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Now Entering the Field of Chicago Soccer Bars: The Pitch

By Kim Bellware in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 18, 2010 6:40PM

2010_08_ThePitch.jpeg Chicago's soccer fans may have a home team to root for, but finding places to congregate and catch the game (other than Toyota Park) can be a bit of task. Baseball, football, basketball and now even hockey fans have their pick of the city when it comes to finding fan-friendly bars showing their game of choice. Soccer die-hards don't have it quite as easy (though spots like The Globe Pub and the Small Bar franchise have carved out dedicated niches) when it comes to finding a bar to call their own, but Chicago Fire Technical Director Frank Klopas hopes that will change with the new soccer-centric sports pub, The Pitch.

With The Pitch, Klopas, along with a cadre of friends/bar owners (of The Rocks bar group), mix the sports bar staples of flat screen TVs, game day snacks and beer by the kegful with a thoughtful layout, impressive whiskey list and Klopas' personal soccer memorabilia.

The spacious three-level bar separates the casual basement vibe (complete with foosball tables) from the mid-level small bar enclave, all set apart from the largest seating area up top. The nearly three-dozen TVs are situated so there's not a bad seat in the house, and though soccer is always on somewhere in the bar, no one balks at the occasional channel change (we also caught baseball and Ultimate Fighting on our visit).

The menu offerings should be recognizable to any pub-goer, though The Pitch does offer some unexpected (and yes, tasty) twists with appetizers like buffalo calamari and an array of hand-made pizzas, which alone are worth a visit. With all but the fried mac and cheese made from scratch in-house, we feel pretty good about making a meal out of their pizza, burgers, wraps and fried delights.

The drink menu is stocked with foreign and domestic brews of all kinds, including a few local varieties of Goose Island and Half Acre. It was the scotch and whiskey list that really caught our eye, with several varieties we've never seen even at our favorite whiskey and cocktail joints.

The management insists that their bar is eager to accommodate sports fans of all stripes, though they're first and foremost about soccer. By next year, the owners plan to have a fan bus in place that will shuttle supporters to Toyota Park and back, as well as putting in place special events, Fire-related gatherings and game day specials.

But will all that be enough to draw customers? It won’t help that ESPN just bought up some more English Premier League games, which means eager fans won’t have to go to the bar to catch those games--even if you don’t pay for Fox Soccer Channel (or it’s dastardly satellite-only cousin, FSC+). Still, that’s only half the reason to trek to a bar: there’s also the camaraderie, the ambiance, the arguments, the shared love and anguish and the drinks.

The real question is whether there’s space at the top-currently occupied by the aforementioned Globe Pub and Small Bars-for another go-to futbol hangout. From the looks of last Thursday's opening night, The Pitch has what it takes. Chicago Fire fans will no doubt be drawn in by its ties to the team (and from what we saw, it looks to be a good place to catch the players themselves kicking back and enjoying a match); it's a safe bet for EPL games as well since The Pitch hasn't thrown down allegiances to any one club in particular.

Like any new establishment, we expect it'll take a few hits and misses before the bar really finds its stride, though we confidently bet on The Pitch for all things Chicago Fire, along with the steady stream of this season's EPL matches.

Additional reporting by Ben Schuman-Stoler

The Pitch is located at 2142 N Clybourn Ave in Lincoln Park