Home to six-time NBA champions, six Stanley Cup wins, and the 2016 World Series victors, Chicago is a city that takes its sports seriously (one look at the two-million-person turnout at the 2015 Blackhawks parade proves it). That game-day morale carries over into some of the town’s most frequented bars, too, bringing with them some tried-and-true traditions to celebrate the conquests of sports teams near and far. From an Iowa bar that hails the hospital to an onsite Volkswagen van that honks throughout halftime, here are some of the city’s wildest sports rituals out there now.
Iowa fans aren’t far from home at this Edgewater sports bar, where the Hawkeyes bring the excitement on the weekly. The team here returns that sentiment in one particularly touching tradition — waving to the UI children’s hospital post-first quarter, just like the players do from Kinnick Stadium. Follow that local ritual with some of this squad’s original ones, including plenty of “I-O-W-A” chants and rounds of Iowa-inspired lunchbox shots (with beer, orange juice, and amaretto).
Barrelman Tavern, 6001 North Paulina Street, Chicago; barrelmanchicago.com
This Old Town bar is all about Ohio State — case in point with a few beloved Buckeye traditions, such as ringing the bell, lighting sparklers, and chanting “O-H-I-O” for every touchdown. As if that weren’t enough, there’s this: OSU songs from a house DJ, appearances by a Brutus Buckeye mascot, and a half-time award for Fan of the Week (who is guaranteed a table for their group the following week, plus $100 off their tab). Don’t miss the Woodie’s Old Fashioned, a dram of Jameson Caskmates Stout Edition, house-made demerara syrup, and orange bitters that’s bound to pair well with the Dive Bar Fries (a mound topped with shredded cheddar, stout chili, and a fried egg).
Woodie’s Flat, 1535 North Wells Street, Chicago; woodieschicago.com
This venue opened its doors in 1934, and ever since it’s served as a grocery store, speakeasy, and bar for the Bucktown neighborhood (and as a backdrop for several episodes of Chicago Fire, to boot). Sports are so big here that they celebrate two teams year-round: the Kansas Jayhawks and Wisconsin Badgers. Spot their support throughout the menu with game-day specials like $10 Joe’s Kansas City BBQ chicken pizza, $8 Boulevard Schooner, $5 Bucky Bombs, and $8 Wisconsin cheese curd pizza.
Lottie’s Pub, 1925 West Cortland Street, Chicago; lottiespub.com
Wisconsin fans and alum are in good company at this Badgers bar, where the team plays the fight song every time they score while also providing cowbells to all guests for major Camp Randall Stadium vibes. If hunger strikes in the midst of the excitement, opt for the Badger Burger, an all-natural beef patty topped with Merkts cheddar cheese, Wisconsin cheese curds, and Frank’s Buffalo sauce on a pretzel bun. Try it alongside the Irish Mule, a new fall cocktail featuring Jameson, fresh lime juice, and Rocky’s Ginger Beer. Careful not to spill — a tough task right before the fourth quarter, when the bar cues up the stadium’s iconic “Jump Around” dance party.
State Restaurant, 935 West Webster Avenue, Chicago; www.state-chicago.com
The Michigan State Spartans are the champions at this Gold Coast bar, which overflows with energy on game days (thanks, in part, to an onsite VW bus that the team honks throughout the match). Dance with Sparty himself, chime in for the MSU fight song, and embrace Spartan-themed menu options like the Go Green Breakfast Dub (a flour tortilla of bacon, scrambled eggs, and spicy beer cheese) and Sparty Bombs. Try another strong specialty in the Barrel of Fun, a shaken and strained sipper of Jameson Black Barrel, amaretto, and whipped cream. Imbibe, but look alive — when MSU scores, it’s all hands on deck in throwing green and white napkins into the air.
Hopsmith, 15 West Division Street, Chicago; hopsmithchicago.com
Standard Bar & Grill
Crawfish boils, Abita beer, and Louisiana State games aplenty all make this Wicker Park bar a favorite for Tigers fans — and the rest of the menu items don’t hurt, either. Craft beer is a specialty here and starters are substantial (think grilled triple cheese, jumbo wings, and chorizo mac and cheese). For a surf and turf that’s game-day ready, try their Beyond Burger, an Angus patty alongside a whole tail lobster, with a side of Revolution Anti-Hero IPA with Jameson Caskmates IPA Edition.
Standard Bar & Grill, 9148, 1332 North Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago; standardbarandgrill.com
Its spacious beer garden draws crowds during summer months, but come fall it’s all about this Lakeview bar’s dedication to two college sports teams: Nebraska football and Indiana basketball. A Herbie Husker replica mascot greets fans, who can take full advantage of game-day favorites like the Husker Burger (with American cheese, pickles, and Dijonnaise) and $5 Husker shots, while Indiana supporters can kick off the afternoon with their own version of the former, including a Hoosier burger and Hoosier Bombs.
Kirkwood, 2934 North Sheffield Avenue, Chicago, kirkwoodbar.com
Local pride reigns at this bar: In addition to serving as an official Blackhawks destination, the venue celebrates the Bears in big ways, from bus rides to Soldier Field to game-day brunch specials and a Bloody Mary bar. Groups seeking something stronger can opt for a round of Bear Fight shots, an energy boost that will come in handy when the team scores and the DJ cues “Bear Down.” Stay post-game if you can swing it — the crew here has been known to welcome an array of pro athletes well into the wee hours.
Timothy O’Toole’s, 622 North Fairbanks Court, Chicago, timothyotooles.com