FROM THE ARCHIVES: Guide to UK-themed bars across the nation

ssloan@herald-leader.comMarch 3, 2011 

  • INTERNATIONAL SORTA

    Albania and Kosovo

    These aren't constant places, but we couldn't pass up these great Wildcat fan tales from Lexington orthodontist Mike Child.

    In 2008, Child was doing dental mission work in Kosovo and went on a sightseeing trip with friends to Albania.

    "Our destination was a small mountaintop restaurant, accessed by a very long, narrow gravel road. On the way up, we passed shepherds on horseback tending their flocks," Child said.

    The owner of the remote restaurant became very excited when he saw Child's UK T-shirt and ran into a back room.

    "He emerged holding his two UK Wildcat hoodies and said 'Go Big Blue' in Albanian," Child said. "My friends translated and told me he had a brother in Kentucky and followed UK basketball on the Internet."

    The next year, Child was in Ukraine to adopt a child and spotted a man wearing a UK shirt. He asked him about it, and the man responded, "Patrick Sparks gave it to me," and pointed to a nearby restaurant.

    It turns out the former Wildcat, who was playing on a Ukrainian professional team, was in the city for a game.

This story was published on March 4, 2011, before that year's University of Kentucky men's basketball team was playing in the SEC tournament. Much of this information is still relevant but keep in mind that this story has not been updated for the 2014 NCAA tournament. Call ahead before making plans.

For the UK men's basketball squad, it's been good to be the home team this year. Legions of fans have cheered them on to a perfect Rupp Arena record.

But what of fans elsewhere, the Wildcat diaspora, if you will?

Even though the Cats have faltered away from their home court this year, their adoring supporters haven't. Alumni across the country, and even around the world, cheer on the blue and white with vigor.

Here's a sampling of bars across the country (and one overseas) where you can proudly wear your UK apparel on game days as you travel, scream for the Cats as loud as you want and not be looked at as if you were a blue-clad fool. (Use an interactive map of the bars.)

It comes just in time for Sunday's away game against Tennessee (we even tracked down two Wildcat dens deep in Volunteer country: Knoxville) and the start of the SEC Tournament next week.

Web sites are generally for the bar or restaurant but sometimes are for the alumni chapter. To see even more clubs, go to Ukalumni.net, click on "Clubs, groups & young alums" and then click on "Find a club in your area."

CALIFORNIA

Mr. Pockets Sports Bar, 516 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Manhattan Beach (suburb of Los Angeles). Mrpockets.com.

Capitol City, 1615 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood. Capcitysports.com.

Bitter enemies have turned friends in Los Angeles. UK fans tend to gather with University of Louisville faithful at Mr. Pockets, says John Steinlage, who heads the UK alumni chapter there.

Capitol City also is another good gathering spot for the Big Blue Nation, but because Los Angeles is so large, the group tends to move around. For more information, e-mail him at jsteinlage@earthlink.net.

Zeke's Sports Bar & Grill, 600 Third St., San Francisco.

Generally, 30 to 40 fans gather for major basketball games, reader Ashley Mason says. The members of the local UK alumni chapter have been heading there since UK came from 31 points behind to beat LSU in 1994, Mason said.

The walls feature numerous Cats posters and banners, a plaque from the UK Alumni Association celebrating 15 years of UK sports-watching at Zeke's, and the lid of a Maker's Mark bourbon barrel.

Mason said the staff at Zeke's are good sports and host an annual Kentucky-themed potluck that sees everyone "bring their own versions of country ham, biscuits, cheese grits, Derby pie, etc."

COLORADO

College Inn, 4400 E. Eighth Ave., Denver. Collegeinndenver.com.

The Colorado UK Alumni Club meets to watch each game at this restaurant and bar. To reach the club, email uk.alumni.denver@gmail.com.

FLORIDA

Palm Beach Ale House, 2161 Palm Beach Lakes Blvd., West Palm Beach. Palmbeachalehouse.com.

A group of self-professed "snow birds" has watched the games at the Ale House for about a decade, reader Bob Jones said. The managers love it, and they "bought our waitress a Kentucky shirt to wear," he said.

