12 FN-Approved Spots for Game-Day Eats
Every big game requires serious grub to go alongside. When you can't get outside for a tailgate, these FN-approved sports bars and restaurants will score you tasty touchdowns.
1. Big Guy's Sausage Stand, Berwyn, Ill.
On 3 Days to Open, Bobby Flay helped the four buddies behind Big Guy’s achieve their dream of sausage-stand supremacy. They proudly serve up “blue-collar gourmet food,” primarily in the form of snappy, homemade sausages like Polish, bratwurst, Italian, hot links and Buffalo chicken varieties. They even feature weekly specials like turducken or crawfish sausage, the latter made with a well-seasoned pork and crawfish mix that’s topped with Cajun sauce for a taste of New Orleans up in Illinois. The juicy, charbroiled sausages are so addictive that customers promise “you’ll finish one and want another.” Sandwich King Jeff Mauro agreed when he instantly tweeted his recommendation after sampling every sausage on the menu. Fortunately for tailgating fans, Big Guy’s also offers catering packages, so order up some sausage platters and let the games begin!
2. Quay Restaurant & Bar, Chicago
For those seeking the slightly fancier side of sports, drop into this sprawling space near Chicago’s Navy Pier, where you’ll find an upscale sports bar and a fine dining experience under the same roof. With 30 flat-screen TVs all over the industrial sports lounge, there’s “not a bad seat in the house” for keeping score. Add in the extensive craft beer selection and delicious apps, like Amish chicken with cornmeal dumplings, roasted bone marrow and truffle fries, and you’ve got the perfect game-time feast at hand. Settle in to watch your team on a weeknight or at weekend brunch with the collection of inventive pizzas and hearty sandwiches to get you through overtime. Plus, you can while away the commercial breaks by taking in the waterfront view just outside the window.
3. ABC the Tavern, Cleveland
At this Cleveland watering hole, “the prices are low, but the food is gourmet," as Jeff Mauro discovered firsthand on $24 in 24. Each item on the menu costs less than $8, which means this is the perfect place to watch a game while grazing on unlimited bar snacks from a former fine-dining chef. The kitchen turns out some of the best bar food you’ll see this side of Lake Erie, with heat-saturated specials like the Atomic Dog, a bacon-wrapped hot dog that’s stuffed with jalapenos, deep-fried and topped with Sriracha aioli on a chili oil bun. Make sure to seek out the Pork Belly BLT that Jeff recommended, made with fresh house-cured pork belly from the local West Side Market and slicked with creamy dill aioli. Once you try this belly on your BLT, you’ll never go back to boring bacon.
4. Capone's Pub and Grill, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
Known as a neighborhood game-viewing hot spot, Capone’s serves up both “beer bliss and sports mania” to loyal fans who love the homemade pizza pies and sports-centric memorabilia that adorns every wall. With 41 revolving taps and a collection of 300 antique baseball mitts, this place is a home run for beer aficionados and ball players alike. The scratch-made pizza dough and hamburger buns don’t hurt, either, and as Guy said himself, “If you’re gonna eat a burger, you should eat it at a place that makes their own buns.” These “off the hook” buns go on to house an ultimate cheeseburger that’s steamed in beer and slathered in a cheesy trifecta of cheddar, Romano and provolone. On the pie side, you’ll find monthly specials, plus the house-roasted garlic chicken pizza that’s topped with brined chicken breast, artichokes, kalamata olives, sundried tomatoes and fragrant garlic butter.
5. CK's Wings-n-Things, Johnstown, Pa.
As the name suggests, this Pennsylvania hot spot puts out plenty of wings — 1,330 flavor varieties in total. Choose from combinations like bacon-cheddar or honey-garlic ranch, or get weird with chocolate s’mores, pumpkin pie or fruity pebble-crusted wings. After you’ve skimmed through this mind-blowing menu, decide if you’re game to take on the hottest wing of all: the Nuclear Hell 2. Tom Pizzica faced the heat on Outrageous Food but managed only one bite of this lip-numbing flavor that requires you to sign a waiver before digging in. Those who have tried it before describe this wing as “violent,” and it certainly has the spicy credentials to back it up. First, a jumbo wing is injected three times with capsaicin extract for pure heat, then it’s hit with nitro powder (the hottest spice powder in the world), and finally it’s dusted with finely ground habaneros for a hellish finish. The good news is, once the hottest wing is behind you, there are still 1,229 more flavors to try.
6. Outer Banks Brewing Station, Kill Devil Hills, N.C.
Ease into the end zone at this environmentally conscious brewpub on the North Carolina coast that boasts house-brewed beer and “real deal Southern staples.” Powered by its own wind turbine on the premises, this OBX icon was founded by two Peace Corps buddies with brewing on the brain. This place is also known for its locally sourced seafood, and Guy sampled the best-selling shrimp and grits with redeye gravy that instantly made him a lifetime fan. To wash down the pub grub, put back a pint or a flight of house brews like the Wild Oyster Stout with a hint of briny bivalves or the crisp-tart Lemongrass Wheat Ale that won a medal at the World Beer Cup. Sip beers in the scenic backyard that houses a playground for kids, or sidle up to one of the many big screens to catch the latest NFL showdown.
