Commentary

Baseball's Top-10 Bars and Grills

Updated: August 16, 2007, 1:52 PM ET
By Josh Pahigian | Special to ESPN SportsTravel


1. Mickey Mantle's Restaurant
42 Central Park South, New York
Web site | City Guide

The theme of the lavishly decorated walls at Mickey Mantle's harks back to baseball's golden era. More than 300 pieces of memorabilia are on display, including the original plaque that hung at Yankee Stadium's Monument Park to honor "The Mick" from 1969 to 1996 (at which time a full-sized monument replaced it).

Visitors also will find uniforms worn by Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and Jackie Robinson, along with stadium chairs from the original Yankee Stadium, a life-size cutout of Babe Ruth autographed by more than 150 big leaguers and a circa-1961 replica of old Yankee Stadium that covers 49 square feet and features working light towers, scoreboard and 64,000 molded-pewter seats.

"Because we're in New York we don't just have sports personalities as guests, but also celebrities who are sports fans," said Bart Alexander, director of special events at Mantle's.

"Some recent visitors include Yankees GM Brian Cashman, Mickey's old teammates Moose Skowron and Joe Pepitone, Don Mattingly, Bob Costas, Jerry Springer, Chris Matthews of "Hardball," Harry Smith of CBS News and football guys Dan Marino, Mike Ditka and Jimmy Johnson."

2. Cask 'n Flagon
62 Brookline Ave., Boston
Web site | City Guide

In the shadows of Fenway Park's Green Monster, Red Sox fans find sausage vendors, ticket scalpers and usually a long line of thirsty patrons waiting to get inside "The Cask." The famous hangout, which is just a long foul ball from home plate, often accommodates as many as 5,000 patrons on a busy game day.

It dates back to an original opening in 1969 as a live-music club, which would feature Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Springsteen and Boston's own Aerosmith.

Over the years it morphed into a top-notch sports bar that now boasts an impressive array of Red Sox photos, including shots of Babe Ruth playing the tuba, Ted Williams being sworn into the Marine Corps, a baby-faced Roger Clemens looking every bit the wide-eyed rookie and a champagne-soaked Jim Lonborg celebrating with Carl Yastrzemski in the Boston clubhouse after the Sox clinched the 1967 pennant.

3. Sluggers
3540 N. Clark St., Chicago
Web site | City Guide

As any fan who has visited Wrigleyville surely knows, an entire article could be written strictly about the top-10 sports bars in this special corner of the baseball universe – and there would still be plenty of worthy establishments left out.

Debates about the "best" sports bar in Wrigleyville often revolve around the Cubby Bear and Murphy's Bleachers – time-honored haunts on Chicago's North Side that deserve all the praise they receive.

For the sake of offering a differing opinion though, and because it's the only joint in Wrigleyville that offers an indoor batting cage upstairs for patrons, the choice here is Sluggers, where fans can determine if they really do make more solid contact after they've had an Old Style or three.

In addition to the romper room upstairs, Sluggers has featured such celebrity bar tenders through the years as Andre Dawson, Rick Sutcliffe, Goose Gossage and Minnie Minoso.

4. Nemo's
1386 Michigan Ave., Detroit
Web site | City Guide

Although the Tigers departed Tiger Stadium in 2000, relocating to Comerica Park, hard-core Tigers fans still return to their old stomping grounds on game day to visit Nemo's bar and grill.

Maybe what lures fans is the framed front pages of old newspapers that hang on the tin walls to commemorate great moments in Tigers history, such as Kirk Gibson celebrating the 1984 World Series victory or Cecil Fielder rounding the bases after hitting his 50th homer in 1990. Or perhaps it's the other terrific nostalgia. Or it could be its signature cheeseburgers.

How about the game-day transportation? A Motor City favorite for more than four decades, Nemo's uses a fleet of converted school buses these days to shuttle patrons to and from games at Comerica. In fact, business owner Springstead is enjoying even greater success in the Comerica era than in the days of Tiger Stadium.

"We've got six buses now, and the crowds keep coming," Springstead said. "The last three years have been the best we've ever had, and we've been here since 1965."

5. Lakefront Brewery
1872 N. Commercial St., Milwaukee
Web site | City Guide

What would a trip to Milwaukee be without paying a visit to one of the city's breweries? And what would the Brewers be without their lovable, if drunken, mascot Bernie Brewer?

At Lakefront Brewery, baseball fans have the chance to both celebrate Milwaukee's proud brewing tradition and honor this legendary hooligan with the handlebar mustache.

Lakefront, you see, is the place where Bernie Brewer's original chalet and slide have resided since the Milwaukee nine departed County Stadium for Miller Park.

Lakefront president Russ Klisch purchased the old prop from the team shortly after the move and happily installed it along his extremely popular brewhouse tour. Visitors will observe that many members of the Brewers have autographed the old apparatus, perhaps none more famous than the team's quartet of racing sausages.

