First the White Sox broke an 88-year World Series slump. Now can the NFC North champion Bears win it all 20 years after Iron Mike's iron defense brought Chicago its last Super Bowl (and "Super Bowl Shuffle")? Not interested in dropping all your cash on Soldier Field access to playoff games? We've rounded up the next-best thing: These South Loop bars provide cheap seats and eats in the shade of the stadium. Heck, it's practically tailgating, from the comfort of a barstool. If only the Bears could be so lucky.
You don't have to be an oldtimer to remember the Bears' last championship; just hearing the "Super Bowl Shuffle" brings us back to the glory days. But if you're looking for a spot longer in the tooth than the team itself, Kasey's Tavern is the oldest pub on the block. Well, make that every city block, save one. (Kasey's scored Chicago liquor license No. 2; the Berghoff nabbed the first). Opened in 1889, Kasey's now celebrates game days with $2 Coors cans, $3 domestic bottles and select $3 shots. Big bowls of chili ($2) and hot dogs ($2) are offered only on Sundays. Two 46-inch plasmas and three other big screens all make the game an easy catch for the crowd, a mix of neighborhoodies and nearby college students.
Luck of the Irish
Bears fans who remember 2001's miraculous 13-3 season know some of those wins were--well, let's just say luck was on our side. We're going to need some of that good fortune this year, and what better way to conjure it up than at an Irish pub? Plop down at Hackney's Printers Row for the Irish breakfast ($7.95), offered on game days. Not an early eater? Wait until 1 p.m. for the regular lunch menu, and chow down on a half-pound Hackney burger ($7.95) or onion rings ($4.95 half order; $5.95 full order). Hackney's subscribes to NFL Sunday Ticket for its two TVs; let's hope this is the year our hometeam finds its own lucky ticket.
No matter how much you love the Bears, the end of the game can be a downer. Cactus Bar and Grill helps ease anticlimactic finishes by kick-starting the real party postgame, with a marathon of DJs spinning house music until midnight; regulars include DJ Brian Gardner, Derrick Carter and Mazi. During the game--shown on several of 22 TVs, ranging from 27 inches to 8-foot giant screens--enjoy Cactus' weekend menu with options like wings ($4.95-$8.95) and burgers ($7.45).
Hungry for a win
If there's anything that goes better with football than beer and barbecue, we sure haven't found it. Get your fill of game day fixin's at Ethyl's Party with $2.50 domestic bottles and free food. That's right, free food! Burgers, brats and more are served around 1:30 p.m. on game days as either a halftime lunch or a warmup for a later game. You're sure to find the Bears on at least two of the three TVs at this bar, fashioned out of a funeral home. That's almost as bone-chilling for Bears fans as just hearing the name "Brett Favre."
There's no question about it: The Bears are a blue-collar team. They don't have any prima donnas like T.O. or pretty boys like Jason Taylor. To catch the game somewhere as focused on hard work as they are, head to Paulie's Place, a simple "shot and a beer" spot, where sports are always on but aren't made out to be more than a game. Most beers and drinks are around $2.50, and while the only food offered is peanuts, chips and pretzels, outside eats are allowed. The crowds are rarely large for sporting events, so this is your best bet if you want to watch the game without fighting for a seat.
We're in this together
When rookie QB Kyle Orton kicks into gear, you'll be high five-ing fellow Bears fans left and right who still can't believe Jonathan Quinn (or Chad Hutchinson or Henry Burris or Moses Moreno ) was ever our starter. At Kitty O'Shea's, you'll never lack for widespread team loyalty; the bar stays packed all day, with as many as 100 people lining up an hour before the 10 a.m. opening to snag a seat. Go long for the game-day special of Hail Mary Bloody ($6.50), and munch authentic grub like Irish stew ($11.25), and corned beef and cabbage ($11.25).
More Bears lairs
Not heading south for the winter? Snag a seat at these spots with game-day specials
Just opened. Specials include: free half-time buffet of hot dogs, nachos and beef sandwiches; NFL Sunday Ticket subscriber
Specials include: $2.75 Smirnoff bloody mary buffet, personal tabletop speakers; NFL Sunday Ticket subscriber
Celtic Crown Public House
Specials include: $3 Miller Lite personal pitchers, 25 cent wings, $1 burgers during games, $3 Long Island iced teas, $2.75 Smirnoff bloody mary buffet; NFL Sunday Ticket subscriber
Matt Pais is a metromix intern. email@example.com Originally published September 14, 2005. Updated Jan. 3, 2006.