Three cheers for sports bars
Top sports bars -- for those times when you want to join the crowd and cheer your favorite team.
Way to go!: Fans whoop it up during airing of "Monday Night Football" at ESPN Zone, which has more than 200 video monitors. (Sun file photo)
So whether you're looking for a relaxed atmosphere or a place where you can cheer and yell at the screen, we've got you covered.
FOR HARD-CORE SPORTS FANS
601 E. Pratt St., 410-685-3776.
The 35,000-square-foot, two-level complex at the Inner Harbor uses state-of-the-art technology to provide the ultimate sports-viewing experience and an all-out assault on the senses. We're talking more than 200 video monitors, including over a dozen in the bathrooms.
ESPN Zone is made up of three components. One is the Studio Grill, where patrons can choose from a menu of more than 70 items (standard bar food mixed in with some entrees) and dine at replicas of ESPN studio broadcasting sets, such as SportsCenter, while they watch the games.
Then there's the Screening Room, which includes a 16-foot video monitor, surrounded by a dozen 36-inch screens, and a video wall that provides the latest scores and statistical updates. Each table has audio speakers (you can choose which game you want to hear) and some have built-in video monitors. If you're really lucky, you may land a seat on one of the seven leather recliners, otherwise known as "Zone Thrones."
Finally, for those who consider themselves athletes in addition to being supporters of athletes, ESPN Zone has the Sports Arena, where more than 200 customers at a time can participate in actual and virtual games.
SO CLOSE TO ESPN, YET SO FAR
Downtowne Sports Exchange
200 W. Pratt St., 410-659-5844.
Downtowne Sports Exchange is within walking distance of ESPN Zone, but the two establishments couldn't be more different. If ESPN Zone is a little too corporate or high-tech for your tastes, this could be the place for you.
Also referred to as DSX and formerly known as Balls, Downtowne Sports Exchange allows you to soak up the atmosphere of the Inner Harbor without all the glitz of the theme restaurants. Operating in a building that was constructed more than two centuries ago, the place has a Fells Point-like charm.
And although Downtowne Sports Exchange may lack some of the amenities of its neighbor down the street, it does have 30 television screens. Customers can view multiple games at once from anywhere in the bar.
As for the food, we recommend the Louisiana clam chowder and the shrimp salad, the latter of which Orioles' Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson has proclaimed to be Baltimore's best, according to the menu. Who are we to argue with No. 5?
FOR THOSE WHO BELIEVE MORE REALLY IS MORE
7000 Arundel Mills Circle, Hanover, 443-755-0113.