Summer is just on the horizon, and for most of the world that means one thing: the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Soccer fans who’ve waited four years for this are counting down the minutes to June 12, the day the month-long tournament kicks off in Brazil. Excitement is building in our city, too: With LA’s soccer culture on the rise, more Angelenos are embracing the real meaning of “football” and forgoing Dodgers games for a Galaxy match. So where should you watch the game? Any sports bar could turn on a TV in the corner, but there’s nothing quite like watching a game on a big screen surrounded by diehard fans. Here are 15 places in LA guaranteed to give you the true World Cup experience. (Also, take our quiz if you think you know music and soccer: World Cup player or summer music festival act?)
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Though it’s become increasingly popular among the dive-thirsty cool crowd, the Red Lion Tavern returns to its biergarten roots during the World Cup as a haven for German expats. With Germany pegged as a front runner for this year’s Cup, this Bavarian-style tavern is sure to see a lot of action on match days. While guzzling beers and gorging on brats, weisswurst and schnitzel, you can watch games at three of the tavern's bars, including one on the outdoor patio. Before you go, consider brushing up on your high school German: Packed with face-painted, flag-bearing fans shouting and singing in the mother tongue, you might feel like a foreigner, but give it a few pints of Bitburger and you’ll be joining them in no time.
A welcome diversion from the Sunset Strip, the Cat & Fiddle is a different kind of Hollywood bar. Yes, parking is still a nightmare and yes, the food, albeit pub food, is underwhelming for its price, but one thing this place has on any bottle service bro bar is authenticity. For better or worse, the Cat & Fiddle has the English pub vibe down to a T, from the outdated, mismatched upholstery to the lingering smell of gravy. Make no mistake—there could not be a more appropriate atmosphere for a genuine soccer-watching experience. On regular days, the TVs are limited to the two behind the bar, but come World Cup time, the Cat & Fiddle rolls out three massive projector screens—two inside the pub and one on the spacious outdoor patio.
Compared to your typical Irish pub in LA, Joxer Daly’s is unique in that the bar staff are actually Irish—or at least they muster up a pretty convincing accent. This place takes its World Cup seriously, with an electronic ticker on the wall counting down the days, minutes and seconds to first kickoff. It doesn’t matter that Ireland is not actually playing in the tournament—the folks at Joxer Daly’s seem happy to live vicariously through the hundreds of Spain, Brazil and England fans set to descend on them. With strategic seating and well-placed TV screens throughout the space, there’s no way you can miss a shot, especially if you’re watching the giant projector screen in the corner. The beer selection and grub here are good and reasonable, so you can stay into overtime without breaking the bank. Fun fact: owned by the Vice Mayor of Culver City, Joxer Daly’s is also a local cop bar, so if any hooligans get out of hand, you’ll know back-up isn’t far.
On any given day, you could easily mistake The Springbok for an American sports bar. Save for the springbok (an antelope, in case you were wondering) head and rugby shirts on the wall, nothing stands out as distinctly South African, and yet when it comes to the World Cup, this is where you’ll find them. A popular spot when South Africa hosted the last Cup in 2010, The Springbok is bracing itself for an influx of South African expats who seem to remain remarkably well hidden in LA the rest of the year. New Zealanders, sadly with no representation in this year’s tournament, are also likely to show up to piggyback on any team that isn’t Australia. There are TVs pretty much anywhere the eye can wander in this bar, but the back room—with dual big screens and room to accommodate at least a hundred screaming fans—will be the epicenter of the action on game days.
When contemplating where to watch Mexico games, Koreatown is probably not the first place that comes to mind. Yet Guelagatza, located right on the K-town outskirts, is the place to be when “El Tri” takes the field this summer. A huge draw for fans during the last World Cup, the spacious restaurant provides a homey feel you won’t get in a bar. It’s more like a party in a family dining room—guests crowded at tables in front of the big screen enjoying cervezas and chowing down on menudo, tacos and mole while the action unfolds. And the food here is no joke—widely revered as the most authentic Oaxacan cuisine outside of Oaxaca, it even drew the attention of Chef Ludo Lefebvre, who stopped in for the Mexico-France game in 2010. As Ludo learned himself that day, even if your team loses, there’s always tequila.
Throughout the season, soccer fans flock to the Fox and Hounds, which opens early for pre-noon pints and fry-ups (English for breakfast) on match days. Luckily, this World Cup’s time zone is a bit friendlier to our hemisphere, so you’ll only need to skip work rather than set the alarm for 4am. In addition to being a hot spot for Premier League followers, the Fox and Hounds regularly shows La Liga and Series A matches, so you can expect a healthy presence of Spain and Italy supporters crowded in with the England fans in the pub’s big screen viewing space. Unless you arrive early, it will likely be standing room only, but with a good beer and a riveting game on, you’re sure to be on your feet anyway.
With the largest concentration of UK expats in Los Angeles, there’s certainly no shortage of British pubs—especially in Santa Monica. Yet when it comes to soccer, Ye Olde King’s Head reigns supreme. Taking up nearly a block of ocean view real estate, the King’s Head is a hub for both British LA residents and Brits on holiday—if you see any round, sunburned men, you’ll know the difference. With faithful fans regularly filling the pub for the Premier League season, expect a rowdy crowd when England is playing in the World Cup. Arrive early to get a spot in the main pub, which will be full of St. George’s flags and chanting fans. Do yourself a favor and learn “Three Lions“ (a stadium staple), and whatever you do, don’t ask why there aren’t any Union Jacks hanging up.
Lucky Baldwin’s is certainly not the largest bar in Pasadena, which makes it an unlikely choice for the city’s unofficial World Cup headquarters. But what this place lacks in square footage, it makes up for in sheer enthusiasm. Fans who’ve temporarily swapped their Dodgers gear for USA jerseys flock here like bees to honey—that honey being the 68 beers on tap. Some arrive hours before kickoff to snag a coveted table by a TV in the bar or patio, while latecomers squeeze in where they can or spill out into the alley behind the Old Town location. Here’s a fun World Cup game to play: as the tournament progresses, watch how many of those USA jerseys turn into Spain jerseys.
It’s not a sports bar, but that’s part of the whole appeal of The York as a World Cup destination. Someone at this Highland Park gastropub cared enough to make it a thing in 2010, and was rewarded with hoards of fans itching for a 5am soccer fix. Thus, when June rolls around, The York will once again be showing all of the games on their pull-down projector screen. While a big screen and a craft brew may be all you really need to watch the game, the kitchen will also introduce a special menu for the occasion, including breakfast and Bloody Marys for the earlier matches. Arrive early to stake out seats—with El Chapin, another local viewing spot, sadly closed down since the last Cup, there are sure to be some displaced fans looking for a new place to watch.
It’s not as if Brazilians ever need an excuse to party, but with their home country hosting the World Cup this year, they’re set to go nuts. To get in on a piece of the madness, head to Gaucho's Village in Glendale. In broad terms, Brazilians are passionate about three things: food, music and soccer, and Gaucho's World Cup coverage will celebrate them all. The Brazilian steakhouse will open early to serve breakfast for morning games, while later fans can sink their teeth into Brazilian barbecue while their team rips into the competition. For Brazil games, expect a scene similar to Carnival, with live music, Samba dancers and staff shenanigans between halves. Don’t worry if you left your vuvuzela or caxirola (plastic noisemakers) at home—they might just have a few extra lying around.