Yay! It’s March Madness Monday, the day when office productivity declines severely while employees browse sports Web sites trying to figure out who to advance in their brackets. For college hoops fans, March Madness is the best part of the season—especially on the first Thursday and Friday of the tournament—and a perfect time to gather at the bar with friends, eat bar food all day and mock your friends’ brackets. Lakeview has no shortage of bars where you can accomplish this, and during the Big Dance, you”ll find all these bars offering specials, early opening hours, TVs with blaring sound and a hoops-friendly vibe.
P. S. For those of you “working at home” during the first two days, these bars have free wi-fi.
Cuna’s Sports Lounge, 1113 W. Belmont Ave.
Affiliations: Notre Dame and Illinois
This airy, modern bar recently switched to being a hardcore sports lounge. For hoops, you’ll find seven large TVs, and March Madness drink specials will include $5 22-ounce Miller Lite Aluminum pints and $5 0-Bombs. The bar has familiar bar fare, with appetizers half-price during Friday happy hour.
The Pony, 1638 W. Belmont Ave.
Affiliations: Kentucky, Texas A&M and Illinois
Slightly off the beaten path, this place always has a friendly vibe, and with several affiliated schools in the tournament, The Pony should only get more popular. It has a long bar with hardwood floors, 30 TVs (some tables even have their own almost-private TVs), and March Madness specials will include $5 22-ounce Miller cups and a monster $5 Clydesdale grilled cheese. In a Madness flyer on the bar’s site, there’s a number to call if you’d like to reserve a table.
Beckett’s Public House, 3210 N. Lincoln Ave.
Wilde’s in Lakeview East has a younger sibling: this cozy Irish pub with 10 TVs and three TV projectors. For the Madness, you can drink five-beer buckets of Miller or Coors for $12 and enjoy the bar’s numerous daily specials (Sunday Funday has a great buffet plus Jameson shots on special). You’ll find over 30 beers and lots of tables and bar space to spend the day watching the games. The staff is accommodating and the food is typical gastropub fare.
Schoolyard Tavern, 3258 N. Southport Ave.
Affiliations: Illinois and Marquette
This Lakeview standby always brings in a good, loud crowd with its great food, high energy and 18 TVs. Hoops-lovers will find $5 Miller stadium cups, $5 wings, $5 mini burgers and $5 monster tots. Get there early as the bar fills up quickly for the tourney’s first rounds.
Southport Lanes, 3325 N. Southport Ave.
OK, so it’s not the first bar you think of for March Madness, but it has some of the best bar food in the neighborhood ($5.95 lunch specials during the week), and who can resist the bowling and ping-pong opportunities during downtime? There are 12 TVs, and during the Big Dance, the bar has a good local crowd watching hoops. You’ll find $3 Shiner Bocks and $4 Jameson shots along with an extensive menu of beer offerings. No lines or DJs here.
Messner’s Wrigley Grille, 3553 N. Southport Ave.
Affiliations: Auburn and Arkansas
Large tables, a variety of beers and 20 TVs are some of the reasons why Messner’s is a great venue for the Big Dance. There’s not a bad seat in the house, but the best part is the upstairs where you feel like you’re in someone’s home. The bar has a voluminous menu with great bar food—tater tots, fried cheese curds and mini corn dogs—perfect for a long day of watching basketball. On Thursday, look for Irish food specials and a DJ.