Howard University and the University of Maryland are headed to The Dance. One has a good chance at advancing. We’ll let you figure out which one that is.
Regardless of the DMV-area team’s success, we have weeks and weeks of NCAA men’s basketball action to look forward to. Below, nine of the best non-chain sports bars to watch the tournament. Chains are fine — hell, a chain bar is the best option if you’re in Chinatown (see: the brand-new Tom’s Watch Bar), but we’re going with the bars that have a more neighborhood vibe.
Exile’s is first and foremost a fantastic soccer bar (Liverpool FC, specifically). They’re also a North Carolina bar. So if you want to see some good football and also think Duke sucks, head to cheer against the Tar Heels’ biggest nemesis. Because North Carolina didn’t make the tournament. Because nothing makes sense anymore. (Duke still sucks.)
The newest bar on this list, Fight Club is Capitol Hill’s most delicious spot to watch the tournament. The Post recently raved about their sandwiches, and since a lot of round one games are during lunchtime, there’s no better place to eat so much during the first game of the day that you’ll need a nap during the second. If you would rather watch games at one of the oldest and best bars on Capitol Hill, walk a few blocks north to Tune Inn Restaurant & Bar.
Howard University is in the tournament for the first time since 1992! This is great! They have a 16 seed. They’re playing Kansas. This is bad. While we’re absolutely rooting for Howard, we advise taking the opportunity to see them while you can, ideally at a bar quite close to campus. Hook Hall is massive, they’re showing all the games, you can reserve a table for large groups (six to eight people) and if it’s too packed, head across the street to Midlands. It’s just as sports-friendly, and if it’s nice outside, the beer garden is a respite off the very busy Georgia Avenue.
The Chicago and Detroit expat bar broadcasts the tournament selection show. If you need that level of NCAA dedication, plus Chicago dogs and Malört, where else are you going? Good for the casual basketball fan and die-hard. You can have a good time sitting alone at the bar and have a blast with a large group on the back patio. If you want a super-modern sports bar with the ability to place live bets, go somewhere else.
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The Columbia Heights sports bar filled the sports bar hole in Columbia Heights’s heart in 2011. They’ve been showing as many games as possible since. If you’re a University of Maryland fan who prefers to drink in DC, rather than 7.5 miles away at or near the University of Maryland, here’s your spot. Lou’s is a Maryland bar.
The Irish bar in Cleveland Park has some of the best wings in town, a fine craft beer selection and a real neighborhood bar feel. It’s a great destination pre- or post-fancy date night at a restaurant like Bindaas. For the couple kinda interested in the tournament, it’s perfect. If it’s too full, walk a few doors north to Cleveland Park Bar and Grill (nice rooftop) or Atomic Billiards (basement bar). So whether you want to be on the ground level, in the air or down below, go to Cleveland Park.
If you’re not sure where to watch a game, head to where games are played. The area around Nationals Park and Audi Field is now littered with hard-to-beat sports bars. The Salt Line is not a sports bar, but it is the bar most everyone I know uses as a meetup before Nationals and United games. With a beautiful view of the Anacostia River in one direction and the south side of Nationals Park in the other, the place is gorgeous inside and out. Go here for pre-game beers and oysters at all times.
After working at Bluejacket, ChurchKey, The Sovereign and more, Shelter’s Beverage Director Greg Engert is once again offering the best possible beer on the East Coast. This is for the beer connoisseur who may want to watch some games. It’s also good for the unsure eater. The Roost is a new 12,500-square-foot food hall with over 10 restaurant options.
We’re ending with our north-of-Nats Park pick. Walter’s is the most sports bar of all of the sports bars on this list. They’re first and foremost a Nats bar, but they screen just about any sporting event possible. MLB, MLS, NBA, NHL, UFC — they show it all. Open at 11 a.m. with ample seating, use Walter’s as your all-day NCAA basketball home. The weekday happy hour (4 p.m. to 7 p.m.) doesn’t hurt. And if you don’t like the vibe, walk around the corner to Atlas Brew Works. Or Mission. Or Tap99. Or place a legal bet at the BetMGM Sportsbook at Nationals Park because nothing makes sense anymore. Duke still sucks.
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