There's nothing quite like the environment at a sports bar: wall-to-wall TVs blaring, the scent of fried food and beer lingering in the air, shoulder-to-shoulder guests tuning into the big game. Greasy comfort food is the norm—chicken wings, anyone?—and drinks tend to flow whether the home team is winning or losing.
A sports bar is at the crossroads of a bar and restaurant, making it the perfect spot to plant the watch party. The entire establishment gives you an experience somewhere in between a tailgate party and watching the action at a friend's house. Maybe that's exactly what you plan to do for this year's upcoming NFL playoffs, which kick off in January. According to Forbes, an estimated 30 to 50 million people watch each matchup, and the country's some 18,000 sports bars will undoubtedly be serving a large percentage of that viewership.
If you're unsure where to go, a national chain is always a safe bet. We have a few recommendations to help you avoid throwing a Hail Mary at the last minute. These sports bars are the best of the best. Not just because of their size, but because they have created the quintessential space for beer drinking, grub eating, and sports watching—a victory in and of itself. Here are nine sports bar chains truly at the top of their game.
Buffalo Wild Wings
Buffalo Wild Wings is the place to go when you want beer, wings, and sports! It's right there in the chain's abrupt, yet incredibly fitting, slogan. These three elements are the pillars on which the popular chain stands. It's been that way since the restaurant first opened its doors in 1982 in Columbus, Ohio. Back then, the joint went by the slightly longer name Buffalo Wild Wings and Weck. The weck part refers to a certain style of roast beef sandwich that is popular in western New York state, but perhaps not widely popular enough for the greater chain,. Despite its short life span, this original name is why you will still hear people affectionately referring to the restaurant as "BW3s" or "Bdubs."
Now, Buffalo Wild Wings stands as the largest sports bar franchise in the country, migrating to more than 1,250 locations with a presence in every state. At each one, the first thing you will notice is the plethora of big-screen TVs all tuned in to the sport of the season. Every location also offers original and boneless wings in 26 different signature sauces and dry rubs. And, beyond wings, guests can enjoy an extended menu of classic American appetizers, burgers and sandwiches, tacos, salads, and, of course, a fully stocked bar.
Dave & Busters
In a world overrun by Chuck E. Cheese and other child-focused establishments, Dave & Busters shook things up in 1982 with the opening of its unique "playground for adults." The concept marries both fun and entertainment with a classic restaurant-like experience. Now, at locations across 42 stores, patrons are invited to come watch the game and chow down on the chain's award-winning foods, such as the crispy Hawaiian chicken sandwich, Voodoo pasta, Manchego chicken, or even a 14-ounce ribeye. Then, the party moves to the game room, where guests can get competitive and win tokens playing classic arcade games like Pac-Man and Skee-Ball, new-school faves like Connect Four Hoops, and more—all while sipping on a specialty cocktail or ice-cold beer.
Boston's Pizza Restaurant & Sports Bar
While most sports bars harp on wings and burgers, Boston's takes a more Italian-American route when it comes to its menu. Pizza with the chain's famous sauce is undoubtedly king. Gourmet pastas like baked lasagna and spaghetti Bolognese are also a focus. Of course, wings and burgers are still available, too, if you can't imagine watching the match without them. The restaurant is also well-known for its more family-friendly environment. That's something that can't be said for too many other eateries within the sports bar category.
Despite its East Coast-based name, you won't find this franchise in Beantown, or Massachusetts, at all. But, it does have more than 400 locations across the rest of North America, as well as a presence in both Mexico and Canada.
Bar Louie calls itself "the original gastro bar," which is just a fancy way of saying it's a bar that also serves restaurant-style food. Since it is a franchise, no two Bar Louies look alike from the inside or outside. But, despite their differences, every Bar Louie has a happy hour. And, you can expect a slightly more upscale ambiance compared to most sports bars.
Scratch-made food is always available from bar bites to main plates to decadent desserts. Plus, at Bar Louie, there's a cocktail for everyone to love, with a special emphasis on signature martinis. Each month is dedicated to a new featured martini, and all can be served either on the rocks or up.
You can't broach the subject of American sports bars without talking about Hooters. The chain is notorious for its rowdy crowd, saucy chicken wings, and Hooters Girls, who have become something of an international icon. While you might be familiar with the chain, did you know that Hooters became successful based on a stroke of luck? In 1983, six men from Florida—with no previous restaurant experience or know-how—decided to spin up a business based solely on their favorite things: beer, food, and good times. As it turns out many other people like those same things too, and boom—a worldwide sports bar institution was born.
Technically speaking, Twin Peaks is like Hooters' younger and more rugged mountain-man cousin. The two share a very similar operational style: half bar, half restaurant, with plenty of screens and not-so-modestly dressed servers. But, Twin Peaks—born in 2005—also comes with a few stark differences that set it apart and give the chain the confidence to call itself the No. 1 sports bar. The bar's space is decorated to look like a lodge or cozy cabin in the mountains with wood finishes, taxidermy animals, and plenty of plaid. And, as for the food, there is less of an emphasis on chicken wings than at Hooters. Twin Peaks also highlights its hand-smashed burgers, street tacos, piled-high sandwiches, and a diverse assortment of bites and apps, which includes a mouthwatering thick-cut Billionaire's bacon.
Beef 'O' Brady's
If the name Beef 'O' Brady's conjures up an image of an Irish pub that also happens to sling hamburgers on the side, you'll be happy to know that the notion is not off base. Opened in 1985, the joint was built to be a neighborhood come-as-you-are gathering place that features plenty of beer on tap and Irish-inflected food—although most are what you would find at a standard American bar. The wings are said to be award-winning, drenched in Beef 'O' Bradys' famous sauces and dry rubs. Classic sandwiches, tacos, wraps, and burgers are also available, or fork-and-knife entrees if that's more your style. The franchise has seen promising growth over the past two years, and it's now up to almost 150 locations—with many in its home state of Florida. Guess it's just the luck of the Irish or the work of really great franchisees.
World of Beer
World of Beer puts a distinctive twist on your average, everyday sports bar. As you may have gathered by its name, the chain is hyper-focused on beer. But, not just any beer—beer from all over the country, as well as miles beyond. Guests are invited to enjoy the tastes of Mexico, Canada, Italy, Germany, Japan, Belgium, and more, with its diverse selection of hundreds of global brews. And, one of the best ways to enjoy them is with the gastropub's expertly crafted flights.
To soak up all that booze, World of Beer also serves an eclectic variety of eats including flatbreads, burgers, sandwiches, salads, soups, and shareable items, such as the fan-favorite giant German pretzel. All can be enjoyed while watching sports, listening to live music, or playing trivia.
Miller's Ale House
If beer variety is an important factor for you, Miller's Ale House is another great sports bar choice. The chain offers 35 taps of local, craft, and imported beers, plus a selection of bottles, cans, seltzers, wines, and house cocktails. Its casual yet lively atmosphere is another reason why Miller's has attracted a fanbase and grown to 109 locations in 10 states. The chain's reasonable prices and great deals don't hurt, either. In 2023, the House unveiled its MAD—Miller's Amazing Deals—a value menu that offers specials and discounts every day of the week. Customers can feast on fan favorites such as the buttermilk hand-breaded chicken Zingers or barbecue baby back ribs for less.