If you're sane, you'll be watching this week's game from the comforts of your own home, with fridge and stove near at hand for all your consumable needs. But if you feel the need to get out and experience a bit of sporting camaraderie with others, you might want to stay away from the usual suspects. Places like Ferg's in St. Pete, or the Press Box in Tampa, will be mobbed by both locals and all the folks who're mobbing the Bay area for the big event.
Here are a few untraditional choices for your Super Bowl viewing, most with better food, better atmosphere or more interesting clientele than your usual sports bar haunts.
L'Olivier's Restaurant and Cabaret
This brand new spot in Centro Ybor isn't your usual beer and nachos joint, but owner Olivier Cuevas will be bringing in several giant flat screens for the big day. And while you marvel at the God-given powers of the elderly Kurt Warner, you can nosh on beef bourgignon and that decadent potato gratin that typifies L'Olivier's French bistro meal; down a few glasses of decadent champagne; and lounge on couches covered in crushed velvet. It'll be just like at my own Super Bowl party, but with — possibly — more drag queens.
Partners Sports Cafe
As Partners is the only specifically gay sports bar in the Bay area, you can expect its neon-painted walls to be just as jumping as more traditional sports bars, especially with the massive $5 specials it'll have on food and drinks during the game. That food — which ranges from typical bar fare to more refined modern American — will likely be better, and the fans — yep, there are a lot of LGBT sports fans, if you didn't know — will be much more amenable to an inclusive, friends-and-family environment than most joints. I can almost guarantee that half-time will be a lot more interesting, too.
The Wine Exchange
There is no better place for someone more into Pinot than Pabst to view the big game. Wine Exchange will be setting up a giant, nine-foot projection screen in its long, covered courtyard dining area for the festivities, as well as slinging more football-friendly food from the kitchen. Look for the usual suspects — nachos, burgers, sausages — prepared much better than what you'd get at the neighborhood sports bar. The restaurant will also have a much bigger beer selection, but if you aren't ordering from Wine Exchange's exceptional wine list, why bother coming?
Fly Bar and Restaurant
Fly's already perfectly situated as the one party spot in downtown Tampa that can do justice to the big game. With TVs already in place, and more to come for Sunday, you can relax on the rooftop deck with a giant martini in hand, a plate of kobe beef sliders in front of you and the promise that the place will soon be packed with post-game revelers as soon as they can escape the tangle of traffic over on Dale Mabry.
Bay Coast Coffee Market
Why not take your Super Bowl viewing as an opportunity to give back a little? Especially if it's at Bay Coast, where the celebration will benefit the Humane Society of Pinellas. With a 9-by-13-foot projection screen, barbecue ribs and sandwiches, and drinks more suitable than a double decaf latte on the menu, you won't be missing anything besides memorabilia-laden walls and those fragrant sports bar bathrooms.