Where to let your soccer freak flag fly
Starting today, crazed soccer fans, neophytes swept up in the hype and pretty much everyone in between will have their eyeballs stuck to screens to watch the 2014 FIFA World Cup, which can be called the biggest event on the planet with no exaggeration.
By definition, it’s overwhelming, a culturally nuanced and overstimulating stew of athletic heroics, drama, anguish and sweaty dudes with super-cool haircuts.
Where will futbol fans in Philadelphia take in all this action? Here’s our guide to some of the best places in the area to appreciate the Beautiful Game, from big, brassy bars that specialize in the sport to smaller spots with fervent foreign followings.
"We don’t get into soccer just because it’s the World Cup," said Brauhaus Schmitz co-owner Doug Hager. "It’s what we do all year." He’s not lying.
The restaurant and bierhall, with its dual bars, big menu, 10 televisions and 10-foot projection screen (even more HD sets are coming) is a stronghold for supporters of German Bundesliga squads. The Teutonic loyalty will carry over to the Copa Mundial, and there’s no question who Hager, a dual German-American citizen, is pulling for.
"We’re cheering for Germany first and the U.S. second," he said.
Stakes are infinitely higher in 2014, too, with both nations — Germany a heavy favorite, us Yanks a clear underdog — joining Portugal and Ghana in one of the tourney’s entry-round "Groups of Death."
In another dramatic wrinkle, Jürgen Klinsmann, the USA’s German-born manager, formerly coached his home country’s national team and won the 1990 World Cup as a West German player.
The teams will face each other June 26, but Brauhaus has plenty planned before and after. The manageable time difference between the East Coast and Brazil means most matches will air live during normal functioning-human hours, and Brauhaus will be screening every one.
Seating for all matches is first-come, first-served, no reservations. There is a $10 door charge for all Germany games (no cover for other matches), which includes a voucher for your first drink. There’s also a $60 VIP option, with perks like free food and an open bar.
For the championship game, scheduled for July 13, Hager has rented a 20-foot screen that’s nearly the width of South Street for a bier-fueled block party.
Brauhaus Schmitz, 718 South St., 267-909-8814, brauhausschmitz.com.
Those who frequent Northern Liberties’ 700 are no strangers to a loud night out — its granny-parlor-like second floor is commandeered by DJs three nights a week, after all.
But Ed Farnsworth has no trouble pinpointing the noisiest moment he’s witnessed since the place opened 17 years ago: the United States’ Landon Donovan burying the game-winning goal against Algeria in the group stage of the 2010 World Cup.
"The bar was literally shaking with the noise," said Farnsworth, a 700 employee and its point person for all things footy. "I still get goosebumps when I think of that moment."
With Donovan controversially left off America’s 2014 Cup roster, there’s no chance of an encore, but the 700 is still anticipating lively attendance. The laidback neighborhood bar didn’t even have a TV for its first decade in business, but ever since they added one it’s become a gathering place for Philly’s soccer faithful, drawing crowds for MLS, European pro league and international matches.
"If the Union, the U.S. national teams or a big game from abroad is on at the same time as one of the other Philly sports teams, we’ll be showing soccer," said Farnsworth, also the editor of phillysoccerpage.net.
Decorated with club scarves, the bar also caters to well-attuned booze lovers with around 90 beers (10 taps, two beer engines) and a wide selection of craft spirits. The crowd’s typically well-informed, but Farnworth stresses that it’s a comfortable place for fans of all familiarity levels. "People aren’t looking down their noses at you if you’re new to the game," he said.
The 700, 700 N. 2nd St., 215-413-3181, the700.org.
CITY TAP HOUSE
Home to the largest on-tap beer selection in Philadelphia, this West Philly pub is taking advantage of the tournament’s global spirit with a series of themed specials and events. Throughout Cup play, they’ll pour Carlsberg Lager, from Denmark, and Estrella Lager, from Spain, for $5 a pop.
They’ll also run a series of one-off beer-and-food pairings based around competing countries; think fish and chips and Wells & Young’s beers for England, or tempura-battered softshell crab with Hitachino Nest beers for Japan (both teams play Saturday).
City Tap House, 3925 Walnut St., 215-662-0105, citytaphouse.com.
SAMBA AS YOU CHEER
Brazilian-owned businesses throughout the city are getting into the host-country action. Head to the Northeast, where restaurants like Picanha Brazilian Grill (6501 Castor Ave.) and Casa Brazil BBQ (6222 Bustleton Ave.) will screen match action during lunch and dinner. Load up on skewered meats and cheer on the Verde-Amarela (green and yellow), a strong Cup contender.
MEXICO IN PHILLY
Down in the Italian Market, the city’s contingent of Mexican fans will watch their boys in green on screens at taquerias like Don Chuco’s (1108-10 S. 9th St.), Mole Poblano (1144 S. 9th St.) and the awesomely luchador-mask-decorated Los Taquitos de Puebla (1149 S. 9th St.).
Sister bars Jose Pistola’s (263 S. 15th St.) and Sancho Pistola’s (19 W. Girard Ave.) will celebrate their shared American and Mexican heritage with thematic food — güero-style ground kobe hardshell tacos and Mexico City hot dogs wrapped in bacon — during every game.
Drew Lazor has been writing about the local food scene since 2005. His twice-monthly column focuses on unexpected people doing unexpected things in Philadelphia food. If you come across a chef, restaurant, dish or food-related topic that bears investigation, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @drewlazor.