The first week of March Madness is always the craziest, when games tip off all day long. Check out this list of old favorites and new sports bars with buzz.
Alumni of No. 1 seed (and Final Four favorite) Kansas call the Bottom Line home. So do alumni of Purdue -- who could potentially face Kansas in the Sweet 16. The bar has lots of specials offered during all games, including $2.50 Bud and Bud Light, $5.50 Captain Morgan drinks and $10 pitchers of Bud Light. Food deals change daily, but for the Thursday kickoff, they include $3.50 baskets of tater tots and wings.
Cleveland Park Bar and Grill doesn’t reward NCAA viewers with food and drink specials, but we enjoy the vibe at the Connecticut Avenue spot so much that we don’t really mind. Doors open at 11:30 a.m. for the early games, and the fantastic rooftop deck -- which has a handful of flat-screen TVs -- will be open, weather-permitting. There are 27 TVs on both levels and plenty of tables offering uncluttered sightlines.
The new Columbia Heights sports bar is one of the few places in the city where you can watch the Madness al fresco: The bar’s heated patio, with twin 42-inch plasma screens, will open at 11 a.m. Thursday and show basketball all afternoon. And if you’re feeling Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, they’ll also be serving green beer and Irish goodies (corned beef sliders, for example) to make the opening day of the tourney feel even luckier.
I can’t really encourage drinking on the job, but if you’re looking to take a longer-than-usual lunch or happy hour break, you owe it to yourself to check out the Mighty Pint. The bar is pouring $10 Miller Lite pitchers for the duration of the tournament in addition to the usual stellar specials -- $3 draft Guinness, Yuengling, Miller Lite and Sam Adams every day from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., along with $5 pint-sized cocktails. Feeling lucky after filling out your bracket? See if your good fortune extends to the Thursday night 50/50 deal: When you order a drink, your bartender flips a coin. Call it right and your drink is free. Lose and you pay the regular price.
A favorite with many local alumni groups, Penn Quarter Sports Tavern will open at 9:30 a.m. this week and show every game. Specials include $3 Guinness, $12 pitchers of Miller Lite and $20 buckets of beer when a game’s on TV. One nice touch: Three of the bar’s 19 flat-screens are on the sidewalk patio, which can be tented and heated if the weather’s not cooperating.
With 30 TVs over three floors, Skee-Ball machines and cheap beer deals (Miller Lite and Blue Moon cost $3 a pint or $10 a pitcher during games), the Pour House is good place to get your March Madness fix without leaving Capitol Hill. Caveat: It may or may not be open for early games, so call before heading over.
If you work downtown and are planning on sneaking out of the office, the three-story Public Bar should be high on your list of destinations. (With good weather in the forecast, I’m looking forward to watching games on the bar’s rooftop deck.) Doors open at 11 a.m., and there will be food and drink specials during every game.
As the D.C. home base for alumni of Ohio State, Penn State and Georgetown, Rhino Bar looks set to have a very busy March. The Georgetown sports bar will show all games on 25 flat-screens and a trio of 110-inch projection screens. There will also be budget-friendly deals, including $8 pitchers of Miller Lite and Coors Lite, $3 Jose Cuervo margaritas and $5 Red Bull-and-vodka drinks, plus 25-cent wings for snacking.
U Street’s newest sports bar wants to be your March Madness destination and not just during the games, either: The bar will serve $3 Bud and Bud Lights throughout the NCAA tournament. Even if you‘re not there to watch college basketball, at least you’ll drink for cheap.
The top bar for sports on Barracks Row offers $4 Sam Adams Cherry Wheat drafts and $6 Captain Morgan drinks in addition to its usual happy hour specials. It will show all the games on flat-screen TVs.
The weather forecast has me hoping to watch more games outdoors than in, and if I’m lucky, I could be spending plenty of time at Capitol Hill’s Union Pub, where the 26 TVs include a 100-inch projection screen on the covered patio. Other reasons to go? There are $12 pitchers of beer all day on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday and special $3 shooters during selected weekend games.
The Bethesda sports hot spot opens at 10:30 every morning and features a special food and drink menu during all games. Snack on sliders, flatbread pizzas and wings, and sip on $3 draft beers or $4 rail drinks while watching 20 large-screen TVs.
With 40 TVs and a large patio, Caddies is Bethesda’s top sports bar. Specials during the games include $14 buckets of five domestic beers and $17 buckets of imports, plus $5 car bombs and Jager bombs. Appetizers are half-price between 4 and 7.
What better way to celebrate March Madness than by flashing back to the days of drinking Red Dog, Icehouse or Schlitz? When college hoops are on, bartenders will randomly spin a wheel of beer. The “winner” will be sold for $2 a can until the next spin. Big spenders can opt for $10 pitchers of Bud Light or Miller Lite; everyone can nosh on 50-cent wings. (Note: These specials also apply at the Ballston Common location.)
No bar can match the March Madness atmosphere at the Crystal City Sports Pub. It’s home to numerous alumni groups, including North Carolina, Georgia, Butler, Xavier and Washington, who will gather to root for their teams. It’s the only bar I know of that’s boasting it will show every single game with sound, thanks to more than 100 TVs located over three floors. (To find your game, there’s a handy map near the front door that shows where the “volume area” is located.) The fun kicks off Thursday with a special Irish menu (lamb stew, Guinness-battered fish and chips) and discounts on Budweiser and Miller Lite.
Ballston’s top sports bar offers an array of wings -- 40 flavors at last count -- and serious drink specials: $3 Corona and Corona Light bottles, $4 24-ounce beer cans, $12.99 buckets of domestic beer and $19.99 beer towers, which hold 128 ounces of domestic suds. On Thursday, get all the wings you can eat for $14.99; you’ll pay $9.99 for a platter of 15 during the rest of the tournament. Beyond the deals, there are 20 large-screen TVs and a game room with foosball, shuffleboard and other ways to waste time while you’re waiting for your game to begin.
Mister Days recently upgraded a number of its TVs, trading up to larger screens just in time for March Madness. Specials include $2.50 Coors Light drafts all month and $3.50 aluminum bottles and $4 Bacardi drinks during all games. (This is in addition to the usual happy hour specials, which include all rail drinks, drafts and bottles for $2.50 between 4 and 9 p.m. on Thursday, a $5 food menu, $5 Red Bull and vodka drinks and $3.50 Rockin’ Red Ales between 4 and 9 on Fridays, and $3 mimosas and bloody mary drinks during Saturday and Sunday brunch.) The bar is rolling out a March Madness frequent diner card for the tournament: Get it punched three times and get 20 percent off your next visit; five punches will enter you into a drawing for a flat-screen TV.