6. Ozzie's Restaurant & Sports Bar
645 Westport Plaza, St. Louis
Web site | City Guide

The St. Louis hot spot named after the best defensive shortstop of all time offers more than 50 TVs, St. Louis-style toasted raviolis and walls decorated with Cardinals jerseys and photos. What more could a baseball fan want? (Don't answer that, Cubs fans.)

One entire wall chronicles Ozzie Smith's induction day at Cooperstown, while nearby a tall, glass trophy case shows off all 13 of his Gold Gloves.

As owner Ray Gallardo explained, Ozzie's was the place to be for any Cardinals fans who didn't have tickets to Busch Stadium on the night the Cards won their 10th world championship on Oct. 27, 2006.

"The day was originally supposed to be an off day," Gallardo said, "but then (Game 4) was rained out on Wednesday and all of a sudden there was a game on Friday."

Consequently, the Game 5 World Series clincher against the Tigers took place on a day Ozzie's had slated months earlier for its 18th anniversary party. A throng of fans turned out to watch the game alongside such baseball luminaries as Willie McGee, Whitey Herzog, Reggie Jackson and Ozzie Smith himself. And when Adam Wainwright struck out Brandon Inge to give the Red Birds their first championship in 24 years, they all went wild.

7. Chappell's Restaurant & Sports Museum
323 Armour Road, North Kansas City, Mo.
Web site | City Guide

Less than a 20-minute drive north from Kauffman Stadium fans will find what is considered the most impressive collection of sports memorabilia housed in any bar or restaurant in the United States.

Since opening in 1986, Chappell's Restaurant & Sports Museum has steadily expanded its collection to the point that it now includes more than 10,000 items.

The place is a labor of love for owner Jim Chappell, a longtime friend of former Kansas City and Oakland A's owner Charlie O. Finley. Chappell delights in leading first-time visitors from wall to wall, while providing background information about his collection's most interesting artifacts.

The top attraction at Chappell's is thought to be the 1974 World Series trophy Finley's rough-and-tumble Oakland A's won against the Dodgers. There also are balls autographed by Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and Dizzy Dean, as well as impressive collections of old jerseys, pennants and photographs.

8. Sports Column
1930 Blake St., Denver
Web site | City Guide

Located in an old, brick warehouse just "96 steps" from Coors Field, the Sports Column is the finest of the many fine sports bars in Denver's LoDo (Lower Downtown) district.

Since opening the day before the Rockies christened Coors Field in 1995, it has featured an expansive bar with plenty of TVs, walls laden with memorabilia and jerseys and a rooftop patio where patrons can fill their lungs with crisp, Rocky Mountain air while sipping pints of microbrew.

During the summer months, this is as lively a pre and postgame scene as fans will find anywhere in baseball. And the mouthwatering Rockie Burger -- a sandwich that comes piled high with chicken tenders, ham, bacon, barbecue sauce and cheddar and Swiss cheese -- is a true original.

9. Bobby V's Sports Gallery Cafe
4301 S. Bowen Road, Arlington, Texas
Web site | City Guide: Dallas

Although he now toils for the Chiba Lotte Marines of Japan's Pacific League, where he's considered the most successful foreigner ever to lead a Japanese team, Bobby Valentine's presence is still felt in Arlington, where he skippered the Texas Rangers from 1985 -1992.

One of two Bobby V's – the other is in Valentine's hometown of Stamford, Conn. – this neighborhood grill is absolutely plastered with memorabilia, and not just on the walls but the bar and tables, too.

Each table, including those within the elevated boxing ring in the center of the restaurant, is topped with old baseball cards, ticket stubs and game programs beneath a film of lamination.

The atmosphere is warm and cozy, the TVs are plentiful and the food is quite good. The Tex-Mex Bobby Bajita fajita plate, chili in a bread bowl, ostrich burger and fried pickles are all house specials, as are the wraps – and with good reason.

In a truth-is-stranger-than-fiction baseballesque moment, in 1980, shortly after his playing career ended, Valentine opened his first restaurant in Stamford, Conn., and claims to have invented the now ubiquitous sandwich wrap that we find at lunch counters across the country.

10. McCovey's Restaurant
1444 N. California Blvd., Walnut Creek, Calif.
Web site | City Guide: San Francisco | City Guide: Oakland

Just a half-hour drive across San Francisco Bay from AT&T Park, and an even shorter ride from Oakland's McAfee Coliseum, baseball fans find a festive hardball haven that offers a wealth of memorabilia and a colossal, 44-ounce mound of ground Angus beef dubbed the 521 Burger.

The juicy behemoth honors the 521 home runs restaurant namesake and frequent visitor Willie McCovey hit during a 22-year career spent mostly with the Giants.

In addition to sporting a slew of TVs tuned to whatever games are taking place, the walls display autographed jerseys, bats and photographs. Top attractions include the National League home run champion trophy McCovey was awarded after belting 44 long balls for the Giants in 1963, a ball signed by Satchel Paige in 1934 and a photo of McCovey posing with Johnny Carson.

In addition to McCovey, who usually dines in the private "McCovey Room," sports celebs including Tony La Russa, Joe Montana, Chris Mullen, Bob Uecker and Chris Webber have been known to stop by for a meal.

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