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March Madness Deals in Chicago

Check out all the college hoops action on the cheap at these bars.
Thursday Mar 25, 2010.     By Centerstage Chicago Staff
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

NCAA Tournament bar specialsCatch all the NCAA Tournament action at these bars and restaurants.
It's called the most exciting three weeks in sports. Every year, the 65 best college basketball teams are whittled down to one national champion. It's a smorgasbord of TV watching, and these bars have specials to make the action even better.

Just want to watch the games with fellow alums? Check out this comprehensive list of NCAA-affiliated bars.

10pin Bowling Lounge
Need a real spring break? The Grand Prize winner of 10Pin's NCAA bracket contest will get a trip to the Bahamas (other prizes include a Wii, an iPod Touch and Cubs tickets). Tournament drink specials include $5 Svedka and Cruzan rum cocktails and $3 bottles of Bud and Bud Light.

Arrowhead Restaurant and Bar
Throughout the tournament, this Wheaton bar offers $5 22-ounce drafts, $5 bombs, 50-cent wings (during games only, minimum 5) and $5 Jump Shot cocktails (which you can learn to make during a mixology class at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 18 for $10 per person).

The Coach House
You may wonder why you want to go to a living room-themed sports bar when you can just sit in your own living room. Well, in addition to the $1 bottles of Miller High Life and $4 Jim Beam, there's this: submit a ballot with the names of four NCAA coaches during the first weekend of the tournament. Every time one of those coaches wins, you'll get a $10 gift certificate for use at a later date (the only catch is that you've got to be present to take the prize). You'll be able to submit another ballot once the Sweet 16 begins.

The CrossRoads Bar & Grill
Sit at a table made from a whiskey barrel at this West Loop spot, which will offer $3 Bud products, $14 Bud buckets and $5 Jameson all tournament long. Bonus points if you're a Kentucky fan.

It pays to represent your favorite team at this Middle Eastern eatery. Wear some college clothing here during the first four rounds of the tourney, and you'll get a card good for a free appetizer on your next visit.

District Bar
Prizes in the River North bar's bracket contest (available on its website) include gift cards worth up to $250. Just fill it out and bring it in on Thursday for 15 percent off your check. You can also enjoy 10-cent wings and $3 Bud Lights while watching the action on 40 flat-screen TVs.

Duke's Alehouse and Kitchen
Wear college-team apparel to this Crystal Lake bar anytime during the tournament and you'll get 35-cent wings and $3 pints of Sam Adams.

Durty Nellie's
Do you feel lucky? If so, enter the random bracket contest at this Palatine bar. The first 64 guests who enter will each be randomly paired with a different tournament team. The person who lucks out and gets the national champion will win a 40-inch flat-screen TV. There will also be a traditional bracket contest, with the winnertaking home a $500 travel voucher. Durty Nellie's will offer $2.50 stadium cup beer specials and 35-cent wings during the tournament.

Grand Central
Watch all the games while sampling $15 domestic buckets, $20 import buckets and $5 select bombs. The Lincoln Park bar also features an all-you-can-eat $5.99 burger bar during all games.

Harry Caray's
Leave it to a Cubs-centric bar to make the NCAA Tournament about...the Cubs. The winners in Harry's Ultimate NCAA Bracket Challenge (enter at will get to fly on a private jet to see the Cubs take on the Cardinals in St. Louis - from seats behind home plate, of course. The owner of the worst bracket will get a Barry Bonds Bobble Head and an autographed photo of former governor Rod Blagojevich. Tournament specials include a $20 buffet-and-domestic drafts package on March 18 and 19, plus $15 buckets of Miller Lite and Coors Light on every tournament game day at Harry Caray's Tavern in Wrigleyville. The Lombard location will offer $2 drafts of Bud and Bud Light in commemorative pint glasses all tournament long.

The Fifty/50
Food and drink specials abound during the tourney at this Wicker Park hotspot, with a $6 specialty cocktail list including the Dick Vitale-ity (Absolut Berri Acai and wild berry lemonade), the Cinderella Story (Absolut Ruby Red and grapefruit juice), the Airball (Jameson & ginger ale) and the "No, I Didn't Kill My Wife" (Absolut Mandarin and OJ), plus $3 Coors Light bottles, $5 Absolut, $5 Malibu, $6 Jameson and $6 Absolut flavored bombs. Food specials include a $15 appetizer combo with fried chicken wings and nachos. Don't feel like going in? The bar's bracket contest will be available online beginning on Monday, March 15 (with submitted brackets due by Wednesday). Prizes include a free party for up to 30 people featuring a two-hour Absolut hosted bar, an autographed Derrek Lee jersey and free individual registration for a Chicago Sport and Social summer team.

