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Team-affiliated bars make up for lack of Chicago college football teams

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It’s the weekend, college football is on and you’re trying to figure out which bar is best for your food, drinks and football consumption. Many bars around Chicago draw you in with their “specials of the day”, while others provide more of a football atmosphere that can draw even non-football school students into the frenzy.

Houndstooth is the only bar in Chicago affiliated with the University of Alabama, located in Wrigleyville on the corner of Clark and Racine.

On game day you may find yourself crammed inside amongst a sea of red jerseys with one Tide helmet as the lone ornament. Once in the back room, you’re greeted by pictures of past successes covering the walls alongside signed memorabilia, catalogs of former players and legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, all underneath block letters sticking to the wall reading, “ROLL TIDE.”

So what specials does Houndstooth offer? Saturday pitchers for $12, $3 cans and $4 bombs. If you’re hungry, Mondays are 25 cent wings or Fridays are half off food 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. 

“People from the South really love their whisky,” said Mary Kate, bartender of five years describing customers she gets from the southern states. “Every time they come in, they order, and every time they leave I have to restock; I’m not even sure how they find us up here, I think it’s word of mouth being the only Tide bar in Chicago.”

The Crimson Tide are well represented in Chicago, as well as hated rival Auburn, who has their own affiliations with the bar Waterhouse, located at Paulina and Lincoln near the Brown Line train in Lakeview.

At first, Waterhouse isn’t as festive in the college sense, it’s open patio leading inside to a Halloween theme décor brings in a different festive feeling. The front bar is stocked with bottles leading up the wall as fake spiders crawl down, booths with personal TVs leading to the back bar surround by people, as well as pumpkins and ghosts order their preferred sweet drink.

Waterhouse specials include Saturday and Sunday brunch between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. with $15 BudLight buckets/sangria and $15 champagne bottles. For weekday specials, Thursdays are $4 all day draft beers (16 choices), Tuesday and Wednesdays are Kinky Trivia and Group Trivia (prizes included).

“Our brunch special is our big seller for people wanting to come eat, drink and enjoy the game,” Tony Valentino said, the manager of Waterhouse for two and a half years.

While the bar lacks traditional Auburn colors, Valentino says they still get huge turnouts every game day.

“On a regular game day we may get seventy people from the alumni association (Auburn alumni), but when it’s a rivalry game, well over a hundred,” Valentino said.

“They live close by, liked our game day specials, [they] come to have fun and hope sometimes we give back to their Alumni foundation.”

While bars with alumni associations are fun they don’t always stay associated. Matt Novak has worked at Gamekeepers, which used to be a Louisiana State University (LSU), bar for the past year and watched as it has become associated now with the University of North Carolina (UNC).

“They didn’t give a heads up, they just up and left. But this place has been associated with UNC for a while now,” Novak said. “It gets fun for football but the basketball season and the rivalry games versus Duke are when this place can get crazy.”

Crazy is good at a place like Gamekeepers.

When you first walk in the front room, you’re taken back at how huge it is, with a punch out machine to test your strength in the corner and a dartboard to test your accuracy hanging on the wall. In the back, a pool table and DJ booth playing music keeps your enjoyment going; then get ready to check out the specials. 

Aside from the traditional specials (Saturday and Sunday $6 Smirnoff Bloody Mary’s and $5 bombs), the unique thing about Gamekeepers is that it’s in direct supply from the bar at Chapel Hill, He’s Not Here. There they run promotional items from the University local bar to Gamekeepers throughout the year. One from the following NCAA tournament last year was a fan cup giveaway from the bar itself.

“It’s a way for people to feel more associated with the team and the school itself,” Novak said. “It can get pretty crazy around tournament time, especially the early rounds because we get a lot of people in here and we have the space to do it.”

Each bar offers a diverse experience for individuals. For DePaul students who lack a football team and may be looking for bars with teams closer associated with the Big Ten, here’s a list of bars to check out. 

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Team-affiliated bars make up for lack of Chicago college football teams