There was a time you could find a sports bar on every corner.
But TVs have gotten bigger and better, and fans can subscribe to services that will allow them to watch virtually any game they desire at home. So these days, the only reasons to go to a sports bar are for chicken wings, nachos and beer.
And thankfully, there are sports bars where the menus have gotten a bit more inspired.
To get you ready for March Madness, we’re recommending a handful of sports bars (or restaurants with a sports-bar vibe) that will keep you in the game and well-fed.
Harvey’s Bar & Grill
19707 Liverpool Parkway, Cornelius, 704-892-1001; 13812 Cinnabar Place, Huntersville, 704-947-5080.
Harvey’s has a sizable complement of burgers (try the Bad Attitude with jalapeños), sandwiches (try the Honey Swiss chicken) and entrees (try the Louisiana shrimp and grits). I suspect the Black and Tan onion rings with the strong stout flavor and a horseradish-laced dipping sauce will pair well with most anything on the menu. This is an Appalachian State hangout, but with more than a dozen TVs, there’s plenty of screen space to go around.
Kristophers Sports Bar & Restaurant
250 N. Trade St., Matthews, 704-845-6200.
Kristophers is an old-school sports bar that’s been around for a good long while. The two-tier dining room is a little dark, and there’s just enough space between the tables for servers to shimmy through. Most of the brick walls are covered with either TVs or sports banners. If you don’t pig out on appetizers (the Texas chili – full of ground beef, beans, cheese and onions – is hard to resist), Kristophers offers housemade desserts. Try the coconut cake, and ask the staff to warm it up and put the scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side.
10 Park Lanes
1700 Montford Drive, 704-523-7633.
Yeah, I realize this is a bowling alley. But I’ve watched many a game here while waiting on my turn to roll yet another gutter ball. The Mason jar portion of the menu features entrees (such as pulled pork, brisket and chicken) and sides (such as slaw, mac and cheese and baked beans) layered on top of one another. But if you want something a little more straightforward, the brisket sliders are a good choice. Hunks of brisket are covered in caramelized onions, garlic mayo and bleu cheese. You get two sliders, which amounts to about six bites. Eat any more than that while bowling and your ball may start hanging out with mine.
Kickstand Burgers -n- Bar
1101 Central Ave, 704-332-1010.
This restaurant may be all about the burgers and beer, but it also has some really solid wings. We tried the Asian-inspired spicy tiger (sweet with a little bit of heat) and the garlic Parmesan. I’ve had several versions of garlic Parmesan wings, and I typically end up underwhelmed by the flavor, as the wings are sprinkled with some type of dry rub – most of which falls off. But Kickstand covers its wings in a creamy garlic Parmesan sauce that sticks to the fried wings as well as your fingers. As for burgers, I did try the mushroom Swiss variation, and the patty’s salty exterior was a winner.
601 S. Cedar St., 704-375-7566.
This sleek building sits in the shadow of Bank of America Stadium and bills itself as a sports bar, but it feels like a gastropub with really sweet TVs. Also sweet: the duck tacos – beer-braised duck, pickled red onions and arugula are stuffed inside tortillas that are a little crisp on the edges. You could drizzle the tacos with some of the plum sauce that comes on the side, but I opted to gently dunk my tacos in the sauce. You get three tacos, but if you think that won’t be enough food, order the blueberry walnut salad. The honey shallot vinaigrette, creamy goat cheese and candied walnuts are sublime together.