by Sam Garigliano
The following are some extremely serious and dire real-life scenarios:
a) It is an away game. b) You can not find or afford a ticket. c) You want to take a week off from wading through red throngs of drooling and incapacitated, barely-conscious Badgers. d) You want to take a week off from being a drooling and incapacitated, barely-conscious Badger. e) Everyone you know is either at the game, without cable television, or does not care about sports.
Assuming that staying home is not an option, at least one of these scenarios occurs in the life of a college football fan in Madison. Each case poses the question: Where to watch the game? Here are five destinations guaranteed to satisfy the needs of any red-blooded Madisonian:
1. State Street Brats
Every nationally compiled online ranking (Bleacher Report, Yahoo!, CNN, etc) of the best sports bars in the U.S. has Madison on it at least once. And State Street Brats is always the default pick. This is highly suspicious, and implies that whoever makes these rankings is lazy and/or unoriginal.
However, they are not wrong, and the consistent presence of State Street Brats on national lists is no mistake. Brats is a vibrant and exciting place to watch a Badger game. The atmosphere is always buzzing and patrons are always tuned-in, paying notable attention to the onscreen action. If you want a crowd to cheer along with outside of Camp Randall, State Street Brats is a safe bet. The traditional Wisconsin food, highlighted by their excellent brats (obviously), is a perfect compliment to any cheap beer.
2. The Stadium Bar
Physically, Stadium is the closest bar to Camp Randall. Literally nothing is closer. The stadium practically hovers over the bar. If that’s not enough to make you feel immersed in the game atmosphere, here is a blurb from the main page of their website:
“360 Degrees of Sports is having a HDTV wherever you turn. […] 360 Degrees of Sports is having fun before and after the game inside or outside in an entire garden of beer. 360 Degrees of Sports is giving you a ride to the game, and back. 360 Degrees of Sports is the Stadium Bar.”
Three-hundred and sixty degrees is apparently where it’s at.
3. The Echo Tap
Originally a popular destination for train passengers stopping at the nearby historic Milwaukee Road Station in Madison, the Echo Tap now serves as a game day hotspot. Feeling disappointed from struggling to find decently priced tickets? The Echo Tap gives away two pairs of tickets to every home football game. Fittingly, they have a diverse and decidedly solid selection of tap beers. An ex-employee told me Bret Bielema would frequent the Echo Tap during the time they worked there. I have no idea if he still does, but the head coach enjoying the place is basically an endorsement from Badger football of The Echo Tap as a prime location to watch the game.
The Great Dane is a staple location good for multiple occasions, including grabbing a drink and playing pool, having an excellent meal, or watching the game. With a relatively tasteful atmosphere, the bar area at the Great Dane is a welcome alternative to the more crowded places that typically host a younger and louder clientele. Service is always great, and what they offer goes above and beyond most bar food. As a bonus, during home games the Downtown location has a menu comprised of Farmers’ Market ingredients. The Hilldale Mall Great Dane has some of the best seating any bar has to offer, with curved booths totally conducive to simultaneously watching and enjoying a great meal comfortably.
5. Buffalo Wild Wings
Look, I know. Including a chain restaurant on a list of local places to watch a Badger game seems sacrilegious, but the allure of BWW is undeniable. The place boasts an unparalleled amount of screens, including some massive projector screens, making it impossible to not find a table where you can clearly watch the game. And I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t like wings. The Parmesan garlic seasoning is top-tier, as is the Caribbean jerk.