March is a special time of year for Chicagoans. It’s usually the last month of brutal cold before spring, the Chicago River is dyed green for St. Patrick’s Day and the NCAA men’s basketball tournament begins. Although not a single Illinois team made the tournament this year, odds are many Chicagoans filled out a March Madness bracket, hoping to either win prize money from a pool or gain the satisfaction of predicting the winning teams.
The only thing more thrilling than picking the right teams is watching those teams lay it on the line, especially in March Madness fashion. On March 18, No. 15 Middle Tennessee State University upset Michigan State University, ruining the last perfect bracket. Later that night, University of Northern Iowa lobbed up a Hail Mary half-court shot at the buzzer, which found its way through the net and awed basketball fans. This is March Madness, and there isn’t a better way to watch the games than drinking a few cold ones with friends.
I have heard it said by numerous peers there isn’t a good place outside of Wrigleyville to sit down and watch the games. Well, ladies and gentlemen of Loyola, you will be thrilled to hear that Bar 63 and Pumping and Co., also known as P-Co’s, are not your only options.
Really? The place in the basement of Damen Student Center? Yes. Drawing small- to medium-sized crowds, Ireland’s is a good place to bring a group of close friends and sit down for a game. Long, rectangular tables are oriented to face a four-screen arrangement. The bar is located to the left of the basement room, where a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are available. You’re out of luck if you’re looking to have a burger and fries during a game, but Ireland’s provides a number of different panini sandwiches and hot dogs. Staffed entirely by Loyola students, the service at Ireland’s comes with a smile and good conversation. Overall, the bar has a welcoming, community feel and is an excellent place for a comfortable and relaxed basketball viewing experience, especially if you want to stay on campus.
Michael’s Pizzeria and Tavern
Located off the Sheridan Red Line stop, Michael’s Pizzeria and Tavern is an ideal venue for recent college grads and undergrads alike. Michael’s provides a rowdier viewing experience, as it tends to draw midsize to larger crowds. The size of the crowd directly correlates to whether or not a sporting event is on. Long story short, Michael’s brings in sports fans. As far as the food is concerned, it is a college student’s dream. Whether you order an appetizer or an entrée, Michael’s serves its meals in large quantities at a reasonable cost. The Primo Burger, which is my favorite, features two quarter-pound patties with bacon and cheddar amongst other toppings for only $5.99. Although this spot is a 20-minute trip on the Red Line, it’s well worth the trip. This sports bar has an atmosphere similar to that of a Buffalo Wild Wings and burgers as large as the ones served at Five Guys, all within a college budget.
This has more of a restaurant feel than a bar. I would not recommend Philly’s for the sole purpose of watching a game, but it’s one of the best options if you’re looking to catch a game over lunch or dinner. The food is pricier than at Michael’s, but Philly’s boasts a wider selection of higher quality food. This comes in handy if you’re a vegetarian or observe religious dietary restrictions because there are multiple meatless items on the menu. In the event that your team fails to perform and turns your bracket into a laughing stock, which happens to me with some regularity, Philly’s provides nighttime entertainment on Wednesday through Saturday evenings, including live music and karaoke.