Get your game on: Memphis' top local sports bars

Any sports fan will tell you that cheering is more fun with the comfort and camaraderie served up at a local sports bar. Whether it's taking in a Grizzlies game or rooting for college football, Memphis offers a little something for every fan. Here are our top picks for where to take in a game. 
 
Sweet Grass Next Door
"We are probably the best Grizzlies bar in the city," says Sweet Grass General Manager Johnny Lawrence. "We have an awesome turnout for their games, especially their away games. People show up in their Grizzlies attire with their headbands on. It's pretty awesome."
Sweet Grass Next Door
Nine TVs in a shotgun 60-seat space allow fans of Tigers basketball, Ole Miss and Alabama football and the NFL (all hot draws, according to Lawrence) to be elbow to elbow on crowded nights and right up on the action.
 
"We turn the sound up on game days, so it feels like you are at the game when you're here," Lawrence says.
 
With food prepared by the same kitchen staff handling the duck confit and braised rabbit next door at the Sweet Grass bistro, Next Door offers fans expertly prepared appetizers like pimento cheeseburgers, fried egg sandwiches and chicken and waffles. They also pride themselves on their premier bourbon selections and the local and craft beer menu, including local brews like Memphis Made, Wiseacre, Ghost River and High Cotton.
 
Alex's Tavern
Alex's Tavern near Rhodes College has been in business since before the term "sports bar" was commonplace. Alex Kasaftes opened the bar 61 years ago, and his son, Rocky, runs the place now.
 
"We have a very unique place here. It's off the beaten path a bit, and we've stood the test of time," says Kasaftes, who points out that Alex's is the oldest family-run tavern in the area.
 
The rustic tavern, which has remained in the same location since 1953, features two vintage jukeboxes loaded with hits from the 50s, 60s and 70s, along with  six TVs to watch the games.
 Alex's Tavern on Jackson
"College bowl games are coming up, and it's the perfect time to have six different games on at once," Kasaftes says. "We have a really loyal SEC crowd that comes here. You really look forward to Saturday because there's one group watching Mississippi State, one's watching Ole Miss, one's watching UT. It's just fun."
 
He also sees "regulars" from across the city come out when the University of Memphis basketball Tigers are on the road and when it gets close to NCAA tournament time in the spring.
 
"They drive from East Memphis, Cordova, Germantown. It's like they find a hole in the wall that they really like, and they remain loyal to us," Kasaftes jokes. "We've seen more people watching the Grizz early this season thanks to their great start, but the crowds really increase near the end of the season closer to playoff time."
 
Burgers are one specialty at Alex's (the tavern was featured last year on The Travel Channel's Burgerland), and Rocky touts the Greek burger as one of their top sellers.
 
Blind Bear

The Blind Bear downtown on Main Street is seeing its best crowds this year for Grizz games.
 
"Last year it would've been the Tiger basketball games, but they aren't packing them in right now," says Jeannette West, co-owner of the Bear along with Colin Bergstrom and her husband, Jamie West..
 
The speakeasy, which has been open for about four years, features drink specials for any Grizzlies game, including an hour before or after home games for those attending at FedEx Forum.
 
"And we have a good crowd that comes here to watch the game if they don't have tickets,"­ she says.
 
Football fans are able to enjoy brunch all day on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., along with Margarita Mondays for Monday Night Football. Local brews like Ghost River, Wiseacre and Memphis Made are customer favorites.
 
Popular appetizers at the Blind Bear include Bear Balls (pepper jack cheese breaded and fried), sausage and cheese plates and pulled-pork barbecue nachos.
 
Private parties can occupy The Den, a secluded area behind a two-way mirror that has couches, a TV and a bar top.
 
"About 25 to 30 people can sit back there and enjoy more than one game, and we often have people call to reserve the space for just themselves and their friends," West says. "We can make everyone happy in getting their game on."

Read more articles by Michael Waddell.

Michael Waddell is a native Memphian who returned to Memphis several years ago after working for nearly a decade in San Diego and St. Petersburg, Fla., as a writer, editor and graphic designer. His work over the past few years has been featured in The Memphis Daily News, Memphis Bioworks Magazine, Memphis Crossroads, the New York Daily News and the New York Post. Contact Michael.
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