Chicago’s Top Bars For Niche Sports

December 29, 2011 6:00 AM

Guinness At Fado


by Kimberly Bellware

Chicago is a sports town through and through. The Windy City has not only some of the most popular and recognizable teams in all of sports–The Bulls, The Bears, The Blackhawks–but some of the most rabid and dedicated fans, too. The diverse population of Chicago’s metro area also means there are fan bases for niche sports, ranging from rugby to racing. Whether you’re cheering for your favorite scrum-half or welterweight, here are a few Chicago bars that are devoted to some of the less noted sports.

Guinness At Fado


For Rugby

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Hours: Mon – Thurs 11:30am-2am; Fri 11:30am-3am; Sat Early for sports events- 3am; Sun Early for sports events- 2am

Rugby fans–often European or Australian expats in particular–flock to this Irish pub all season long for the latest rugby match ups. The pub runs live games and re-broadcasts for matches that happened too early or late for Central time zone audiences, and it’s easy to find a rugby fan sporting their team’s jersey on match day. Fado is always a top choice for fans gathering for the big tournaments, like the quadrennial Rugby World Cup

Roller Derby


For Roller Derby

Hours: Mon-Fri 11am-2am; Sat 5pm-3am; Sun 8am-2am

Chicago’s top-tier derby team might not have a pro designation, but their matches are among the best and most exciting sporting events in the city. The Windy City Rollers currently play at the UIC Pavillion and Cobra is really more the after-bout hangout for the ladies and their fans. Still, a taped or on-demand bout has been known to surface on the TV screens of Cobra Lounge when there’s an obliging bartender and demanding audience. If there’s no bout screening, chances are you’ll find someone in the bar who can demo a derby jam for you in person.

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Hours: Open 24 hours

This location of the popular city chain is one of the oldest locations, so it has retained a more edgy bar attitude rather than adopting the family-friendly atmosphere of its younger diner siblings. Split off from the dining room, Clarke’s dimly lit bar is a go-to for mixed martial arts fights on pay-per-view, particularly the Ultimate Fighting Championship franchise. Clarke’s gets in on the action advertising big fights, so come fight night, this otherwise unassuming Lincoln Park bar turns into a lively crowd cheering on the most inventive choke holds and figure four takedowns.

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For Boxing

Hours: Tue 5pm-3am; Wed-Thu 5pm-12am; Fri 5pm-4am; Sat 11am-5am; Sun 11am-8pm

Though it has a sterling reputation as one of the city’s most diverse sports bars with respect to the games and matches it shows, Joe’s gets pretty serious for pro and amateur boxing. Chicago’s love affair with boxing goes back to the pre-Prohibition era and the fervor over a good fight brings out the fans in droves. The space can get so packed that reservations are required a few days in advance of more hyped fights, and cover charge usually accompanies the hottest tickets.

kincades Chicagos Top Bars For Niche Sports

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We’d never support drinking and driving, but in the case of Kincade’s, the drinkers and the drivers are miles apart. Anytime a NACAR race is televised, the odds of finding it on one or more of the bar’s mutli-dozen of flat-screen TVs are excellent. Since no bar in Chicago aggressively brands itself as a 24/7/365 NASCAR hangout, Kincade’s wins the honor for its tremendous enthusiasm for sports, the endless drink specials and the likelihood that it will be packed come Daytona 500 time.

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