The Best DC Sports Bars to Watch and Drink on Game Day

Championship trophies by the Nationals, Capitals, and Mystics have ignited the passions of DC sports fans, giving new life to game days -- no matter the season. Even if you ignore the Redskins and the Wizards, hardly a day goes by without an in-demand game to show. And with all the competition for games from college alumni groups or DC-area transplants, finding a sports bar that aligns with your preferences is key. Some favor a specific city or sport, some have tons of space for groups, and others focus on food. Here are the best sports bars in and around DC.

Astro Beer Hall

Metro Center
Fried chicken, doughnuts, and craft beer shine at this downtown hangout. Some might recognize the two-level layout from its days at Mackey’s Public House. The new space has remained a favorite for grabbing a drink after work and catching a Nats or Caps game. Soak up the brews with bar food like loaded tots and fried chicken combos. When halftime hits, try your hand at one of the arcade games downstairs.

The Admiral

Dupont Circle
This American-themed pub offers a comfortable place to watch a game without being awash in memorabilia and jerseys. Multiple bars are outfitted with TVs, and booths offer good sightlines as well. Craft cocktails and local beers flow on tap, including an exclusive label from DC Brau. The kitchen turns out seafood dishes like a New England lobster roll and a crab cake sandwich.

Mission Navy Yard

Navy Yard
From April to October, Mission Navy Yard hosts hungry and thirsty Nationals fans with draft margaritas, tall beers, and Mexican fare that ranges from tacos (varieties include vegan, chorizo and Buffalo shrimp) to quesadillas and nachos. Happy hour deals run daily, and the multiple bars are long and spacious, even on the most crowded afternoons. When baseball is out of season, fans gather for college sports and other must-watch events.

Pitchers DC

Adams Morgan
Pitchers offers a welcoming space for the gay community (or anyone, for that matter) to root for their favorite team or unwind with a game of darts. Downstairs you’ll find A League of Her Own, a sports bar to catering to queer women looking to kick back in a safe and fun environment.

Walters Sports Bar

Navy Yard
More than 30 TVs and a 220-inch 4k screen has made Walter’s one of the more popular spots near Nationals Park. Try your hand at the self-pour beer wall or pick a signature cocktail like the frozen 8th Inning Painkiller or the Scherzer’s Bunt, mixed with berry syrup, gin, lemon juice, and soda. Fill up with wings, burgers, sandwiches, or a hearty plate of steak frites or tuna poke. For afternoon games, there’s a $35 bottomless brunch with tapas-style plates and boozy drinks.

Church Hall

Despite its name, this subterranean hangout has nothing to do with religion. It worships all things beer, board games, and sports. The cavernous spot is somewhat hidden, which can be good given the amount of tourists that clog Wisconsin Avenue and the surrounding streets. Groups shouldn’t have trouble finding territory at one of long communal tables or pods of leather couches.

Dirty Water Sports Bar

H Street NE
Some may say that Boston sports fans, raucous as they can be, are best confined to cheer from their own dedicated location. Enter Dirty Water Sports Bar. It’s decked out with memorabilia of the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins as a beacon to all the displaced New Englanders in the District. All that’s left to do is grab a Sam Adams and crank The Dropkick Murphys. New Yorkers -- you’ve been warned.

Nellie’s Sports Bar

U Street
Nellie’s is a gay bar that takes its sports and good times equally seriously, no matter who is playing. It’s become part of the fabric of the bustling U Street and Shaw corridor since opening in 2007, with two floors including a rooftop for enjoying buckets of cold beer or signature colorful cocktails. When games aren’t on, stop in for drag brunch on Saturdays and Sundays or drag bingo on Tuesday nights.

Lucky Bar

Dupont Circle
Expats and Washingtonians alike gather to watch soccer matches at this friendly dive pub. Saturday mornings are prime time to grab a pint and an English breakfast plate alongside English Premier League action. Any major international contest is likely to draw sizable crowds, so expect to come early for any big-ticket events. American leagues get their due here too, especially DC United and MLS, college football, and the NFL.

Ivy and Coney

Cheap food and booze are two of the big selling points at this Detroit- and Chicago-themed haunt. A basic beer at this (cash-only) dive runs just a few bucks no matter what time you stop in, and it’s only $2 during happy hour. A couple dollars more buys a whiskey and beer combo, and the affordable “rail” drinks use quality booze like Cotton & Reed rum and Tito’s Vodka. Ivy and Coney’s food sticks to its regional roots with a menu of Midwestern-inspired dogs and sausages. Elbow room can be tight, so don’t count on getting seats for big groups.

Penn Social

Penn Quarter
Penn Social is so much more than just a sports bar. For starters, it’s a huge venue, with projector screens and TVs situated throughout its two floors. Pick from 28 draft beers at the downstairs bar, which is also outfitted with Skee-Ball, shuffleboard, foosball, and more. Upstairs, enjoy the seasonal patio and comfortable tables and couches for smaller groups.

The Big Stick

Navy Yard
The Big Stick has emerged a go-to local option for sausages and beers on game day mixed with rustic decor and lots of wood accents. Its proximity to Nationals Park makes baseball the sport of choice here and an ideal pre-game spot during the season.

The G.O.A.T.

It’s likely not the literal “Greatest Of All Time” sports bar, but Arlington residents will do well sprawling out at this sleek bar and restaurant inspired by the world’s premier athletes. There are more than 50 TVs along with three 12-foot “TV walls” and a handful of arcade games to help pass the time. The G.O.A.T places an emphasis on its food menu, too, serving up creative dishes such as a duck quesadilla, wagyu beef meatball sliders, and fried oysters. It may just be enough to convince your DC friends to venture across the Potomac.

Union Pub

Capitol Hill
Followers of Florida State University and the Chicago Bears flock to this no-frills Capitol Hill spot on weekends for all-day specials on beers, shots and rail drinks. Brunch and bottomless cocktails are served from 11am to 3pm on Saturdays and Sunday as well, for those who prefer to get an early start on game-day drinks.

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Travis Mitchell is a DC-based food and drink writer. Follow his travels and eating adventures on Twitter at @travisjmitchell and Instagram at @_travisjmitchell.