The best American holidays are predicated on overeating, consumerism and violent contact sports. Whether you’re in it for the beer commercials or the actual game, no one should spend that unofficial holiday known as Super Bowl Sunday alone and hungry.
Even if your friend with a big screen and wicked buffalo chicken dip recipe isn’t having a party this year (jerk), myriad bars can help you escape the HD-less hell that is your living room. But this ain’t preseason, rookie. When picking a Super Bowl bar, you must strike a balance between optimal viewing conditions and outstanding food.
No longer part of the Bulldog franchise, this separately owned joint is still our preferred Bulldog on game day. Their nachos are equipped with a killer beef brisket, queso fresco, guacamole, cilantro creme fraiche and more. Can’t decide between the classic Tillamook bacon cheeseburger, the guac-topped Green Marvel or the sweet and spicy, Sriracha-glazed Rooster burger? Order them slider style for $4 a pop. Full-sized burgers and dogs come with fries, but the crispy tots are worth the surcharge. 401 E. Hennepin Av., Mpls. • 612-378-2855 • www.thebulldognortheast.com
Mac’s Industrial Sports Bar
This is not a sports bar in the traditional sense. Mohawks and project managers commingle at this egalitarian watering hole, which has some of the friendliest service around, 27 taps and a massive food menu with surprisingly few misses. It’s not “gastropub” fare, “chef-driven” or any other bourgeois buzzphrase — just well-executed bar food. If Mac’s acclaimed Reuben sandwich doesn’t tempt you, try the savory and salty beef brisket French dip loaded up with sautéed mushrooms, gobs of cheese and giardiniera peppers for an extra $1.50. 312 Central Av. SE., Mpls. • 612-379-3379 • www.macsindustrial.com
From its “whiskey, beer, burgers” tagline (all things we can rally behind) to commonplace design elements — subway tiles, reclaimed wood, leather booths — the downtown Hopkins newbie is a restaurant trend pastiche. But judging by the crowds and above-average food, this revamp project was the right move. A fortress of flat-screens hangs above the bar at the former Hopkins Tavern, which has graduated from Heggie’s pizza to an array of intriguing burgers including a chorizo/beef combo with shrimp and white wine feta sauce. While the affectionately greasy brat burger piled with sauerkraut, caramelized onions and a sweet whiskey mustard is a nice alternative, we couldn’t help eyeballing our neighbor’s juicy red-wine burger, cooked with a port wine reduction. 819 Mainstreet, Hopkins • 952-933-1230 • www.pub819.com
New Bohemia, Golden Valley
Like the original New Bo in northeast Minneapolis, its suburban sibling, which opened Dec. 31, is a fast-casual beer hall with 36 shrewdly selected craft taps and an affinity for unusual meats (the gamey rattlesnake, rabbit and jalapeño sausage isn’t as out-there as it sounds). The walls are lined with more TV screens than a NASA control room, and a $25 all-you-can-drink special on select beers runs from 4 p.m. to close on Super Bowl Sunday. 8040 Olson Memorial Hwy., Golden Valley • 763-544-1882 • www.newbohemiausa.com
Red Cow St. Paul
The Super Bowl is a massive social event, so many will have no clue who, or what, Gronk is. If your crew includes non-fans — that’s Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, by the way — the casual and contemporary Red Cow is a good bet. The beer, wine and burger den is an intimate neighborhood restaurant, but a couple of decently sized, nonintrusive TVs behind the bar make keeping an eye on the action easy. While the original Minneapolis Red Cow works, too, we’ll give the edge to St. Paul for its full bar. If you believe in pig as condiment, try the pork belly-topped Royale burger or the prosciutto-adorned Barcelona. 393 Selby Av., St. Paul • 651-789-0545 • www.redcowmn.com
If a dingy bar is what you crave, you’ll reach paydirt here. The bras hanging from the ceiling might be low-brow, but the food isn’t. Since Josh Thoma’s Smack Shack took over the kitchen at this longtime cops hangout, patrons can have their cold beer and eat a talk-of-the-town lobster roll, too. However, it’s hard for us to stray from the bountiful richness of the lobster mac ’n’ cheese. The bar’s layout is slightly awkward, but strategically angled TVs make every seat feel like it’s on the 50-yard line. 1029 NE. Marshall St., Mpls. • 612-379-4322 • www.the1029bar.com
Ray J’s Woodbury
Though its tap list doesn’t hold a hops-scented candle to the newer Minneapolis Ray J’s, the original Woodbury bar-and-grill is more family friendly. Its signature drunken-sauce-full wings are slathered in a tangy, gooey hybrid of buffalo and sesame sauces, while the tastebud-scalding habanero wings will have you breathing cartoon flames, in the best way possible. 9854 Norma Lane, Woodbury • 651-714-2035 • www.ray-js.com
Michael Rietmulder, of Minneapolis, writes about nightlife.