There are a handful of times you think on something and you can pinpoint the exact moment that thing changed. The NCAA Tournament is that moment and the thing that changes is my productivity level. Now, it’s been that way since like middle school but there’s certainly no denying this coincidental habit only grew once I hit college. I’m not telling an original story here, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
There’s something special about watching your team at a bar that feels like home with a bunch of your brothers and sisters in mascot. Just because you’re not on campus doesn’t mean you still shouldn’t have such a place and Chicago is home to almost all of them. It’s a thing of pride and that’s why we wanted to honor those bars around Chicago providing safe haven for dedicated alumni from around the country.
So here’s what we did. We took the actual NCAA Tournament bracket and we tried to find a bar for every team that made it into the Field. Now, obviously small mid-major schools and extremely obscure subregional high schools didn’t find their way on. Unfortunately there aren’t many Montana State bars. So, we linked up 32 and figured for the sake of time we’d rock with this.
Here’s How It Works
First off, follow @urbanmatterchicago on Instagram. If you’re not, you deserve a first round bounce. You’ll also need it to vote throughout the tournament so, while this is a shameless plug to follow us on social it’s also a functional request. If you don’t your bar might go home.
Voting begins at 11am on Thursday and will feature 16 randomized matchups between the 32 bars listed below.
Voting will continue for 24 hours. Once we have 16 winners, we will randomize 8 more matchups and begin the 2nd round on Friday. So on and so forth until a champion is crowned on Monday evening.
Stay tuned to this article as it’ll be updated as results come in!
Highline Bar & Grill
169 W Kinzie St, Chicago, IL 60654 | Your Home For: USC Trojans
Highline has one of the best bang for your buck brunches and arcade games for days, match that with basketball and you have the pride of Southern California (kinda, I guess) right in River North.
3369 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60657 | Your Home For: Alabama Crimson Tide
Like the ‘L’ runs directly over Houndstooth the Alabama Crimson Tide are a runaway train heading straight for a championship. Houndstooth is a Wrigley staple, and a damn good representative in the tourney this year.
1448 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60610 | Your Home For: Purdue Boilermakers
With vodka lemonade’s as big as Zach Edey, this Old Town watering hole is where you need to be watching the 1-seed Boilermakers go on their run to the Final Four.
2934 N Sheffield Ave, Chicago, IL 60657 | Your Home For: Indiana Hoosiers
Kirkwood ranks firmly in the Top 4 of the best beer garden’s in Chicago on the super-exclusive Top 10 Beer Gardens of This Guy list. Inside or outside, Kirkwood reps Indiana and they rep Indiana well.
Waterhouse Tavern & Grill
3407 N Paulina St, Chicago, IL 60657 | Your Home For: Auburn Tigers
Tots. Get the tots I’m telling you. But aside, you might find it rare to just be strolling through West Lakeview and next thing you see is a giant Auburn flag flying in the wind. If you do see that, though, that’s Waterhouse and it’s fantastic.
2758 N Ashland Ave, Chicago, IL 60614 | Your Home For: Iowa Hawkeyes
Four Shadows is Iowa and Iowa is Four Shadows. It feels like a slice of Iowa City on Ashland Avenue. There are plenty of Iowa bars in Chicago, they’re like Starbucks at this point. But when someone asks where are my Iowa people at the only true answer is right here: Four Shadows
950 W Webster Ave, Chicago, IL 60614 | Your Home For: Duke Blue Devils
Most people will recognize this Lincoln Park watering hole as a congregation of Ohio State fans but according to the Duke University Alumni Page there’s a Duke Chicago Elite Eight watch party of sorts going on there on March 23rd that I just decided to also call this a Duke bar.
1147 W Armitage Ave, Chicago, IL 60614 | Your Home For: Providence Friars
Tripoli Tap’s own website describes itself as, “…a home to all the displaced Bostonians, New Englanders and Massholes alike.” Welp, Providence is roughly 51 miles from Boston and precise place you need to be when Providence tips off against Kentucky on Friday.
