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Co-owner Krissy Wallace pours beer at Jack's Sports Pub and Grill on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013 in Fremont, Calif. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)
When I sat down to list my favorite sports bars between Fremont and San Leandro, the Louvre came immediately to mind.
For those who just spit out their morning coffee, let me explain.
My favorite sports bars never lose sight of what they are -- unpretentious places for fans to watch their favorite teams, throw back some drinks and munch on greasy, guilty pleasures they swear they'll stop eating after New Year's Day.
Likewise, the Louvre Museum in Paris -- home to da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" -- is world-famous because it stays focused on its own simple goal: presenting some of the planet's greatest art. Nothing more, nothing less. You want corn dogs and microbrews? Leave the museum and go to a sports bar.
Beauty in simplicity is the key ingredient a hoity-toity museum or a beer-stained sports tavern actually share. They may not have a lot of variety but the few things they do, they do well. That's what separates southern Alameda County's many ordinary sports bars from the great ones.
With 35 college football bowl games scheduled this winter, and 20 of them to be played between Monday and Jan. 6, this week is the perfect time to check them out. So, here are my top five local sports bars: Jack's Brewing Co.: This Fremont brewery is the poster child for the keep-it-simple-yet-good credo. On its menu you'll find six microbrews, seven types of wine, three ciders and choices of food -- burgers, sandwiches, salads -- that are simple yet tasty. The U-shaped bar sits in the center of the rectangular room, where 13 televisions are surrounded by framed photos of Bay Area sports legends in action. Chaplin's Sports Bistro: This Union City tavern illustrates how to tailor a sports spot to a region's demographics. Its menu features lumpia and other Filipino dishes in a city where 1 of every 5 residents and 1 of every 3 students is of Filipino heritage. Chaplin's also turns its quirks into its strengths. To get there, visitors have to drive through a warehouse district on the western side of town, but the bar's ample number of TVs and friendly wait staff make the drive worth it. Sinodinos Steakhouse: A country farmhouse offering Italian-American food is an unlikely spot for a sports bar, but this Newark cocktail lounge pulls it off. A "continuous happy hour" from 3 p.m. to closing, every day, offers mixed drinks for as little as $3 and fried calamari and other bar fare as low as $4 a plate. That makes Sinodinos one of the Bay Area's most wallet-friendly sports bars. The Englander Sports Pub and Restaurant: If you love British pubs, this is your place. It is one of the best spots to watch international soccer with knowledgeable fans, and it comes without the abundance of drunken soccer fans in foggy old London. This downtown San Leandro spot offers great food from a wide-ranging menu -- excelling in burgers, quesadillas and even bangers and mash. Plus, The Englander gets bonus points for thriving in a location that's just a short drive from perhaps the East Bay's most well-known sports bar. Speaking of ... Ricky's Sports Theatre & Grill: Ricky's is such an obvious choice, I almost left it off the list. But that would be unthinkable -- like excluding Sinatra from the Best Crooners club or keeping Rudolph out of the Reindeer Hall of Fame. Sports Illustrated once named Ricky's the nation's second-best sports bar, and with good reason. It is cavernous and filled with so many TV monitors and rooms that you can actually get lost there. Which isn't a problem because its owners, Ricky and Tina Ricardo, have decorated the joint with so much Bay Area memorabilia -- with a heavy emphasis on the Raiders -- that visitors often feel like they've stepped into a world-famous museum.
And they didn't even have to fly to Paris to see it.
Out & About is a monthly column that highlights the wildly underrated entertainment scene in the Tri-City and greater Hayward areas.
Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.
Top 5 Sports bars Jack's Brewing Co., 39176 Argonaut Way, Fremont Chaplin's Sports Bistro, 29200 Kohoutek Way, Union City Sinodinos Steakhouse, 36665 Cedar Blvd., Newark The Englander Sports Pub & Restaurant, 101 Parrott St., San Leandro Ricky's Sports Theatre & Grill, 15028 Hesperian Blvd., San Leandro
In Tri-City/Hayward Areas