Sports bars promote two of humankind's most popular and satisfying activities: watching sports and overeating. More importantly, they provide a safe setting for people to reap the benefits of these activities—spending time with friends, growing closer while shamelessly celebrating and ingesting hot wings, finding consolation after a heartbreaking loss in a conversation and frosty mug of beer.
Despite its glossy corporate sheen, downtown's Fox Sports Grill (1522 Sixth Ave, 340-1369, happy hour Mon–Fri 3–6 pm, daily 10 pm–close) should be lauded for its strange simplicity and accessibility. On any given night, after descending the enormous staircase, it's easy to find a seat at the massive, curvy glass-topped bar and catch whatever game drew you there. However, be warned that during a "big game day" (such as game two of the recent World Series) it can get packed, loud, and zoolike.
Happy hour brings discount drinks and $3.95 appetizers. Steer clear of the house margarita ($4), made from a mix so tart you can feel it dissolving the enamel on your teeth. Stick with well drinks ($4) and draft beers ($2.25 for domestic, $2.75 for imported). Barbecue chicken nachos are decent (the chicken a bit too sweet), evenly layered, and generously topped with pickled jalapeños. Sliders are surprisingly filling—thick miniburger patties with cheese on dense buns.
Even when it's crowded, Fox Sports Grill retains a charming anonymous vibe. It feels like the world's largest airport bar, like everyone there is actually from someplace else. "Who are these people?" I asked my friend eating nachos with me. He replied immediately: "Americans."
Even with my predilection for sports bars, I must admit that the Ram & Big Horn Brewery (2650 University Village Plaza NE, 525-3565, happy hour Mon–Fri 3–6 pm and 10 pm–close, Sunday-night "Madness" 10 pm–close) scares me a little. It's located in University Village, a sprawling, antiseptic shopping center where, during every visit, I always get the feeling that a middle-aged white woman pushing an expensive stroller will tap me on the shoulder and tell me to leave. The Ram's bar is decorated in a style that can only be called "ye olde college memorabilia" (wood, hunter-green paint, and an antique crew boat—complete with oars—hanging from the ceiling). There are 12 televisions that somehow make the bar seem small.
Spending Sunday NFL game day at the Ram is like being a witness to the execution of your own attention span. It's challenging to focus on any one screen for longer than a few seconds, and impossible to determine if the sound you're hearing over the speakers corresponds to the game you're watching. More disturbing, though, was the realization that barely anyone in the bar (mostly young, white males) is actually speaking to each other. They're just staring at the screens.
During happy hour, pints of good house-brewed beers (such as Buttface Amber Ale) and well drinks are $2.99. There are also discount appetizer plates like potato skins ($3.99), a trustworthy pile of lovely, starchy grease covered with cheddar cheese and bacon accompanied by a powerful and addictive garlic sour cream. The Ram's biggest draw is Sunday-night "Madness," when your entire tab is discounted by 50 percent—a great deal. I was advised by a waitress to come early because it gets "pretty crazy." I wanted to go back and check it out but, frankly, I was afraid.
There are 39 televisions at Queen Anne's Sport (140 Fourth Ave N, Suite 130, 404-7767, Monday Night Football happy hour 5 pm–close), including one 130-inch high-def screen, 13 LCD booth televisions for personalized watching, and 10 outdoor patio flat screens. Despite all this technology, Sport somehow feels homey, sweet, comfortable. The menu covers are, dorkily, made of basketball material; they match the basketball plates.
Monday Night Football happy hour is a great deal: $2 pints of Coors, Bud, and Bud Light and half off the entire pizza menu all night long. Sport's thin-crust pizzas are light, crispy, and delicious; they use noticeably fresh ingredients. A sausage and mushroom pizza ($5.15, 12-inch) uses locally made Isernio's hot sausage and crimini mushrooms. The Greek ($6.20, 12-inch), topped with artichoke hearts, Roma tomatoes, black olives, and creamy chèvre, is finished with a lovely chiffonade of fresh basil. The food is, unexpectedly, great. (I have also heard that Sport serves up some mean Kobe beef burgers.)
Sport is where friendly, enthusiastic fans you actually want to talk to seem to be, and where you can find real, interesting memorabilia like a 1960s International House of Pancakes–Seattle SuperSonics commemorative placemat. (Sport proudly houses four display cases chronicling 100 years of Seattle's sports champions.) It somehow all makes sense when you find out that Sport is partially owned by NBA basketball player Jamal Crawford, New York Knick and Rainier Beach High School alum.