World Cup Watch: A guide to Chicago bars with strong international soccer reputations

Chicago’s deeply rooted international soccer culture will be on full display for the next four weeks at a handful of pubs.

The Embassy Public House at 1435 W Taylor St will be showing World Cup games.
The Embassy Public House at 1435 W Taylor St will be showing World Cup games. Brian Rich / Chicago Sun-Times
The Embassy Public House at 1435 W Taylor St will be showing World Cup games.
The Embassy Public House at 1435 W Taylor St will be showing World Cup games. Brian Rich / Chicago Sun-Times

World Cup Watch: A guide to Chicago bars with strong international soccer reputations

Chicago’s deeply rooted international soccer culture will be on full display for the next four weeks at a handful of pubs.

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With the World Cup now underway, Chicago’s deeply rooted international soccer culture will be on full display for the next four weeks at a handful of pubs that have earned a city-wide reputation as go-to joints for the world’s most popular sport.

North Side places such as The Globe Pub on Irving Park and AJ Hudson’s on Ashland are soccer staples in Chicago while others are just beginning to gain recognition. Some draw large crowds from specific countries, but all are destinations for serious international soccer fans.

Here’s a quick look at where to find the games and a draft around Chicago.

One City Tap, 3115 S. Archer Ave.

Marco Antonio López, from the McKinley Park neighborhood, opened One City Tap five years ago after a career in the restaurant industry.

One City Tap quickly earned a nod as one of Chicago’s go-to soccer bars when it began hosting Chicago Fire watch parties last year. As the World Cup begins, they are highlighting two teams specifically: Mexico and USA.

Doors will open at noon for all matches except when they open at 10 a.m. for Mexico’s first match of the World Cup against Poland on Nov. 22.

R Public House, 1508 W. Jarvis Ave.

While this pub initially “struggled with their decision” to show the World Cup this year, R Public House in Rogers Park will be donating $1 from every draft pour of Hazy Pitch IPA, by Chicago’s very own Revolution Brewing, to the Nepal Youth Foundation.

“We really wrestled with the fact of whether we should show it at all because of what’s happened,” said owner Renee Labrana, in reference to the many Nepalese migrants in Qatar that have faced poor working conditions for years.

“We knew even if we boycotted it people were going to watch it no matter what. … We chose to at least try and give back and raise awareness.”

Simone’s, 960 W. 18th St.

Simone’s will kick off its own World Cup viewings on Tuesday, when Mexico faces Poland. Simone’s will prioritize games from Central American and South American teams, according to its manager, but will also be showing all United States games.

For now, there are no drink specials at Simone’s, but the kitchen will be open for fans who want to purchase Mexican-inspired pub grub.

Fans of Team Mexico frequented this spot quite a bit during World Cups past, and fans of Mexico’s club teams can catch games here throughout the season, making it a staple for any real “fútbol” fans.

Cleos, 1935 W. Chicago Ave.

Cleos is already bracing for a rowdy crowd for the group-stage match between England and USA on Nov. 25 at 1 p.m.

Cleos earned a reputation as one of Chicago’s premier soccer hubs after a discussion the bar’s ownership and management had 10 years ago. Trying to decide what the bar’s identity should be, they concluded that turning into a college football bar wouldn’t serve their community.

“We felt like soccer was something that our neighborhood could really get into,” Cleos soccer manager Maggie Ednie said.

Cleos isn’t home to any national team specifically, but many patrons are supporters of USA, Mexico, Germany and England.

Damen Tavern, 701 N. Damen Ave.

If Cleos ends up being too crowded, Damen Tavern will be open for business throughout the World Cup with its usual drink deals: $3 Bud Lights and $25 buckets of domestic beers.

Bartender Amanda López Martínez, who describes herself as a casual soccer fan, said the bar will host a special screening of the Mexico-Argentina game on Nov. 26. The tavern will prioritize promoting the weekend games, which draw some of Chicago’s biggest crowds.

The Embassy Public House, 1435 W. Taylor St.

Lifelong soccer fan and general manager Adrian Lewis says The Embassy has received over 120 reservations from fans who want to catch the USA games, which begin Monday with a match against Wales.

“I’m a big football fan,” said Lewis, who’s from England. “Obviously, I’m looking forward to England and Wales because my parents were from Wales originally.”

The Embassy Public House is an Irish-owned European pub that will be opening earlier than usual for the 7 a.m. matches. Fans can catch all of the matches there, including potential reruns of 4 a.m. games. The bar has special drink promotions planned with Krombacher for the Germany games and Modelo for Mexico games.

AJ Hudson’s, 3801 N. Ashland Ave.

Formerly Ginger Ale House, AJ Hudson’s has been a soccer staple in Chicago since the early 1990s. The Lakeview bar is on a first-come, first-serve basis. It has been known to draw a large crowd of England supporters but is a go-to spot for fans to watch any international soccer matches.

For the World Cup, it will feature sponsored cocktails for each team.

“Whether it’s a feature beer, spirit or cocktail, we’re trying to get as close to representing each country as possible,” AJ Hudson’s bar manager said.

They won’t be showing 4 a.m. games live but will have replays airing when they open for 7 a.m. matches.

Chicago Fire World Cup watch parties

Fire Pitch, a community sports complex in North Center, is the Chicago Fire’s official hotspot for viewing most World Cup matches — except for those that kick off at 4 a.m. Soccer fans can enjoy access to specialty food and drinks, including quiches, pierogies and tacos.

The watch parties at Fire Pitch also include access to the Fire’s exclusive co-branded merchandise for fans of Mexico, Poland and Switzerland.

The soccer club will also be hosting a watch party in Navy Pier’s Aon Grand Ballroom on Nov. 25 in anticipation of the USA vs. England match at 1 p.m. Admission to the Navy Pier watch party is free and on a first-come, first-serve basis. Food and beverages will be available for purchase, too.