lakeview, decamped Wisconsin residents, Packer fans, and UW Badger fans alike gather at Will’s Northwoods Inn to celebrate all things Dairyland. Will’s is dedicated to creating a northwoods atmosphere, on the menu and off. Enjoy cheese curds, brats, and a fish fry or two among taxidermy-lined walls, or outside in the beer garden. Or snack on free popcorn while you sip on local Wisconsin suds, featuring Leinenkugel’s, Sprecher, and, of course, Miller Lite. Great for watching a game, loading up on Wisconsin fare, or just grabbing a beer, Will’s Northwoods Inn will bring you back to the great northwoods from its post just north of downtown.

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11. Durkin's Tavern 810 W Diversey Pkwy, Chicago, IL 60614 (Lakeview)

Durkin's is the best place to catch a game for any Illinois fan in their right mind. Beers on tap, addicting and ever-flowing bar grub, and a rowdy crew to make you feel right at home.

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12. 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.