One of my fondest and earliest memories is bounding around my suburban Cincinnati home, donning a Bengals helmet and begging my dad to point out Boomer Esiason on the television each Sunday. (It’s a great name for a 5-year-old to shout.) These were the good old days when the Bengals made Super Bowls – even if they lost.
My devotion has withstood the ugly ‘90s, and even the perhaps more unbearable Andy Dalton years. What has changed, though, is my ability to watch my beloved team. We don’t splurge for NFL Season Ticket since my husband is a Panthers fan, and I can usually count on a few fingers which Bengals games will be nationally televised. The weekly phone call from my dad recapping the game just isn’t the same.
If you’re in a predicament like me, take heart. Just about every NFL team has a cadre of loyal fans in town who meet each week to cheer their teams – or drown their sorrows in a beverage. We’ve rounded up the best NFL bars in Charlotte. Go and find your people.
*Are we missing your favorite NFL bar? Write in and we’ll update our list. Help out your fellow fans.
Tier 1: These people are serious
Lebowski Neighborhood Grille
1534 East Blvd.
With so many displaced New Yorkers, it shouldn’t be surprising that Bills fans have options. The Bills Backers of Charlotte regularly meet at Lebowski, but you can also catch a game at Towne Tavern in Fort Mill, Bisonte Pizza Co. in Matthews, Taste of Buffalo Pizzeria in Huntersville, Al’s Bar and Grille in Cornelius and Tavern on the Tracks.
Jocks & Jills
4109 South Stream Blvd
From an Agenda reader: “Easily the most organized, and largest, official fan club in the NFL, the Browns Backer’s Club should be on this list. Our local chapter is excellent. With raffles and door prizes every week, they raise thousands of dollars for local charities each year.”
Fountain Blue Lounge
7200 Albemarle Rd
Fans of America’s team are for real. The Cowboys Stars of the Carolinas Fan Club has everything from tailgate parties to service projects. Fans also will convoy to games. Bring your A game to this one.
Green Bay Packers
1518 Montford Dr.
Another storied team that takes its history seriously. Charlotte Cheeseheads brag that Angry Ale’s attracts more than 100 fans each week. I believe it based on the number of onetime Wisconsinites in this town.
New York Giants
Hickory Tavern (HT Mallard)
2005 E. Arbors Dr.
Giants fans have a couple of options, including getting together with a Charlotte Meetup group that reps their team. Fun fact: I root for the Giants every time they play the Pats. #winning
New York Jets
Dilworth Neighborhood Grille
911 E. Morehead St.
I respect fans who are passionate enough to have a local website set up. Charlotte Jets fans even have a logo. Tip: Arrive 30 minutes early and meet downstairs most weeks. This is the fan club’s sixth year in this spot.
210 E. Trade St.
Head over to EpiCentre to watch everyone’s favorite politically incorrect football team. The first 75 fans who park at the Bank of America deck on Trade Street get free parking when they show their ticket, so go early. They’ll also have weekly drink and menu specials.
Tier 2: Good group of regulars
Sip Bar and Cellar
200 N. Tryon St.
The team has a legion of loyal followers known as the Queen City Ravens Nest. When you’re a perennial contender, your fan club can afford cool perks like auctioning off a signed Ray Lewis helmet.
Wild Wing Café University
9539 Pinnacle Dr.
I relate to Bears fans. Heck, there are even Bengals fans who will take Jay Cutler over Andy Dalton. (I’d do it, but mostly to get Kristin Cavallari in Cinci.) Da Bears Charlotte Area Fan Club has the hookup for displaced Chicagoans.
3039 South Blvd
My people. Let’s raise a glass to not knowing which Andy Dalton will show up week to week. The slightly above average one or the QB who can’t hit the broadside of a barn. Other options include Outer Bounds in east Charlotte and Cheese Mo’z Coal Fired Pizza on Rea Road.
Kennedy’s Premium Bar & Grill
366 N. Caswell
Fun fact: I’ve never been to Cleveland. That’s like living in Charlotte for 18 years and never visiting Raleigh. Ohioans have got to stick together. Our teams may lose, but at least we can still brag about how important our state will be in the 2016 election.
10403 Park Rd.
This dive by my house is a winner. Here’s hoping feeling returns to Peyton Manning’s fingertips. If not, Broncos fans will have delicious chicken wings and fried pickles to munch on.
Kilted Buffalo Pub
8625 Townley Rd., Huntersville
I meet a lot of people from Michigan. (Almost as many as Ohio.) Detroiters will have to venture out of the center city for this watch party. Fans will be hoping the team can finally break out of the “pretty good” category.
Texas Land & Cattle
7779 Lyles Ln NW, Concord
This one seems appropriate. It seem like more people are moving to Texas than away from the Lone Star State, but there are still some loyalists to the NFL’s youngest franchise in the Queen City. Fans get a bonus this year when the team travels to Bank of America Stadium for a week two matchup against the Panthers.
