A used, 32-volume complete set of Encyclopedia Britannica from 2002 runs a mere $269.95 if you know where to look. A round-trip flight from Chicago to Amarillo, Texas? That's no more than $323 before taxes. My first car was a rust-ridden yet efficient '87 Ford Escort, and it only set me back $300. But DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket costs $334.95 for five months of games. Holy hell, watching football is expensive.
Now, there's certainly something to be said for rolling your hungover carcass out of bed, throwing a frozen Home Run Inn pizza in the oven, sprawling out on the couch, and flipping on the Bears game, but the city's football-devoted transplants often have to seek out an alternative to watch their teams. Listening to the Manning brothers and Deion Sanders sling the Sunday Ticket year in and year out hasn't quite nudged me to hand over a $300-chunk of my modest salary.
So I've spent my first three football seasons in Chicago at Cinners in Lincoln Square (4757 N. Talman), watching the Cincinnati Bengals lose. It's not too bad a deal. The laid-back Cincinnati-style chili joint doesn't compare to the circus at Kendall's (2263 N. Lincoln), where the majority of Bengals fans flock. And I'm OK with that. There's too much drunken optimism at Kendall's. I prefer a low-key, cynical posse (we are Bengals fans after all), complemented by some hometown amenities like regional beer and hokey, yet sincere, memorabilia. It's all about finding your spot.
And there are plenty of spots, especially for relocated midwesterners. While several bars and restaurants are still mired in the Cubs season, the football loyalists who have a vested interest in a particular city and don't just adopt a team to hawk drink specials are already repping their respective flags with pride (the preseason did start last Thursday, for Christ's sake). Below are a handful of highlights:
Will's Northwoods Inn (3030 N. Racine) houses cheeseheads on Sundays with a host of Packers-specific food, like pickled herring and fried cheese curds, not to mention Leinenkugel specials and a slew of dudes imitating the Aaron Rodgers championship-belt celebration.
Mickey's (2450 N. Clark) has a Dawg Pound with its own website and everything (mickeysdawgpound.com). That's damn official. The Cleveland Browns bar and patio in Lincoln Park features a $10 early-bird special between 10 AM and noon, with an omelet bar, domestic mugs, Bloody Marys, and mimosas. Just north at 2455 N. Clark, the Field House is a good, nonrestaurant option for Browns games.
Located in Wrigleyville, the Dark Horse (3343 N. Sheffield) is one of the designated provinces of Chicago-based Steelers Country, serving Pittsburgh-brewed Iron City Beer on game days. Believe it or not, you too can get drunk like Ben Roethlisberger. (My disdain for the Steelers requires me to make that joke.)
Though it seems peculiar for a tattooed, rock 'n' roll dive like Delilah's (2771 N. Lincoln) to claim the Bills, it makes more sense once you find out that owner Mike Miller is from Buffalo. The bar's impressive whiskey selection will be crucial once fans realize that Harvard-grad Ryan Fitzpatrick really is their starting quarterback. Specials include discounted Labatt Blue and maybe a free shot or two when (or if) the Bills score.
Eagles fans will head to Mad River Bar & Grille (2909 N. Sheffield) most Sundays for a chance to watch what Vince Young brashly labeled the "Dream Team." Keeping with regional food delicacies and all, the Lakeview locale serves discounted cheesesteaks to soften the blow of Andy Reid crippling the team with his time management ineptitude.
Can it even be disputed that screaming maniacally at televisions with fellow drunken football fans is and forever will be the greatest social unifier?