Football season is officially upon us, with a full slate of NFL and college games this weekend. And that means it's time for wings, burgers and buckets of beer with friends, rivals and (ugh) Jets fans. If you don't want to stay home, and you can't score (or afford) tickets to Dolphins' games at the renovated and renamed Hard Rock Stadium, there's no better way of sharing the joy and misery of wins and losses than by heading out to a sports bar.
Options abound across South Florida. There are popular regional chains such as Bokamper's, Bonefish Mac's, Bru's Room, Duffy's, Flanigans, and the Quarterdeck. There are popular national chains such as Applebee's, Buffalo Wild Wings, Chili's, Hooters and Miller's Ale House. And then there are neighborhood bars and grills, some of which attract gatherings of a particular team's fans.
For example, Shuck-N-Dive (650 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale) is a Cajun spot for New Orleans Saints fans, and Slackers (995 W. State Road 84, Fort Lauderdale) is a Green Bay Packers fan hangout featuring Wisconsin cheese curds and bratwurst. Boston's On the Beach (40 S. Ocean Blvd., Delray Beach) has chow-dah and caters to New England Patriots fans, Capone's Flicker Lite (1014 N. Ocean Dr., Hollywood) welcomes Chicago Bears fans and the Bonefish Mac's in Lighthouse Point (2002 Sample Road) is a gathering spot for Pittsburgh Steelers fans. (Check out a fuller list below, and feel free to submit your suggestions in the comments.)
What makes a good place to watch a game? It depends on your perspective. If you're a fantasy player that needs to keep an eye on all the action, it should have plenty of televisions and the NFL Sunday Ticket package. If you're a frugal diner, it should have plenty of food and drink specials. And if you're a long-suffering Dolfan, it should have plenty of beer for you to cry in – the team hasn't won the Super Bowl since Nixon was president (the 1973 season), hasn't played in the Super Bowl since Reagan was president (the 1984 season) and has made only one playoff appearance (a loss) in the last 14 seasons.
For me, I like a place that has an outdoor component, seafood options (this is South Florida after all) and a full bar, because I like to start my football Sundays with a spicy Bloody Mary. I don't like places with blaring televisions and rowdy fans (a function of getting older and having had my fill of loud stadiums as a sportswriter.) Here are three spots where I'll be watching this year:
Quarterdeck, 300 N. Beach Road, Dania Beach, 954-929-1400 — You can't beat the oceanfront location, smack dab on the Dania Beach pier. When the weather starts getting cold and nasty elsewhere, here's what you'll want to do: Sit at the outdoor bar on the deck overlooking the Atlantic, order up a cold beer and a platter of fresh-shucked oysters or sushi and then snap a sunny selfie with the turquoise blue water in the background to send to all your Dolphins-hating friends around the country. That's South Florida schadenfreude at its best. Who cares if we're down by three touchdowns?
Bokamper's, 3115 NE 32nd Ave., Fort Lauderdale, 954-900-5584 — This is another beautiful spot, with an outdoor deck overlooking the Intracoastal and a parade of yachts, boats and tanning flesh, some which pull up to the docks for the games. The restaurant has sushi and a raw bar in addition to the traditional sports bar standards. A colleague who recently visited counted 160 TVs in the place, including ones atop each urinal in the men's room (TMI?). He reports the baby-back ribs are pretty good, too.
Yard House, the Village at Gulfstream Park, 601 Silks Run #1490, Hallandale Beach, 954-454-9950 — This national chain serves up some pretty tasty food and has more than 140 beers on tap. As an added bonus, this location has an outdoor patio that overlooks the paddock at Gulfstream Park, so if your fantasy team or pool selections for the week are tanking, you could always run out and play the late daily double. I actually like the burgers here better than nearby ROK:BRGR, and the maple-glazed candied bacon served in the Bloody Marys are addictive. Don't miss the pepper-crusted gorgonzola burger with caramelized onions and arugula, the poke nachos or the crispy duck wings with maple soy glaze and serrano chiles.
Here's a partial list of spots catering to particular fans:
Buffalo Bills: City Pub, 956 S. Federal Highway, Deerfield Beach
New York Jets: HammerJacks, 5325 S. University Drive, Davie
New York Giants: American Social, 721 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
Pittsburgh Steelers: Bonefish Macs, 2002 Sample Road, Lighthouse Point
Baltimore Ravens: Maguires Hill 16, 535 N. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale
Philadelphia Eagles: The Parrot Lounge, 911 Sunrise Lane, Fort Lauderdale
Washington Redskins: The Irishmen, 1745 NW Boca Raton Blvd., Boca Raton
Chicago Bears: Hott Leggz, 2471 E. Commercial Blvd., Fort Lauderdale; Capone's Flicker Lite, 1014 N. Ocean Drive, Hollywood
Detroit Lions: Stingers Pizza, 1201 S. Ocean Blvd. #8, Pompano Beach
New Orleans Saints: Shuck N Dive, 650 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale