Best Bars: Cheer On

Champions of the sports-bar scene
Sports Bar All-Stars
Cleats Club Seat Grille // Handled our huge party after a Browns game like LeBron driving to the hoop: effortless. Plus, TVs set to any games we wanted.

Harry Buffalo // We head to the Buff for the food (a buffalo burger, maybe) but always end up staying for the game. The crowds are young and enthusiastic.

Thirst & Ten // A sports bar that shares our die-hard obsession with every win and loss, every play and every bad call. And when we’re down, there’s always the $2 happy hour. 15299 Sheldon Road, Middleburg Heights, 216-362-8000

Upper Deck Sports Cafe // Grabbing a seat at the bar is rarely a problem. Nor is ordering a beer: We’ll have the $1.75 beer of the month, please. 375 W. Bagley Road, Berea, 440-891-7427,

Winking Lizard // Wings? Check. $4.25, 32-ounce beer specials? Check. Live lizard? Got it. TV view at every seat? Uh-huh. A chance to see the world through 100 beer glasses? Sign us up! We want that jacket.
The Boneyard
We are a sports town from our Varejao wigs to our frostbitten toes, with sports bars that bleed orange, brown, wine, gold, blue, red ... you get the picture. And honestly, it’s overkill. The Broadview Heights outpost of the local Boneyard chain does sports and does them better than most. We’re always surprised when sports bars slap up a ton of TVs so small you can’t see the ref to scream at him. That’s not a problem here. Tiered seating in the dining room (yes, an actual dining room area, separate from the hard-core fans bellied up to the bar) means you’ll always have a view of a large TV. Three wide balconies of booths and tables stair-step down from the bar toward a wall featuring four massive projection screens. For a little extra in-bar entertainment, the Boneyard even has a deal with the Cavs to do watch parties (which rotate between locations). During certain away games, the entire Q crew shows up, from Cavs girls to the Scream Team and the announcers. It’s fun, and it’s all family friendly. Co-owner Derrick Downie didn’t want the Boneyard to cater just to the beer-swilling, beer-bellied, Fox Sports DVR-ing fanatics whom we all know and love. He wanted the Boneyard to appeal to everyone. So while a Cavs game played on one screen during our visit, another showed something we weren’t expecting: The Jetsons. Good call, Derrick.
 = $4  = $7

Panini’s Bar and Grill
Yeah, it’s frustrating to be a Cleveland sports fan. We yell. We cry. Sometimes we even turn away from the TV in shame. Especially at a bar, it’s hard to hide from the replays of that fumble, that strikeout or that missed shot on every screen in the joint. But at Panini’s in Strongsville, you can tune out or watch whatever you choose. With nine booths outfitted with 20-inch TVs and remote controls, the power is in your hands. Don’t agree with Eric Mangini’s play calls? That’s cool. Just change the channel. If you can’t score a booth, don’t worry. This place is still capable of serving your sport needs with a total of 31 other TVs for maximum viewing pleasure. And owner Chris Russo didn’t forget about the kiddos either. He has dedicated receivers set to channels such as Nickelodeon so SpongeBob SquarePants can entertain the rest of your family while you cheer on the Tribe. And while you’re here, grab an overstuffed sandwich: fresh Italian bread holding together layers of fries, coleslaw, tomatoes, cheese and meat. It’s enough to make fans forget their heartache. 14952 Pearl Road, Strongsville, 440-878-2200,
 = $2.75  = $5

RJ Boland’s Restaurant & American Saloon
As we tire of cliché-ridden sports bars with walls blanketed in jerseys and old team photos, we welcome RJ Boland’s approach to game day: no nonsense, good views of the action and a side of class. Each booth has a flat screen TV, two at booths built for larger parties. With 27 sets in all, it is doubtful you’ll miss a replay. The menu offers the wings and sliders we’ve come to expect from sports bars, but it is backed by the culinary experience of chef Doug Fulton, who hails from Blake’s Seafood and Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse. Under Fulton’s watch, RJ Boland’s scores with more refined options such as sesame-crusted ahi tuna and filet mignon. After the East Coast game clock expires and the young party crowd assails, TVs turn from sports to music videos, and some tables are cleared for a dance floor. Especially after a game down the street at The Q, you’ll wait for a beer at the bar and struggle to hear conversation over those shouting along to classic Madonna. But give it enough time, and drinks, and you’ll join in the chorus. 724 Prospect Ave., Cleveland, 216-938-8947,
= $3.50  = $6-$7

Harpo’s Sports Cafe

TV as art is a neat trick to pull off, and Harpo’s handles it with a flourish. A precise troop of television screens marches in an even row and forms a flashy, colorful border around the cavernous room. The crowd is heavy on locals, peppered liberally with square-jawed, sweatshirt-wearing men with a capital “M.” Maybe this is their man cave. Buying a 22-ounce PBR for $1.50 is sure as heck easier than piping heat and electricity out to the shed. And while you might be in sole control of the clicker in some fantastical, men-only sports den, here all you have to do is shift your eyes. Dozens of satellites and an integrated switching system provide access to any and every sporting event, even wrestling matches and pay-per-view boxing, so on a given night college athletes, pro sportscasters and the billiard championship could be fighting for your attention across 82 TVs (six of them big screens). And if there’s something else you want to see, just ask. “We can be creative and put the programming wherever you are sitting,” says owner Eddie Allman. “Someone was in here the other day, they wanted to watch Fox News, we put it on in front of them. Why not?” But if for some reason you actually want to escape the madness (or you’re watching the Browns), just head upstairs for pool, darts, Golden Tee and other man cave favorites. The only thing missing is the Barcalounger. 5777 Smith Road, Brook Park, 216-267-7777,
= $3.75  = $6 

Going Out Guide

 serves food; kitchen closes before midnight
 serves food; kitchen open after midnight
 singles spot
 live music regularly
  average cost of a beer
 average cost of a cocktail
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