We Desperately Need a Great Sports Bar in Center City
AprilJune, I drove north with a friend for the Phillies series against the Red Sox. Two things struck me from the moment Fenway came into view — the overwhelming hordes of Fightins fans who invaded the city that weekend, and all of the excellent sports bars in downtown Boston. The scene made me wonder what could have been if Citizens Bank Park ended up on Vine Street instead of Pattison Avenue. Then there’s the other question that continues to puzzle me, especially during playoff seasons — for such a great sports town, why don’t we have a great sports bar in Center City?[SIGNUP]
Let’s say some brave tourists stop you at City Hall. They want to watch a Phils game somewhere that defines the rabid Philadelphia fan experience in all its glory. Before you give them a recommendation, there are a few essential criteria to consider:
1. Televisions everywhere. I’m not talking one high-def flatscreen in the corner. The place should look like a Best Buy electronics department.
2. Sound on. No one wants to hear some hipster’s 10-song set of Arcade Fire on the jukebox while the broadcast team is explaining why Utley didn’t come back out for the 7th inning. Music during commercials is fine, but when it’s game on, kill the tunes.
3. Real fans. This one’s subjective. There are plenty of folks who just buy a red t-shirt in October and couldn’t pick our middle relievers out of a lineup. But there’d better be at least one dude in the crowd wearing a dirty 1980 satin World Champions jacket or a couple old ladies in Eisenreich jerseys yelling “You bum!” at the umps.
4. Atmosphere. This is what separates bars that have the game on from bars that make watching the game a joyous experience unto itself. There’s no way to manufacture this — either your joint has it or it doesn’t. Good grub and a solid beer list helps, but it’s not essential (for those who love their food as much as their Phils, check out Kirsten Henri’s list of playoff-friendly restaurants here). If strangers are embracing after Lidge ends the game with a strikeout, domestic beer and wings will do just fine.
All of that said, you’d probably send those tourists to Chickie’s & Pete’s — way down Broad Street at the city’s edge. Downtown, though, there’s no go-to spot where Philly sports fans instinctively know to gather en masse. Fox & Hound at 15th and
PineSpruce wants to be that place, but a bar that caters to Steelers fans on Sundays should be blacklisted by every self-respecting Philadelphian. Tavern On Broad at Walnut Street had potential, until it hosted a party for Jenni “Jwoww” Farley from Jersey Shore and created a draconian policy for its TVs. (They once refused to switch a Utah Jazz game that no one was watching to a prime-time ‘Nova/Syracuse hoops showdown. Epic fail, dudes.)
Pete Ciarrocchi once told me he considered opening a Chickie’s downtown, but decided against it largely for one reason — parking, and the lack of it in Center City. I hope he’ll reconsider, or that someone will finally open a sports bar in the heart of Philadelphia that does this city’s fans justice. Maybe a beloved ex-athlete could step up. Imagine watching the Phils in their third consecutive World Series from the bar at Michael Jack’s? A Flyers playoff game at Bernie’s? The Birds in the Super Bowl at McNabb’s?
Let’s work on that last one. In the meantime, post your suggestions for Center City sports bars that I should check out. It feels like this Phillies post-season will be a long one.