The secret to a good sports bar is whether or not it cares about the game. Sound on, TV at every angle, a hush or a bellow at all the right moments. Otherwise you might as well watch it at home.
Almost everyone cares about Duke-Carolina, whether you hate one or the other or both. It’s not hard to find a bar that cares around here, but these are our top 10 picks to watch Thursday night. These bars feel like extensions of Cameron or the Dean Dome, but with the added benefit of alcohol.
10. Sammy’s Tap and Grill, Raleigh
Do you enjoy online trolling? Do you enjoy schadenfreude of other sports fans? Then go to the heart of Wolfpack country and be surrounded by fans who aren’t going to be truly satisfied unless both teams somehow lose. It’s still a great sports bar, after all. But don’t expect a whole lot of high-fives when your team hits a big shot.
9. Dain’s Place, Durham
Come for the life-affirming tater-tots, stay for the basketball game. Through science or something, Dain’s has managed to place TVs perfectly around its bar, but beware, it’s some kind of black hole of cell phone service. There’s always a set group of North Carolina beers and a row of coolers with every craft beer imaginable.
8. Four Corners, Chapel Hill
It’s a sports bar named after an offense, need we say more?
7. He’s Not Here, Chapel Hill
It’s the oldest bar in Chapel Hill and probably where Mom and Dad drank when they were at Carolina. He’s Not Here has just enough TVs to always see the game and bars on two floors so a drink is never far away.
6. Devine’s Restaurant and Sports Bar, Durham
A Main Street Durham dive that’s been around since before Coach K came to town. Legend has it Blue Devil greats may drop in, but Devine’s is often a stop on the way to or from the game.
5. Bull McCabe’s Irish Pub, Durham
Though it’s in the heart of Durham, this is usually a bar divided between Duke and Carolina fans, if not tipping towards the Tar Heels. Basketball season usually doesn’t match up with patio weather, but Bull McCabe’s has one of the best around, heated in the winter, and for big games (are there any bigger?) they pull down a large projector screen.
4. Sup Dogs, Chapel Hill
The younger generation of UNC students have embraced this hot dog joint as a modern institution on Franklin Street. Keep in mind, the lines can start early.
3. Tobacco Road, Chapel Hill & Durham
Tobacco Road has locations in Durham and Chapel Hill, but these aren’t nostalgic haunts from back in the day. Each is part of big developments turning sleepy college towns into small cities. There’s something about a wall of TVs that makes the biggest bars on this list also two of the biggest draws.
2. Fullsteam Brewery, Durham
Someone is going to lose, and someone is going to win and both of those things are made better by hanging out with dogs. Fullsteam has a big projector screen, a cool kitchen and is often a landing pad for local food trucks. The best part, you can bring your dog, who loves the things that you love and hates the things that you hate.
1. Top of the Hill, Chapel Hill
Is it cliché to go to Top of the Hill on Franklin Street on a Tar Heel gameday? Sure, but clichés got popular for a reason. And no matter which team you’re rooting for, this is the best atmosphere offered outside of Cameron Indoor or the Dean Smith Center. It’s enemy territory if you’re a Duke fan, but if the Blue Devils win you can get free refills of UNC tears. Just make sure to park well enough away in case of a Tar Heels victory.