7. Fulton Brewery, Minneapolis
If you’re a baseball fan, there’s no better place to imbibe on game night than this Minneapolis taproom that sits just across the street from the Minnesota Twins’ home field. Great tailgate location aside, the hobbyist home-brewers behind Fulton Brewery also offer a taste of “the freshest beer in the Twin Cities for free.” Jeff was more than happy to take advantage of this deal on $24 in 24, sampling a handful of the best brews, like the Sweet Child of Vine IPA and Worthy Adversary Russian Imperial Stout — at no charge. Best of all, you can sip these free suds just steps from where they were brewed, or even take a free tour while you’re rooting for the home team.
8. Broadway Brewhouse, Nashville
Football fans looking to “eat the heat” can pick up all the spicy staples for their tailgate at this Nashville brewhouse. The huge menu serves up hot, filling and hearty menu items in large family sizes that are perfect for feeding a hungry game crowd, with a bountiful beer selection to go alongside. Perhaps the hottest dish of all is the Diablo Pasta, which Roger Mooking and Aaron Sanchez braved during their visit, featuring linguine topped with a sizzling chipotle sauce, jalapeno-cured bacon-wrapped shrimp and a hefty scattering of habanero chile, with spicy seeds included. This pasta packs tongue-lashing heat that spreads from the roof of your mouth “up to your ears.”
9. Scoreboard Bar & Grill, Nashville
Step up to the plate at Scoreboard for a full serving of sports and a devilish dose of “hot chicken.” The dish is a Music City invention that will “blow your ears off,” as Roger and Aaron experienced on Heat Seekers alongside Tennessee Titans safety Jordan Babineaux. While you’re kneepads-deep in the countless sports channels that Scoreboard subscribes to, try out this fiery fried chicken that’s available in multiple temperatures, from mild “sissy” to hellishly hot “Satan’s Tongue.” This chicken may cause lightheadedness, as it’s drenched in “gunpowder” sauce that’s spiced with cayenne, paprika and a habanero blast powder. To soothe that fiery flavor, you can wet your parched whistle with the bar’s extensive whiskey selection. Endless sports, one seriously hot bird, plus a daily happy hour? It’s a sports fanatic’s fantasyland.
10. 710 Grille, San Pedro, Calif.
This California grill is the area’s headquarters for hot wings, stirring up six heat levels of sauce from the mild “Safe” to the terrifyingly spicy “Ring of Fire.” Featured on Outrageous Food, these famously fiery wings start with a “mouthful of flavor” but end with a spice explosion that makes grown men cry. The freshly fried wings are dusted with fiendishly hot habanero and ghost chile pepper powders, then dosed with a sizzling vinegar sauce laced with more ghost chile and three types of chile extracts, the hottest of which tops out at 5 million Scoville units. Put them all together and you’ve got a prescription for peppery pain in San Pedro. You can face this fearsome edible challenge while enjoying a game on the Grille’s big-screen TVs, or take a load of wings to your tailgate to teach your friends the true meaning of heat. Just be sure to keep some cold beverages around in case of a wing-related emergency.
11. The Wing Dome, Seattle
Turn up the game-time heat by visiting the “home of the burn,” otherwise known as The Wing Dome, where you’ll find tongue-numbing fried wings that are straight “from the face of the sun.” Roger and Aaron tested these nuclear nibbles in the 7-Alarm Challenge, when they attempted to devour seven of the sweat-inducing wings in just seven minutes. The explosive sauce of cayenne, chile flakes, jalapeno, horseradish and habanero peppers had them waving the white flag in mere minutes, as they quickly ordered the “recovery kit”—an ice cream sandwich and two ice-cold glasses of milk. Before you sacrifice your taste buds to a similarly spicy fate, be sure to try out The Wing Dome’s less-incendiary flavors, like Thai Sweet Chili or Triple Garlic, and ease your way through the heat spectrum to avoid tearing up during your team’s touchdown.
12. Tampa Bay Brewing Company, Tampa
For handcrafted beer and eats to go with the big game, head to this bi-level brew house in Tampa’s historic entertainment district for a “tap to table” experience. With an on-site brewery and 12 house beers on tap, this family-owned joint proves that beer’s not just for drinking. The kitchen infuses a bevy of entrees with special house brews, from the crispy hot wings with Red Eye Ale cider sauce to the Thai Curry Mussels with Wild Warthog Weizen, which Guy deemed “prime time” on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. You can also dive into the “dynamite” Moosekiller Meatloaf, cooked with a barley wine-style ale that brings plenty of malty flavor to the tender slab of bacon-wrapped beef. When it’s time for kickoff, take in the game and gourmet comfort food beside the giant brewing tanks or outside on the open-air patio.
For more FN-approved destinations, check out Food Network On the Road.