March Madness is upon us, with the NCAA tournament kicking off its 64 games on St. Paddy’s Day. In anticipation of the upcoming games, On Tap put together a list of our top picks in the D.C. area for enjoying the tourney with a little flair. Our short list features sports bars with great drink selections, elevated menus, endless HDTVs to choose from and a less rowdy, mellower ambiance for cheering your team on to victory. Not going to make it out for the tourney, or feeling like your bracket will be busted before you begin? These locations are all great date places and have plenty to offer besides big screens.
Champps Kitchen + Bar
Champps Kitchen + Bar is a community sports bar with a down-to-earth Midwestern atmosphere, nearly 30 varieties of beer and dependable comfort food. Kevin Songster, managing partner at the bar’s Pentagon Row location, says Champps is still the best seat outside of the stadium.
“Where else can you have as many TVs?” Songster asks (rhetorically). “There isn’t a [March Madness] game we’re not going to show.”
Champps has four 110-inch laser projection screens, four 70-inch LCD HDTVs and 45 50-inch HDTVs. Songster points out some of the bar’s lighter food options, like the tuna poke appetizer or Tuscan salmon, for those who want to enjoy the game without having to unbutton their jeans/wear stretchy pants to the bar, and different drink specials every day of the week.
CHAMPPS KITCHEN + BAR: 1201 S Joyce St. Arlington, VA; 703-414-3601;www.champps.com/locations/arlington/
Derek VanBrakle guarantees that High Velocity carries a beer you haven’t tried before. The restaurant manager at the Marriott Marquis near Penn Quarter and the Verizon Center is referring to High Velocity’s 48 draft lines.
“We’re always reaching out to [beer] vendors to get the newest, latest stuff,” he says. “We also try some that nobody’s ever heard of before, because the only way to know if you like a beer is if you try it.”
Located in the Marriott Marquis, High Velocity offers 40 HDTVs – three at 120 inches and the rest at 55 – and quieter spots to park it and watch your March Madness game of choice. During the tournament, the swanky sports bar will serve $5 pints of New Belgium Fat Tire and Citradelic IPA. Plus, bourbon fans can swing by The Dignitary (50-feet from High Velocity in the Marquis) before or after the game and choose from up to 70 different bourbons and even some high-end scotches.
HIGH VELOCITY: 901 Massachusetts Ave. NW, DC; 202-824-9389;www.facebook.com/HighVelocityDC
The Bracket Room
The aptly named Bracket Room in Clarendon has a tight community of regulars, according to bartender Tania Amador, while also attracting a diverse crowd.
“You see a lot of bonding going on during big games,” Amador says. “A little smack-talking is always in good fun. It’s never a volatile experience here.”
Bracket Room offers 38 Samsung Infinity Edge LED TVs ranging in size from 55 to 75 inches, half-price happy hour Monday through Friday from noon to 7 p.m. and 75 beers to choose from. Some of the most popular dishes include the “world’s best” tater tots, baby back ribs marinated and slow-braised for 12 hours, and an authentic lobster roll that Maine natives are sure to approve of.
BRACKET ROOM: 1210 N Garfield St. Arlington, VA; 703-276-7337;www.bracketroom.com
In the heart of the U Street Corridor sits The Prospect, an upscale sports bar with 45 HDTVs, craft beers and ciders, signature cocktails, and high-quality stadium and tailgating fare. The Prospect’s interior is covered in sports memorabilia – including an impressive collection of baseball mitts above the stairs and a brick wall of staggered baseball bats – and also offers a 40-seat patio for patrons to enjoy during warmer weather. Notable menu items include three types of home mules served in copper mugs – classic, spicy and strawberry – and hog wings that made Thrillist’s “Best Food & Drink of 2015” list.
“There’s not a bad seat in the house,” says Managing Partner Brian Dombrowski. “From every angle or direction, you’re able to see a specific game or multiple games at the same time.”
THE PROSPECT: 1214 U St. NW, DC; 202-450-4109; www.theprospectdc.com
OLD TOWN POUR HOUSE
Old Town Pour House in Gaithersburg is ready for March Madness. General Manager Aaron Gordon says the ambiance is going to be awesome, with a great crowd of customers, the Pour House’s upbeat and friendly staff, a DJ spinning tunes during commercial breaks, plus upscale bar food and a diverse craft beer selection with over 90 drafts.
“We’re the total package,” he says. “There’s no restaurant in Montgomery County with the TV setup that we have. We have 14 viewing screens, so every single game will be on.”
Gordon says the bar’s three 110-inch and 11 60-inch flat screen TVs have a great sound system. Added bonus: Old Town Pour House is known for serving limited-edition brews and suds from local breweries.
OLD TOWN POUR HOUSE: 212 Ellington Blvd. Gaithersburg, MD; 301-963-6281;www.oldtownpourhouse.com/gaithersburg
NATIONAL PASTIME SPORTS BAR & GRILL
Impressively sized National Pastime Sports Bar & Grill, offering 600 seats and 42 HDTVs – including a brand new and gargantuan 30-foot-wide LED screen that can break out into 32 games, four games in quadrants, or only one or two games at a time, depending on the day. The sports bar also caters to those of us that prefer a quiet space to watch our team kick some butt, with smaller dining areas featuring individual screens.
Andrew Gould, the executive chef of restaurants at Gaylord National Resort, notes the Indian-inspired veggie burger, lamb burger with mint mayo and health-conscious Cobb salad (topped with salmon, crab cakes or chicken) as some of his top picks on the menu. Specialty March dishes include stew made with a Port City Brewing porter (National Pastime is adamant about serving local brews), corned beef and cabbage, and fish and chips. And get ready for some March Madness specials offering good deals on beers and appetizers during the games.
“We have a great local following from the Oxon Hill area and DC itself,” says Gould. “There isn’t another National Pastime. Our menus and our offerings are unique, and I think our service and general atmosphere is a lot different than what you get at other places.”
NATIONAL PASTIME SPORTS BAR & GRILL: 201 Waterfront St. Oxon Hill, MD; 301-965-5500; www.nationalharbor.com/stores/national-pastime-bar-grill