Hoops and Hollars: Big 10 Bar Guide
Whether you’re a Badger or a Buckeye, seats for the Big Ten basketball tournament — tipping off Thursday at the United Center — will cost you. Get cheaper beer, better sightlines and fan camaraderie at these sports bars that aren’t afraid to show their team colors.
Illinois Fighting Illini
Fighting Illini fans won’t have to battle each other to see hoop action at Parkway Tavern. The bar shows all Illinois games, and the enthusiastic crowds that descend here know it. If basketball bores you, you can sip $1 domestic bottles and watch the turtle races — that’s right, turtle races — on Thursday night.
Indiana fans can watch the Hoosiers play on Finley Dunne’s two big-screen TVs while gulping $6 pitchers of Miller beer. Though IU fanatics have to share the bar with Dayton and Boston College alumni (the other two schools that call this bar home), all will be red and white by game time.
Streeter’s is the answer for Northwestern fans who can’t make it to Evanston but still want to cheer for the Wildcats. A favorite with the purple set, this River North bar offers $6 pitchers with a student ID and late-night cuisine from Downtown Dogs. Fan tip: If Streeter’s is too crowded, try Tommy Nevin’s Pub.
Four-year-old Duffy’s is the Big House away from home for University of Michigan alums, right down to the blue walls, blue shot glasses and sea of blue jerseys during games.
Michigan State Spartans
The Gin Mill is hard to miss, with its green facade and neon sign welcoming you to Chicago’s own “East Lansing.” This Spartans outpost offers three big-screen televisions, a pool table and video games. Our favorite part? Everyone gets a free beer or shot if the Spartans win! Fan tip: Catch the MSU band and cheerleaders from 9-11 p.m. Friday at Tin Lizzie.
Hawkeyes can watch the entire Big Ten tourney at Coyle’s Tippling House on any of the eight TVs and two big screens. But don’t let basketball distract you from the euchre tournaments, live music, comedy and movies that take place every day in the bar’s cozy “family room.” Fan tip: University of Iowa fans can catch shuttle buses to the United Center games Thursday through Saturday at Blyss.
Badger fans need look no further than Hi-Tops for all things Wisconsin — including a VIP “Badger Den” and alumni discounts on domestic drafts ($2) and pitchers ($5). Nurture your inner cheesehead while catching the game on any of the eight big-screen TVs and 65 monitors.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Buckeye fans might confuse Jack Sullivan’s in west Lincoln Park with Columbus, Ohio — especially when the OSU fight song plays before tip-off. With satellites and DSS, Jack’s promises to show every Ohio State game aired.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
Minnesota fans can watch their Golden Gophers compete on one of the many televisions located throughout Redmond’s. But there is plenty to do otherwise: eat, shoot pool or play a round of Golden Tee.
If the pennants, flags and “No Drew, Got Brew” mugs have you confused, the “Hail Purdue” song played before each game should clue you in to the fact that you’re in Boilermaker country. Durkin’s even has a back room reserved for Purdue Club of Chicago members from 9 a.m. to 30 minutes before the game.
Penn State Nittany Lions
Penn State alums don’t call any particular Chicago bar home, but Nittany Lions fans often flock to Joe’s to catch the big games. The sprawling sports bar also hosts other Big Ten, SEC and ACC alums.
(Originally published March 11, 2003)