2500 N Southport Ave, Chicago, IL 60614 | Your Home For: Illinois Fighting Illini
Elite wings and one of Lakeview’s best dives is the perfect home for Illinois fans of all types. Bird’s Nest is a name that rings out and is spoken reverently by anyone who has experienced their signature sauce.
Joe’s on Weed Street
940 W Weed St, Chicago, IL 60642 | Your Home For: TCU Horned Frogs & Arkansas Razorbacks
Joe’s on Weed is known for Rod Tuff Curls concerts and being next to that one off-track betting place. It’s also a damn good place to watch a college basketball game, especially if you’re an Arkansas Razorbacks or TCU Horned Frogs fan.
Flagship Tavern & Grill
1622 W Belmont Ave, Chicago, IL 60657 | Your Home For: Texas A&M Aggies & Miami Hurricanes
I recently spent St. Patrick’s Day at Flagship Tavern and wore a Miami hat because, well, it was green. Remembered after arriving that Flagship has a giant Miami flag above the bar. That’s a story about how I went to Flagship and realized it was a Miami bar and now I’m writing about it in this article. Shout out my guy DJ Lance.
Finley Dunne’s Tavern
3458 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60657 | Your Home For: Arizona Wildcats
According to the Facebook Group Windy City Cats, Finley Dunne’s is a major go to for local Wildcat grads. It’s also a great Blackhawks bar. And it serves ice cold beer so really I’m just rambling on and on about a great sports dive.
Timothy O’Toole’s Pub
622 N Fairbanks Ct, Chicago, IL 60611 | Your Home For: Northwestern Wildcats
Ghost wings and basketball, sign me up. Now I know I should literally just say “Anything in Evanston” when assigning Northwestern a bar but ToT’s deserves a mention here for how incredibly rooted in Chicago culture it is, it absolutely deserves Chicago’s Big Ten team.
1501 N Dayton St, Chicago, IL 60642 | Your Home For: Creighton Blue Jays
I respect a good neighborhood bar that takes great pride in itself the way that Sully’s House prides itself in being the unofficial Creighton bar in Chicago. A Blue Jay is a sick thing to rep and Sully’s is elite in doing so.
Merkle’s Bar & Grill
3516 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60657 | Your Home For: Xavier Musketeers
Merkle’s goes hard as a go to ‘neighborhood bar’ in a neighborhood full of neighborhood bars. But with ties to Cincinnati it’s a bar that reps teams like the Bengals and Xavier basketball proudly. There really is nowhere else to go for a great Musketeers experience.
2000 W Roscoe St, Chicago, IL 60618 | Your Home For: Marquette Golden Eagles
Commonwealth is basically the 13 colonies of fandom coming together in Roscoe Village: Notre Dame. Kansas. Anything Chicago sports. And Marquette. If the flag flies they’re flying it.
Jefferson Tap & Grille
325 N Jefferson St, Chicago, IL 60661 | Your Home For: Missouri Tigers
Someone had to step up after Derby went down as the premiere Mizzou bar in Chicago and J-Tap has done that and then some. I’d argue it also has Top 3 food of any place on this list but I’m not biased or went to Mizzou or anything. Official watch party tomorrow afternoon. Be there or be from Kansas.
Old Town Pour House
1419 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60610 | Your Home For: West Virginia Mountaineers
Old Town Pour House is a great bar to watch sports at because they have TVs the size of Bob Huggins’ personality. If they’re not playing a random Ja Rule music video at 1am they’re playing Mountaineers games starting at 11:15am on Thursday.
The Pony Inn
1638 W Belmont Ave, Chicago, IL 60657 | Your Home For: Kentucky Wildcats
If you’re a Cats fan in Chicago you know about Pony Inn. Win, lose, tie, improper benefits allegation, it doesn’t matter, Pony Inn is a save haven for displaced Lexingtonians with good food and a lotta UKBB.
