One look at its history and it’s easy to see why South Africa lives and breathes sport of all manners. Johannesburg acts as the central hub for this passion, with countless international sports fans visiting the country’s largest city every year to enjoy the atmosphere. Boggled by choice? Then why not try one of the fantastic bars below. Each provides a terrific sporting experience with an intriguing twist….
Grand Slam Sports Diner
Bar, Contemporary, $$$
If you ever happen to find yourself in the suburb of Dowerglen you could do a lot worse than pay a visit to one of the more celebrated sports bars in Johannesburg. With two decades of experience pulling pints and putting on memorable events for major fixtures, Grand Slam not only knows how to welcome sports fanatics but keeps them coming back for more. The cavernous bar boasts such delights as a ‘semi-private dining area’ complete with wine cellar and fireplace, an outside timber deck and 21 HD televisions to accompany its ‘larger than life’ centrepiece HD screen, so that party-dwellers and sports fans are never too far away from the action.
The Brazen Head offers a welcome, authentic respite for local sports fans looking to sample Anglo-Irish cuisine and any Brits who may be feeling a tad homesick on their travels. Entering the cosy Sandton establishment feels just like stepping right into an old Irish pub, with its wooden interior, dimly lit walkways and jovial atmosphere (that’s craic to those out of touch with their inner shamrock). There are several wide-screen TVs showing the latest action from the sporting world, an intriguing menu of Irish delicacies for consumption, and, of course, the bar provides a seemingly endless supply of Guinness on tap. Delicious.
Translated as ‘100,000 welcomes’, The Irish Club’s motto céad míle fáilte hints it aims to give customers a good time, and indeed it succeeds – giving shelter to a mixture of ‘conversation, fun and music’, or caint craic agus ceol(you may have to dust off the old Duolingo app before you enter). Since its inception in 2002, the bar has gone from strength to strength, continuing to provide its customers with a unique blend of Irish joy and South African humour. Previous events have included a potjiekos competition, family braai day and even a car boot sale! TVs overlook the bar, ensuring sport aficionados get their fix of a wide range of competitive action. It’s no wonder the Irish Ambassador to South Africa chose to open the bar 15 years ago.
Fancy a pizza with your game of pool? If so, then this bar might be worth a look. Situated in the Gauteng region, Paddy’s Corner has garnered an impressive reputation from the golden experience it has gifted both locals and tourists over the years. When it comes to sports, the bar is essentially a triple threat. Whether you want to talk about sports, watch sports, play sports, or do all three at once, Paddy’s has the tools to satisfy your insatiable sporting appetite at every turn. Along with the obligatory wide screens, the place has eight well-kept pool tables, several dartboards, a pizza oven and even a jukebox (just in case anyone wants to hear ‘Fairytale of New York’ for the umpteenth time).
For those that prefer some gold with their green, Green and Gold remains a prime place to watch rugby and other sports. The bar caters for both quiet nights and big events, with plenty of space for you to enjoy the big game on its giant outdoor screen or a relaxed, sophisticated meal indoors. Green and Gold prides itself on ‘quality, value and service’, and this is shown in the bar’s affiliation to its neighbourhood – it claims to have the majority of its staff work in the local business for the last 20 years. Your food, drink and sport are in good, familiar hands.
So the old story goes, Steve Gilroy’s beer is so good that James Bond requested it when he stayed in Cape Town. Don’t believe it? Just read Carte Blanche. Or go to Gilroy’s Brewery. Of the impressive range of beer available, Gilroy proudly pulls four award-winning pints – the ‘Traditional’, ‘Serious’, ‘Lager’ and ‘Favourite’. The bar counter is strategically placed opposite the big screen, so you can enjoy the sport and drink to your heart’s content (please drink responsibly, of course).
Motorsports are often treated as their own entity within the sporting realm, which can make it tricky to catch the largest track meets in a sports bar. Rim & Rubber does a great job of tending to this ‘niche’. Petrol-heads will rejoice at the retro-race day theme that engulfs the restaurant and bar. Sleek motorbikes and motorcycle parts are used to create an intriguing interior that falls somewhere between American diner and biker clubhouse. The bar is also accompanied by an assembly shop and general store for anyone wishing to take a piece of racing glory with them. Rim & Rubber has the spectator side covered too – the bar has plenty of screens you can catch the action on.
Calling all sophisticated, sporting connoisseurs….
Sandton’s very own Cobblestone Pub is a great spot to try out if you want to watch sports in a particularly classy manner. You can rely on the Irish bar to provide a wide range of international beer, a low-key vibe and lots of large screens for your viewing pleasure. The quiet conversation is only broken by respectable cheers (or boos) for the teams in action. Perfect for sports fans that want to have a front row seat without feeling like they are actually in the stadium.
Some people don’t just like their drinks pint-sized, but their sports bars too. Should you fit into this category, we’d strongly suggest squeezing into The Taphouse. There are no frills on the bar’s objective: to be ‘small’, ‘simple’ and ‘special’. However, this should not deter you at all – in fact, rather the opposite. There is a certain charm to having a minimal amount of gimmicks: the customers know they are getting a genuine experience and, in The Taphouse’s case, one that’s great. It is a particularly popular place for casual sports fans that don’t fancy the hustle and bustle of more lively Johannesburg establishments.
If the last two choices are a little too quiet for your liking, don’t worry this final destination will surely perk your interest (and perhaps raise your eyebrows). The Jolly Roger, or ‘Jolly’ as its regulars know it, is without a doubt the most boisterous option on this list. What the bar lacks in size, it certainly makes up for in character – Jolly has long been touted as a popular attraction in Johannesburg, especially for students who want their pints cheap, their food quick and their sports bars loud. You have been warned.