Beef O'Brady's, 2819 S. MacDill Ave., Tampa. Uktampabay.com.

The game-watching home of Tampa Bay's UK alumni chapter features UK posters and schedules, and special pricing on beer, wings and Maker's Mark, reader Rick Hardesty says. The group also hangs a UK flag along the street each game day.

Buffalo Wild Wings, 900 State Road 436, Casselberry (suburb of Orlando).

Accompanied by an inflatable Wildcat and a banner, 50 to 100 fans typically fill a private room at the chicken-wing chain, reader Jim Cain says. To be placed on the group's mailing list, e-mail lemoinea@embarqmail.com.

Stevie Tomato’s Sports Page, 25271 Chamber of Commerce Dr., Bonita Springs. Stevietomatossportspage.com.

Locals in the area gather to watch all football and basketball games, reader Bill Janes said.

GEORGIA

Stout Irish Pub, 56 E. Andrews Dr. NW, No. 16, Atlanta. Stoutirishpub.com.

TJ's Sports Bar & Grill, 2880 Holcomb Bridge Rd., Alpharetta (suburb of Atlanta). Tjssportsbar.com.

Fans in Catlanta frequent both establishments, says Jeffrey Neil Burch, president of the Greater Atlanta alumni chapter.

The Stout Irish Pub's upstairs is decorated with Wildcat banners and is a favorite among younger alumni, Burch said. TJ's has its share of pennants and banners, and offers fans discounts during the games. It even offered a free buffet for the game against Louisville this season.

The club will hold a pep rally at the Georgia World Congress Center before UK's first game in the SEC tournament next week. For more details, go to UKfan.net.

ILLINOIS

The Pony, 1638 W. Belmont, Chicago. Theponychicago.com/alumni.

The Pony makes T-shirts every season for UK's die-hard fans, says Diane Massie, president of the national UK Alumni Association and past president of the Chicago chapter. This year's version claimed that the bar is "My New Kentucky Home." The bar also has a drink called "The Big Blue" on its permanent menu. It's made of vodka, white grape juice, blue Curaçao and a splash of Sprite.

INDIANA

The Stacked Pickle, 12545 Old Meridian St., Suite. 150, Carmel. Stackedpickle.com.

Wildcat fan Rob Qualls said the restaurant’s owner graciously hung a UK banner he bought.

NEVADA

Buffalo Wild Wings, 7345 S. Durango Dr., Las Vegas.

Although the local UK fans gather at Buffalo Wild Wings, their game-watching sites differ often, says Pete Arriola, vice president of the local alumni chapter.

For those pesky noon home games that tip off at 9 a.m. in the West, the group sometimes meets at bars off the Strip that serve breakfast. During the tournament, they often gather on the Strip to join with Cats fans who travel there to gamble on the games.

Arriola encourages fans to e-mail uklasvegasalumni@gmail.com for more information.

NEW YORK

Jack Demsey's, 36 West 33rd St., New York. Jackdemseys.com or NYCukalumni.com.

The game-watching home of the New York chapter of the UK Alumni Association, Jack Demsey's flies a UK flag underneath its outside sign.

Gov. Steve Beshear and his wife, Jane, visited during this season's Indiana game and had a great time with the fans, spokeswoman Kerri Richardson said.

Heather Dueitt, president of the local alumni chapter, said former UK players Ramel Bradley and Joe Crawford also frequent the place when they're in town.

NORTH CAROLINA

IceHouse, 2100 South Blvd., Charlotte. Icehousesouthend.com.

Gathering deep in enemy territory are 30 or so Cats fans, who readily admit it's "tough to find a local UK watering hole," said Keith Carlson, co-president of the local alumni club within the Charlotte region. "We are competing with a very loyal UNC, Wake Forest, Duke and N.C. State following in the Charlotte area, but IceHouse has welcomed our attendance."

Buffalo Brothers, 4025 Lake Boone Trail, Suite. 101, Raleigh. Buffbrothers.com.