Ri Ra Irish Pub
208 N. Tryon St.
Fins fans have reason to cheer this season since a Meetup group stepped up to organize these get-togethers this year. From the group: “(Ri Ras has) given us the whole downstairs with all TVs with sound on the Dolphins, drink and food specials, drawings for Dolphin memorabilia and free parking!!!” Get pumped.
105 East 5th Street
From an Agenda reader: “For Minnesota Vikings fans, The Local in Uptown is the bar (in case any Vikings fans actually exist in Charlotte).”
New England Patriots
130 Matthews Station St., Matthews
The defending champions certainly get emotions going in Charlotte. This locale is owned by a “Bostonian and lifelong Red Sox fan,” so expect the game on each week. Hey, I’m all about you rooting for the Pats if you’re from the northeast. I just don’t get when people tell me they root for Tom Brady because they “love excellence.” (Not that I live with someone like this or anything.) Side note: Raleigh Pats fans may be better organized.
Steamers Sports Pub
1513 Pierson Dr.
You’ll have to drive a little ways down U.S. 74 (past Eastway Drive) to get to this one. For a team that’s known for its gritty (and long-suffering) fans, it seems appropriate that this Green Legion fan club doesn’t meet in a glitzy uptown spot. Whisky River is also apparently friendly to Eagles fans.
Fitzgeralds Irish Pub
201 E 5th St.
You know those bumper stickers you see that just make you crazy? That’s me every time I see a Steelers’ one. And that’s a lot of times in this town. If you have to root for them, I’ve heard this group is a good one.
San Diego Chargers
Carolina Ale House
201 S. College St.
West Coasters – and Philip Rivers fans – unite. There’s a Meetup group for fans of the team that’s about a year old. Just remember a lot of these games will have 4 p.m. games, so hydrate up for work the next day.
San Francisco 49ers
210 East Trade Street Suite D-164
The San Francisco Faithful of Charlotte won’t get a chance to root for their team until Monday night for week one, but they seem excited for a new coach who’s hoping for a return to the Super Bowl. The group was founded back in 2009 and gets good reviews.
Fox and the Hound
15235 John J Delaney Dr.
I know more displaced Seattle natives than you’d think living in Charlotte. This team, likely to again be one of the NFL’s best, is fun to watch. I won’t even judge you if you go just because you’re a State fan who likes Russell Wilson.
Tier 3: You might be out of luck
The Cardinals left Charlotte last season as losers. We went home empty-handed trying to find a place where Cardinals fans hang out.
Growing up about an hour from Indiana, I’m always surprised I don’t meet more people from the Hoosier state. Where y’all at? I’ll root for the Colts most days of the week – except for when they’re beating the Bengals in the playoffs or going against the Panthers on Nov. 2 for Monday Night Football. Where will Colts fans be watching?
Are there any Jacksonville fans in general? The franchise that debuted the same year as the Panthers has seen better days. (I mean, how many Jaguar players can you name?)
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs have put together some decent seasons in recent years, giving fans reason to get together this year. Fan site Arrowhead Addict doesn’t list any Charlotte bars for the team, but there is one in Cary and another in Columbia, S.C., if you’re stopping by either city on a Sunday this fall. A few years ago, people got together at the Dunwellz Custom Kitchen and Pour House in Mint Hill, but it has fallen inactive.
You would think Valhalla Pub & Eatery would be perfect, but alas, no NFL Ticket. The symbol of this eatery is literally a Viking helmet. Now let’s see what Adrian Peterson can do for your fantasy game with his comeback.
New Orleans Saints
The Saint’s official Charlotte travel guide still recommends Coach’s Sports Bar & Grill as a“friendly” to black and gold fans, but it’s now closed. Just leave Cam Newton’s ankle alone, Saints linebackers. Fans can catch the team playing their divisional rival during week three in Charlotte.
Charlotte Raiders fans have a Facebook fan page, so they must be meeting somewhere, right? Even if it’s just to relive the glory days.
St. Louis Rams
On one hand, the Rams haven’t been good in a while. On the other, I still remember hanging a cutout magazine photo of Marshall Faulk on my wall. There have to be some Charlotte fans out there.
Tampa Bay Bucaneers
There’s a Charlotte fan club on Facebook that has some activity. Someone made a joke about a ‘Bucs game starting at 4:15 but probably being over by 4:30 or 4:45, so they’re OK in my book.
The Triangle boasts a Titans fan club, so what’s up Charlotte? We don’t have a ton of southern NFL teams, so maybe this is a proximity issue.
Editor’s note: Yes, this is out of alphabetical order, but it is only appropriate that Atlanta be last. -Andrew
It’s not easy to be fans of the Panthers divisional rival as this conversation attests. Atlanta’s proximity doesn’t help. Maybe fans should just carpool to Georgia’s capital to watch. Or they could stay in town on Sunday Dec. 13 to see their team in person.
(Photo credits: Lebowski’s Facebook page; Cowboys Stars Facebook page; Charlotte Jets Fans Facebook page; Queen City Ravens Facebook page; Da Bears Charlotte Area Fan Club Facebook page; 49er Faithful of Charlotte Facebook page)