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The interior of Kirkwood.
Photograph: Joni Kat AndersonKirkwood Bar and Grill

Where to watch the Big Ten in Chicago

Relive your college years at these bars tailored to Big Ten alums and fans.

Jeffy Mai
Written by
Jeffy Mai
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Fall is right around the corner and that means it’s time for pumpkin spice, sweater weather and the start of college football. As the epicenter of the Midwest, Chicago is firmly in the heart of Big Ten country. Countless alums live here, and on every Saturday from September to November, many of them don their school colors and head to a bar to cheer on their alma maters. But while the best sports bars in Chicago are always great, sometimes you just want to be among like-minded fans. That’s why numerous spots around town are dedicated solely to individual Big Team teams. They show the games with the sound on, play the school fight songs and deliver the ultimate game day experience. Win or lose, you can expect to have a fun time. So check out our guide to find the best bar for each Big Ten school (apologies to Maryland and Rutgers).

The best Big 10 bars in Chicago

  • Bars
  • Sports Bars
  • River North
  • price 1 of 4

Joe’s on Weed St is a rite of passage for college students in Chicago and also the home away from home for Hoosiers. Spanning 20,000 square feet, the Lincoln Park venue can accommodate large crowds on Saturdays in the fall. Game day specials include $19 domestic buckets, $40 High Noon or White Claw buckets, $6 Hoosier bombs and more.

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Jeffy Mai
Assistant Editor
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  • Bars
  • Sports Bars
  • River North
  • price 2 of 4

River North sports bar and lounge Theory is a favorite for many Hawkeyes. Thanks to more than 35 televisions, fans always have a front-row view. The food menu presents options like nacho bites, tacos and wings. Wash it down with 22-ounce stadium cups for $6 or $8 mimosas and Bloody Marys on game day.

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Jeffy Mai
Assistant Editor
  • Bars
  • Sports Bars
  • Lake View
  • price 1 of 4

The gridiron champions of the Big Ten in 2021 will look to defend their crown this fall and for Chicagoans who can’t make it to the Big House, Duffy’s is the next best thing. The Michigan bar has over 40 televisions throughout the space so you won’t miss a minute of the action. And because it’s important to stay fueled up during the game, a brunch buffet—priced at $50 per person—with mimosas and Bloody Marys will be available from 11am-3pm every Saturday.

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Jeffy Mai
Assistant Editor
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  • Bars
  • Sports Bars
  • Lincoln Park
  • price 1 of 4

After a resurgent season, Sparty is hoping to make another run at the Big Ten title—and this Lincoln Park dive bar is where Chicagoans can watch it happen while devouring cheesy mozzarella sticks and beefy burgers. After the games, stick around for turtle racing.

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Jeffy Mai
Assistant Editor
  • Bars
  • Pubs
  • Lincoln Park
  • price 1 of 4

Unlike many of their Big Ten brethren, there aren’t a lot of havens for Gophers fans. They can, however, burrow their way to the Other Side Bar to watch the team alongside fellow Minnesota alums. Order up a round of cheese curds, wings, burgers or pizzas to complete the ultimate game day experience.

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Jeffy Mai
Assistant Editor
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  • Bars
  • Sports Bars
  • Lake View

Win or lose, Huskers fans are some of the most loyal around. Join the Nebraska Alumni Association’s Chicago chapter at Kirkwood for its weekly watch parties to see that devotion firsthand. The bar will offer $6 Bud Light or Miller Lite stadium cups during games but if you need a stronger drink, the gallon fish bowls are the way to go, hangover be damned.

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Jeffy Mai
Assistant Editor
  • Restaurants
  • Sandwich shops
  • Evanston
  • price 1 of 4

“Chicago’s Big Ten Team” (that’s technically in Evanston) represents the smallest school in the conference, but size hasn’t kept coach Pat Fitzgerald’s squad from achieving success on the field. While buying a ticket to watch the Wildcats at Ryan Field is the best way to catch the action up close, the weather conditions in late autumn may persuade some to opt for a bar instead. If that’s the case, head to Bat 17 to enjoy a full selection of alcohol as well as burgers and deli sandwiches. 

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Jeffy Mai
Assistant Editor
Advertising
  • Restaurants
  • American
  • Lake View

Buckeyes fans can head to the Butcher’s Tap to cheer on the conference’s winningest football program of the past decade as it embarks on the quest for a national championship. This season, the Lakeview bar will be one of the official game watch locations for the Ohio State Alumni Club of Chicago. In addition to having dozens of craft beers on tap, the game day experience will feature specials like $20 domestic buckets, $5 mimosas and $5 Buckeye bombs.

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Jeffy Mai
Assistant Editor
  • Bars
  • Pubs
  • Lake View
  • price 1 of 4

Penn State’s Beaver Stadium is among the best atmospheres in all of sports so it’s no surprise the team’s fans know how to have a good time. The Chicago chapter of the alumni association will host watch parties at A.J. Hudson’s, where you’ll find cold pints plus traditional British fare like fish and chips and shepherd’s pie.

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Jeffy Mai
Assistant Editor
Advertising
  • Bars
  • Sports Bars
  • Lake View
  • price 1 of 4

Boiler up! Waterhouse Tavern & Grill is the gathering point for Purdue fans to show their support. The Lakeview bar will offer specials all season long that include $18 domestic buckets and $6 shots of Jameson or Altos tequila.

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Jeffy Mai
Assistant Editor
  • Bars
  • Pubs
  • Lake View
  • price 2 of 4

Our friendly neighbors to the north are known for their love of beer, cheese and hard-hitting football. Though it’s only a three-hour drive to Camp Randall Stadium, Wisconsin fans can make the significantly shorter trip to Will’s Northwoods Inn for a similarly lively game day party. Come clad in cardinal and white and enjoy bites like fried cheese curds and beer brats while rooting for the Badgers.

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Jeffy Mai
Assistant Editor
Advertising

Maryland & Rutgers

Sorry, Terrapins and Scarlet Knights. The Big Ten's most recent members, and the farthest schools from Chicago, don't have any bars around here dedicated to them. But fans can always head to the best sports bars in Chicago to follow their teams. Maryland supporters should also keep an eye on Facebook because the alumni association sometimes posts locations for game watch parties.

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Jeffy Mai
Assistant Editor
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