Deep in Atlantic Coast Conference country, the Triangle Area UK Alumni Club meets at various places during the basketball and football seasons but will be at Buffalo Brothers for UK’s Final Four appearance this weekend. “We may be outnumbered by the ACC fans here, but they do not compare with us in terms of our devotion and enthusiasm for our team,” said reader Susan Lohr, a member of the group. To be added to the group’s email notification list, contact President Bob Hall at bhall88@nc.rr.com.

OHIO

Chubby's, 1846 Hard Rd., Columbus.

With Ohio State University in Columbus, there isn't any UK paraphernalia on the walls, "except for a small UK sign my 9-year-old daughter made while there for a game," reader Dale Jefferson said. "They taped it up, and it's still there."

SOUTH CAROLINA

Steamer Seafood, 1 N. Forest Beach Dr., No. 28, Coligny Plaza, Hilton Head. Steamerseafood.com.

Kentucky native Dale Augenstein's restaurant features plenty of UK memorabilia and often hires Kentucky college students in the summers, reader Joe Nell Barnett says.

Captain Woody’s Bar & Grill, Palmetto Bay Marina, Hilton Head, S.C.

The restaurant is owned and operated by a native Kentuckian, said reader J.B. Johnson Jr. Feel free to chat up the bartender, who’s a Kentuckian, too, Johnson said.

Corner Pocket Taproom, 21 Coffee St., Greenville. Cornerpockettaproom.com.

The Upstate South Carolina Alumni Club meets for all basketball and football games at the restaurant, said President Price Atkinson.

TENNESSEE

The Spice Rack Cantina, 7727 Kingston Pike, Knoxville. Spicerackcantina.com.

Wild Wing Café, 11335 Campbell Lakes Dr., Farragut (suburb of Knoxville). Wildwingcafe.com.

The local UK fans tend to move around to watch games because they find it tough to persuade the Volunteers fans to let them take over a place, says Kendra Wadsworth, who is involved in the local alumni chapter. "If Tennessee is playing, forget it, period, unless they are playing us," she says. Sounds like good news for Sunday.

For more information, e-mail her at wildcatsinknoxville@gmail.com.

TEXAS

Fox and Hound, 17575 Tomball Pkwy., Houston. Foxandhound.com.

Orange Sports Bar, 1613 Richmond Ave., Houston.

The Greater Houston UK Alumni Club meets for each basketball and football game, President Tom Mathews said. The group also organizes an annual Kentucky Derby party, which supports a scholarship for a Houston-area student to attend UK. Other group events include wine tastings and a recent Houston Rockets basketball game, after which player and former Wildcat Chuck Hayes came and spoke to the gathering, Mathews said. “He was so gracious,” he said. “He took a lot of time with the kids.”

Austin Avenue Grill and Sports Bar, 935 West Parker Rd., Plano (suburb of Dallas). Austinavenue.com.

Pennants and hangings are up all year, reader Carolyn Wilhite says.

WASHINGTON, D.C.

Grevey's. 8130 Arlington Blvd., Falls Church, Va. Greveys.com.

The restaurant in the D.C. suburbs is owned by former UK standout Kevin Grevey, who ranks seventh in scoring in UK history and played for the former Washington Bullets in the NBA.

The bar is often covered in blue and white for big games, says UK alum Tim Salyers, who has lived in the D.C. area since 2002. Old game programs and other UK memorabilia, including a framed Ron Mercer jersey, decorate the entrance and interior, Salyers said.

During this season's UK-U of L game, Grevey arranged a raffle for Maker's Mark and had ticket giveaways for the Washington Wizards, reader Teresa Ensor says.

"We are all hoping he gets John Wall in there soon," she said. The former Wildcat now plays for the Washington Wizards.

INTERNATIONAL

Paradise Beer Garden, Fields Ave., Angeles City, Philippines. Paradisebeergarden.ph.

If the local fans aren't gathering at the home of Walter Napier, they're at the Beer Garden, the reader says. Decorations aren't available there, "but our spirits makes up for this," he says. For more information, e-mail him at wnapier@hotmail.com.

Reach Scott Sloan at (859) 231-1447 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 1447.

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