For the first time ever, all 67 games in this year’s NCAA basketball tourney will be televised nationally. Great news if your living room contains a quartet of high-def Samsungs. But if it doesn’t, and you’re someone who badly wants not to miss the next Valparaiso–over–Ole Miss buzzer beater, you should opt for a sports bar. We sent out four ESPN obsessives to test 32 local watering holes, about half of which weren’t around for last year’s tournament. They ate copiously, drank prodigiously, and kept (somewhat) meticulous scorecards, awarding points for beer selection, food quality, TV density, peak-time crowdedness and ambience, and “intangibles”—anything from an impressive memorabilia collection to a generous Sunday-afternoon Coors deal. Here, how the nacho chips fell.
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43 E. 7th St., at Second Ave.; 212-420-0671
It’ll probably feel like a cattle car if you go there for the Final Four (it’s tiny), but talent like this can’t be denied. It is, quite simply, the Platonic ideal of a sports bar.
37 Greenpoint Ave., at West St.; 718-349-0149
Stadium Grill is as well appointed (and sterile) as an MSG luxury suite. Red Star may not match its creature comforts, but it’s much closer to actually being in the stands.
39 Greenwich Ave., at Charles St.; 212-229-2171
The food is just too good and too cheap—$7.75 for one of the better cheesesteaks in the city—to recommend anywhere else.
222 W. 44th St., nr. Eighth Ave.; 212-680-0012
The winning tip-in at the buzzer: four tiers of stadium-style seating facing a 50-foot wall of high-def televisions above the bar.
122 W. 26th St., nr. Sixth Ave.; 212-741-0646
Snap gets dinged for being a little too theme-y with the décor (sports wallpaper, really?).
249 Fourth Ave., nr. Carroll St., Park Slope; 718-230-5740
Atmosphere and amenities make up for TV differential. Though that could change once Pub One gets its backyard.
42-15 235th St., nr. 43rd Ave., Douglaston: 718-517-8787
Did we mention Darryl’s Shea Stadium locker takes up one of the corners of the bar?
1403 Second Ave., at 73rd St.; 212-535-2183
During tourney time, you don’t need Manny’s diversions. You do need a comfortable place to park it for several hours.
15 Barrow St., nr. 4th St.; 212-691-6127
Wins for its livelier atmosphere and plethora of beer options.
248 W. 14th St., nr. Eighth Ave.; 646-350-0539
Defeats a worthy, classy opponent on the strength of amazingly good cheeseburger sliders (not the lump-in-a-bun stuff you get elsewhere).
200 Fifth Ave., nr. Union St.; Park Slope, 718-638-2925
Park Slope’s bruiser easily defeats Peck Slip’s Cinderella. The barrage of TVs is simply too much of a size advantage.
5 Front St., at Old Fulton St., Dumbo; 347-844-9149
The Dumbo newbie holds off Woodwork’s truffle-macaroni and pickleback attack. Ten screens simply outplay three.
149 Second Ave., nr. 9th St.; 212-228-8020
Excellent daily specials (half-price beer on Sunday) help it muscle out its pseudo-Prohibition competition.
523 Third Ave., at 35th St.; 212-447-5711
A dead-even matchup of reluctant sports hubs. Third and Long gets the edge for superior game-viewing and a more creative tap.
212 W. 79th St., nr. Broadway; 212-362-4360
A cozier dining room and a high density of flat-screens barely bests Stout’s sheer size.
1770 Second Ave., nr. 92nd St.; 212-410-3300
Despite a better menu, Three Monkeys can’t overcome its subpar TV placement. And, hey, Pac-Man!
225 Varick St., nr. Clarkson St.; 646-861-2985
The many flat-screen TVs are always tuned to sports, but the place is often empty and the food doesn’t justify its high prices.
296 Bleecker St., nr. Seventh Ave., second fl.; 212-675-6157
Tucked above a Five Guys burger joint, it could do more with its quirky-cozy space.
206 W. 23rd St., nr. Seventh Ave.; 212-337-3100
A classic Irish pub with amiable, be-paunched bartenders and team-logo drawings in the windows.
77 Warren St., nr. W. Broadway; 212-227-8994
One of the few entrants that could double as a date bar, it’s got six flat-screens, solid food, and dark lighting.
77 Warren St., nr. W. Broadway; 212-227-8994
With nine scattered TVs and a standard menu, Pipin is more middling neighborhood restaurant than rip-roaring sports bar.
229 Front St., nr. Peck Slip; 212-566-2337
Four pour-your-own beer stations make a fun gimmick, but three measly TVs and an overly touristy crowd set it back.
312 Grand St., at Havemeyer St., Williamsburg; 718-486-3473
A decent setup diminished by a minority of locals who seemingly couldn’t care less about the game.
583 Vanderbilt Ave., at Dean St., Prospect Heights; 718-857-5777
It’s better known as an English soccer bar, though bartenders usually give priority to big U.S. events.
218 Ave. A, nr. 14th St.; 646-370-1791
Comfortable but fairly uninspired, with same ol’ beers, haphazard TV placement, and an obligatory dartboard.
157 Ludlow St., nr. Stanton St.; 212-777-7708
Exposed brick, a D.J. booth, and floral (!) wallpaper make this LES freshman feel more like a speakeasy.
41-19 30th Ave., at 42nd St., Astoria; 718-943-6899
Can’t fault the cut-above pub grub, but deduct points for serving beers in hipster-pandering Mason jars.
206 E. 34th St., nr. Third Ave.; 212-545-9912
A wannabe nightclub that has settled for life as a sports bar, with pink track lighting, bottle service, and burnt nachos.
986 Second Ave., nr. 52nd St.; 212-813-1595
The bi-level midtown spot brings in plenty of, yes, traffic despite the uninspired beer selection (just four on tap, six by bottle).
133 W. 33rd St., nr. Seventh Ave.; 212-629-6191
Avoid this pumped-up three-floor Irish pub before or after MSG events, the better to enjoy the sizable beer menu.
236 W. 54th St., nr. Broadway; 212-586-2080
The good: huge beer menu, great beer-brined wings. The bad: Sit at a table downstairs and you’re craning your neck.
982 Amsterdam Ave., nr. 109th St.; 212-979-2337
The mini-chain’s Columbia branch may be frattier than its NYU one. Suggested beer pairings are a nice touch.