J Bar
Every Wednesday and Thursday during the tournament, stop into this hotel bar for Meat Madness: a 55-day dry-aged ribeye from David Burke's Primehouse, an order of truffle asiago french fries and a beer for $30.

John Barleycorn
Both the Lincoln Park and Wrigleyville locations will be open for all tournament games, serving specials like $1 sliders (burgers, ham & cheese, pulled pork), $15 Bud Light buckets and $18 buckets of Bud Light bottles with a shareable foot-long sub sandwich.

The Lucky Monk
Face it, your bracket is likely to be busted by the time the Sweet 16 rolls around. That's when you should head to this South Barrington bar, where the Beer Bracket will pair the top 16 of the draft and house-brewed beers with each remaining team. Whenever that team plays, the paired beer will be $3 all day.

You'll get a prize just for filling out a bracket here - all entrants receive a $20 gift certificate to use during any NCAA game (specials include $3 Sam Adams and Peak Organic IPA drafts). It pays to win, though, as the top game-picker will get a $250 cocktail card and four tickets to a Cubs game. The runner-up gets six tickets to see Nickelback at Allstate Arena - no word on whether you can trade that in for a lifetime supply of pickles.

Merkle's Bar and Grill
What do sports fans want? We're guessing that $4 22-ounce drafts, $5 bombs and 25-cent wings are high on the list, and you can get all these specials throughout the tournament at this Wrigleyville bar. You can also enter to win two free tickets to the Final Four - that might be something else that sports fans desire, right?

Get a range of beer specials ($10 Miller Lite/Coors Light pitchers, $5.50 22-ounce stadium cups of Coors Light with limited $1 refills) and basketball inspired snacks (including $1.50 tacos) at this North Center bar, which will open at the start of tournament play each day.

Support your team (or any college team) at this entertainment complex's Northbrook and South Barrington locations and you'll get a free game of bowling or bocce. If you really like those games, enter the bracket contest; the winner will enjoy a full year of free fun. Draft beers will be available for $3 on game days.

Rockwood Place
The Wrigleyville bar features game coverage on 16 50-inch flat-screen TVs. Specials throughout the tournament include a$5 bloody mary and mimosa bar, $8 Miller Lite pitchers and $10.99 baby back ribs with choice of side. Additionally, there will be Cubs ticket giveaways every game day and $1 cone of fried cheese curds offered during all Wisconsin games.

Small Bar (Lincoln Park)
The latest entry to the sports-bar-happy 'hood submits its bid for NCAA dominance by offering $4 Metropolitan drafts and $3 Coors Light bottles throughout the tournament. Want to make it even more interesting? Stop by before the tourney starts to get a bracket from a bartender and submit it before 7 p.m. on Monday, March 15. The person with the best picks gets $100, and even losers can be winners, as the person with the worst bracket will get a consolation burger and brew on the house.

Stretch Run
Throughout the tournament, NCAA fans can enjoy $5 20-ounce drafts of Miller Lite and Coors Light, plus a special March Madness menu including mini-crabcakes and an Italian beef sandwich. Don't forget to fill out a bracket between March 14 and March 17.

Tin Lizzie
No matter what day your team's playing, this Lincoln Park bar is a good choice to watch. Tournament specials include $2.50 Miller family bottles and drafts (Thursday), $3 Miller High Life cans (Friday), $3 food and Miller High Life cans (Saturday), $3 drinks (Sunday), $2.50 Miller Lite drafts (Monday), $2.50 Miller Lite bottles (Tuesday) and half-price drinks (Wednesday).

The Venue at Horseshoe Casino
At this casino, you can bet for free! Winners on the first two days of the tourney (March 18-19) will take home $5,000, but even if you don't win, you can enjoy $2 drafts, a free breakfast buffet (10 a.m.-noon), poker all day and visits from the Chicago Bliss Lingerie Football team and Hooters girls. See the website for more information.



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  • Big City Tap
    $3.50 all Absolut flavored drinks
  • Jackhammer
    $2 MGD, Miller Lite and Bud Light, $3 premium domestics and imports
  • Gallery Cabaret
    $3 bottles of Jever Pilsener and Huber Bock