The Sporting Crowd

No Final Four tickets? No problem -- just grin and bar it!

So your team has made it all the way to St. Louis for the Final Four, and so have you. But despite all your passionate school spirit, despite all the blood, sweat and cash you've dropped to trek to the Gateway City, you find yourself standing outside the Edward Jones Dome looking in.

How about a sports bar? It beats watching the game lying on a double bed in your hotel room, and St. Louis boasts some fine spots to catch all the action, places where commiserating will turn into commingling with fellow fervent fans. And admission will only cost you a little shoe leather, or a few extra bucks' cab fare.

Only a hop, skip and a jump shot away from the Dome, the brand-new pub Flannery's (1320 Washington Avenue; 314-241-8885) forgoes the grimy ambiance of most sports bars. It's a clean, well-lighted place with a straightforward, satisfying bar-food menu. Snag a stool at the bar and you'll have the best seat in the house, ticket holders be damned; there are plenty of TVs built right into the wall behind it. Smack-dab along downtown's club-central strip, Flannery's will put you in prime position for postgame partying. Or head a block east to Tucker Boulevard by foot after the final buzzer and you'll likely find yourself in the midst of all the rowdy, car-honking, dancing-in-the-streets revelers streaming away from Edward Jones.

If you happen to be staying at the Sheraton City Center on the south side of downtown, you're in luck: There's a great sports bar in the lobby, Jacques (400 South 14th Street; 314-231-5007). A large-screen projection TV and 28 additional sets mean there ain't a bad seat in the house -- and a house that measures 10,000 square feet makes for plenty of seats to go around.

Along the outskirts of downtown, about a five-minute taxi ride away, the Schlafly Tap Room (2100 Locust Street; 314-241-2337) stands as a red-brick Valhalla of all things suds -- and on big-game nights, all things sports as well. Schlafly beers -- a local favorite, the scrappy underdog to the Anheuser-Busch empire -- have been brewed on-site here since 1991, and the Tap Room's menu is renowned for its extensive spread of pub-grub classics, like fish and chips (arguably the best in the city), grilled bratwurst and pretzel sticks, plus worldlier fare ranging from pâté to goat-cheese rarebit to wiener schnitzel. Even the fries come with homemade ketchup. This bar/restaurant is sprawling, but head to the North Bar for the TV sets and the pool table (a perfect way to pass the time at halftime). Though there are just a pair of screens here, ardent sports fans find this a great room for watching games.

Want to drown your sorrows in bosoms as well as booze? Cab it down the industrial-wasteland stretch of South Broadway to DB's Sports Bar (1615 South Broadway; 314-588-2141), where a bevy of scantily attired, cleavage-packing waitresses awaits, ready to serve you up a DB's Famous sandwich: a hot, open-faced ham-and-Provel-cheese specialty that looks pretty average but tastes pretty great. Ask a local to fill you in on Provel, an only-in-St. Louis "delicacy," while taking in the game from whatever-which angle -- at DB's, TV sets are stuck into every nook and cranny except the servers'.

If you prefer to forget about your Edwards Jones shutout by getting as far away from courtside as possible, you've still got some good bets. Tom's Bar & Grill (20 South Euclid Avenue; 314-367-4900) is a just-plain-folks joint improbably located in the chic Central West End, where college hoops fans routinely congregate during the regular season. (In St. Louis, it can be hard to find an establishment willing to change the channel on a Cardinals game any time of year -- even when baseball's still in preseason and it's Final Four weekend.) The family-friendly Weber's Front Row (8169 Big Bend Boulevard; 314-961-4500) in the suburb of Webster Groves attracts parents with kids, college coeds from nearby Webster University and wackadoo sports fans who actually like to watch bass fishing, Australian-rules football and the Tour de France. (Don't worry; with thirteen TV sets here, you'll get your game on.) And if you're up for it, hightail it about twenty miles west to St. Charles, where you'll be rewarded with the 34-foot video wall and banquettes decked out with private TV sets at Amerisports Bar & Grill (1260 Main Street, St. Charles; 636-940-4935), nestled inside the Ameristar Casino. How better to re-enact the thrills of victory and the agonies of defeat than with an all-night game of craps?

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