Football fan or foe, most of us will likely end up watching at least a game or two this fall. The trick is finding a place with good food that can fuel you through overtime. Here are a few SoCal hangouts where ESPN’s GamePlan isnâ€™t the only thing worth ordering.
Yes, there are local sushi sports bars with larger flat screens, including Kai Sushi Sports Bar in Torrance and the Club Sushi local mini-chain (the combination of sashimi + 300-pound linebackers was surely born in California). But most days, weâ€™d rather downsize the TVs in favor of better quality sushi. Hakata is part family-run sushi restaurant, part 1970s-era sports bar, and you can pick your vibe depending on where you sit. This is by no means Matsuhisa, but the sushi is fresh, and the place is rarely packed during games. College football fans, take note: Riki Matsubara, the head sushi chef at Hakata for more than 20 years, is an NFL fan.Hakata Sushi, 2830 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, 310.828.8404, hakatarestaurant.com
This Studio City newcomer boasts more than a dozen flat screens and a huge projection screen that brings new meaning to flying quarterback. The burgers are made with Niman Ranch beef, and and fish and chips fans will find a FatÂ Tire ale-battered version here. Vegivoires can tackle the vegan cassoulet with butter beans, broccoli rabe and cherry tomatoes. Show up on Monday nights during NFL season, and youâ€™ll get a halftime stand-up comedy show as a bonus, with half-price beer that really helps bring on the laughs.
Henry’s Hat, 3413 Cahuenga Blvd. West, Studio City, 323.512.2500, henrys-hat.com
If youâ€™re the detailed play-by-play type, Library Alehouse is not the place for you (there are only a couple of small TVs in the bar area). But itâ€™s a great â€œcompromiseâ€ bar, the sort of place to go when one person in your house is a football fan and the other is happy to oblige as long as there is good food and even better beer to pass the hours. The Library Alehouse always has an interesting “just arrived” craft beer among the rotating selection of nearly two dozen drafts. The burger is solid, but itâ€™s the farmers’ market-inspired dishes â€” like the roasted Weiser farms beets with Gioia ricotta and Maggieâ€™s Farm arugula â€” that are the best bets.
Library Alehouse, 2911 Main St., Santa Monica, 310.314.4855, libraryalehouse.com
In a city dominated by Sam Nazarianâ€™s latest trendy watering hole, a pub that has 35 years under its belt is worthy of the drive to Newport Beach. Muldoonâ€™s is packed with televisions in both the wood-paneled bar and the New Orleans-style courtyard, but the real draw is the Irish homestyle cooking. The house-made potato chips (American chips, not french fries) and whiskey-marinated wings are generous enough to last throughout the game. Irish classics like the lamb stew and still-warm Irish soda bread are also great, and this may be the only sports bar in town where saving room for dessert is a good idea (think Irish trifle, sundaes with house-made chocolate and caramel sauces, and double-crust apple pie).
Muldoon’s Pub, 202 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach, 949.640.4110, www.muldoonspub.com.
Rudy’s Pub & Grill
Two words: retractable roof. Rudyâ€™s has plenty of the expected cheesy sports-bar vibe that comes with a place touting automated ceilings, more than 30 flat-screen TVs, and a patio carpeted with AstroTurf. But there are also some surprises from the kitchen: Carolina-style pork sliders, house-made kettle-style chips with chipotle mayo, fried pickles with ranch, and a half-dozen good burgers. But steer clear of the pastas and seafood, which are even less inspired than the typical halftime entertainment.
Rudy’s Pub & Grill, 3110 Newport Blvd., Newport Beach, 949.723.0293, rudyspubandgrill.com
You can reserve a section of this Texas-size bar to watch the game for a private party, or just get there early and claim several tables. The hush puppies are a bar-worthy tribute to the South; the shrimp ‘nâ€™ grits, not so much. But where else can you order so many fried foods from the South in L.A.: beignets, chicken-fried steak, crawfish, green tomatoes, pickles and sweet potatoes? Drinks include Southern-themed cocktails (Pimm’s cups, mint juleps) and the usual sports-bar beers, plus a few nostalgic regional brews like Dixie. (If you’ve never had a Dixie, you probably won’t want to start now â€” its charm lies more in bringing back college memories of Bourbon Street at 2 a.m. than in its watery taste.)
South, 3001 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, 310.828.9988, southsantamonica.com