George Street Pub
2858 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60657 | Your Home For: Maryland Terrapins
George Street Pub is a classic neighborhood joint representing all things Baltimore and when we say Baltimore we really just mean the entire DMV. This place is a whole mood once it gets going and tip off happens. Burto
A.J. Hudson’s Public House
3801 N Ashland Ave, Chicago, IL 60613 | Your Home For: Penn State Nittany Lions
AJHPH is in contention for the best fish and chips in Chicago and I don’t say things like that lightly. Looking for a spot to rep the Allegheny or England or anything in between in the Windy City? Then head to A.J. Hudson’s Public House and get your fix.
1925 W Cortland St, Chicago, IL 60622 | Your Home For: Kansas Jayhawks
Lottie’s, like 2022 Kansas, is the betting favorite in this little tournament. Lottie’s is vibes, and as a Missouri Tigers graduate, it pains me to rain such praise upon the flagship Kansas hang out in Chicago. But, well, Lottie’s is a Hall of Famer and that simply cannot be denied.
15 W Division St, Chicago, IL 60610 | Your Home For: Michigan State Spartans
Michigan State and not being able to move, that’s what Hopsmith does. It’s the millennials dream on Division and I do not mean that in a bad way.
1927 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60622 | Your Home For: Connecticut Huskies
Piece is a very low key contender here. It has an almost cult-like following of hungry Northeasterners begging for their slice of New Haven style pizza and craft beers. It’s no question that it’s the stop for anyone rooting for UConn this March.
3441 N Sheffield Ave, Chicago, IL 60657 | Kansas State Wildcats
Graystone Tavern is known best as the go-to soccer bar in Wrigleyville, but it also has a dedicated faction of passionate Washington Huskies and Kansas State Wildcats fans. Since Washington didn’t make the tournament this year, it looks like K-Stat will be keeping Graystone buzzing this weekend.
Lincoln Tap Room
3010 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60657 | Your Home For: Pittsburgh Panthers
Lincoln Tap Room is blue collar and chaos all over the walls and so authentically Pittsburgh it hurts. Now it doesn’t necessarily advertise itself as a Pitt Panthers bar, it’s arguably the biggest Steelers bar in the city and they fly Penguins flags often too. It’s Pittsburgh and for this tournament Pittsburgh is the Panthers.
The Sedgwick Stop
1612 N Sedgwick St, Chicago, IL 60614 | Your Home For: Tennessee Volunteers
“Hey honey, when are you almost home?”
“Soon, babe. I’m at the Sedgwick Stop.”
It’s really genius. In reality you’re having a beer watching the Volunteers, she thinks you’re stuck on the brown line navigating the zoo that is Chicago’s public transportation system right now.
Toons Bar and Grill
3857 N Southport Ave, Chicago, IL 60613 | Your Home For: Virginia Cavaliers
I came across a website that listed Toons as a Virginia Cavaliers bar and I was like hmmm that’s a huge Chiefs bar. Kansas City. Charlottesville. Those two things aren’t the same. So, we may be wrong here, but Toons deserves to be listed so it is.
The Field House
2455 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614 | Your Home For: Texas Longhorns
Again, like Toons above, I found a website, did everything I could to verify but ultimately it is what it is. The Fields House is a beautiful neighborhood dive and you can watch the Longhorns play Colgate there if you truly want to.
3655 N Sheffield Ave, Chicago, IL 60613 | Your Home For: Iowa State Cyclones
Murphy’s Bleachers is probably the single greatest bit of advertising that Iowa State University has ever received. Flags everywhere. Day games, night games, kids, teens, adults, everyone sees your flag every time they walk by. Genius.
Moe’s Cantina Wrigleyville
3518 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60657 | Your Home For: UCLA Bruins
I read something somewhere that said Moe’s was known for hosting Los Angeles Rams watch parties, as well as UCLA Bruins watch parties. That works.
The Cubby Bear
1059 W Addison St, Chicago, IL 60613 | Your Home For: Arizona State Sun Devils
The Cubby Bear being an Arizona State bar was arguably the most random discovery I’ve ever had in my decade living downtown post-college. Here you have what might as well be a historical landmark on one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in this city and all the while there are people upstairs like “FORK ‘EM, BITCHES!” What a world.