There’s no shortage of sports bars in Philly, but if you’re looking to pair your descent into the final week of March Madness with really great food, the options get somewhat narrower. We’re not talking an eight-course dinner — just something that goes beyond the standard wings and and other frozen-fried things.
Where can you enjoy top-tier tavern cuisine while watching your bracket get busted? Start with this list.
2400 S. 19th St.
From the outside it looks like any other corner tavern in deep South Philly, but thanks to a refresh a few years ago, the menu and drink list are as shi-shi as any Fishtown spot. General Tso’s cauliflower, anyone? The prices, on the other hand, still suit the neighborhood. Look for $4 drafts when college basketball’s on the TVs.
2301 Fairmount Ave.
With the look of a classic English pub, this Fairmount mainstay might be the city’s best kept secret when it comes to watching sports. Expect an intellectually-focused crowd that’s not afraid to let loose when their team makes a big splash. The menu turns pub fare on its head, with solid versions of everything from empanadas to moules frites to duck sausage sandwiches.
129 N. 22nd St.
The food options at this century-old hideaway tucked behind the Ben Franklin Parkway are small, but stellar. House-roasted beef is the prime option, sliced to order and piled on a soft kaiser roll that just barely holds the juices, and the well-fed crowd is always ready for sports banter. Beer list is also much more modern than the bar’s brass finishings might suggest.
111 S. Independence Mall E.
Opened last fall as a reinvigorated food hall, this historic former commodities exchange across from Independence Mall is now home to several flatscreen TVs. Choose your eats from a dozen independently-owned kiosks — Filipino skewers? Fried chicken? Korean tacos? Ice cream? — and bring it back to your stool to go with TAPS Fill Station pours.
3925 Walnut St.; 100 N. 18th St.
These twin tap houses (one in University City, one on Logan Square) are experts at straddling the line between being serious about food and serious about sports. Each locale has a dozen or more giant flatscreens, but also a huge craft beer lineup that rivals any in the city. Look for better-than-standard wings, nachos and pizzas, but also dishes that’ll liven up the mouth party — think elote dip, charred brussels and blue crab mac ‘n’ cheese.
1231 E. Passyunk Ave.
This arcade hall that shares an intersection with Pat’s and Geno’s is a toss up because the menu changes every night. But depending which roving chef takes over the in-house food cart, the offerings can easily be top of their game. You can also BYO food here — it could be a cheesesteak, but it could be pho or tacos or an entire steak dinner. (Expect a less bro-heavy crowd than at the bar’s Fishtown cousin, too.)
1150 Market St.; 8400 Germantown Ave.
The team behind this local collection of brewpubs, which have dotted the region for two decades, finally landed in Center City last year. (There’s also a Chestnut Hill outpost.) The atmosphere is equal parts family-friendly and beer geek haven, with comfortable seating and everything brewed in house. Just like each pub’s brewmaster takes pride in their work, so does each kitchen’s chef, and you can taste the results.
129 S. 30th St.
This new beer hall beneath the Cira Garage in University City is packed with activities that aren’t gazing at screens — board games, Skee-Ball, shuffelboard, Ms. Pac-Man — but there are plenty of flatscreens, too. The menu isn’t groundbreaking, but it does comes from a chef with a Le Bec-Fin pedigree. Bonus: Since the place just opened, you know he’s still paying careful attention to execution.