WORLD CUP WATCH GUIDE

Where to watch the World Cup: 13 Houston bars and restaurants that love the beautiful game

Watch the World Cup with Brian Ching at Pitch 25. Courtesy of Pitch 25

Eric Sandler is food editor of CultureMap/Houston. This article originally appeared on that site.

Even though the United States isn’t in the tournament, Houstonians are coming down with a full blown case of World Cup Fever. Given the city’s diversity, it’s no surprise that people will be rooting for the countries their families immigrated from or just cheering on favorite stars.

Of course, a number of Houston bars and restaurants are catering to Cup fans with special menus and, more importantly, special hours. With the games taking place across Russia, most matches are kicking off in the morning — one as early as 5 am. This guide notes which places are opening early.

After all, there’s nothing like stumbling into work a little late with beer breath after catching a 7 am tilt between Sweden and South Korea.

 

La Calle
The downtown taco joint and its companion cantina will be open for all of the matches with plenty of good viewing angles than to its 75 and 85-inch TVs. World Cup specials include $3.99 paleta shots, $4 draft beers, $5 frozen Chamoyritas, and $8 bowls of menudo. Fans can also expect merchandise giveaways courtesy of Soccer4All. Best of all, those who spend at least $20 earn free parking in the garage at 805 Franklin Street. 909 Franklin St.

Pitch 25 Beer Park
In keeping with the spirit of its co-owner Brian Ching, the newly opened beer garden and soccer bar will open as early as 7 am for World Cup matches. Dine on a special breakfast menu while sipping on beer or wine from the 100 taps. Group reservations are also available. Pitch 25 will also celebrate the start of the World Cup Wednesday night with a special four-on-four soccer tournament on its indoor pitch. 2120 Walker St.

The Gorgeous Gael
As the official watch spot for ESPN 97.5’s weekly show Soccer Matters, the Rice Village bar will be open for all World Cup matches with a full menu of food, drinks, and beer. 5555 Morningside Dr.

The Richmond Arms Pub
The venerable English pub will open early for all matches, including the 5 am tilt between France and Australia, with a special breakfast menu. As always, no cover charge to watch the matches. See Facebook for the full schedule. 5920 Richmond Ave.

Harold’s in the Heights
The popular bar and restaurant will open its downstairs tap room as early as 7 am for matches airing Tuesday through Sunday. In addition, it will offer a range of drink and food specials including happy hour pricing on beer during all matches, $5 Lunazel tequila and Benchmark whiskey, $7 pours of top shelf products including Elijah Craig bourbon, Larceny whiskey, Roxor gin, and Nine Banded whiskey, as well as $5 frozens made with Deep Eddy products. Daily specials (such as $4 Saint Arnold drafts and cans on Wednesday and Saturdays), food specials tied to different countries (such as fish and chips for the June 24 match between England and Panama), and swag giveaways all help make Harold’s a compelling destination for Heights-area soccer fans. 350 W. 19th St.

The Phoenix on Westheimer
The Montrose-area sports bar will be open for all matches with TVs both inside and out. See the full schedule on Facebook1915 Westheimer Rd.

Revelry on Richmond
The popular Montrose sports bar will feature World Cup matches on its 30 TVs. For select matches such as Germany versus Mexico, Revelry will open at 10 am; on those days, it will start happy hour with $5 select drinks and $6 select appetizers. To kick off the festivities, the bar will host a Playstation 4 FIFA tournament on Wednesday night with prizes to the top three players. 1613 Richmond Ave.

The Branch
Spring Branch's favorite craft beer spot is opening early for select matches, starting with 9 am on Thursday, June 14 for Russia versus Saudi Arabia; 1 pm on Friday, June 15 for Portugal versus Spain; 8 am on Saturday, June 16 for Argentina versus Iceland; and 10 am on Sunday, June 17 for Germany versus Mexico. See the complete schedule on Facebook. Also, co-owner Kyle Pierson notes that he'll open for any of the other matches if a group is interested in hosting watch parties there. Contact The Branch for details. 7710 Long Point Rd.

El Big Bad
The downtown Mexican restaurant and tequila bar will open early for select World Cup matches, starting with 10 am on Friday, June 15 and Sunday, June 17 and 1 pm June 18 through 21; see Facebook for the complete schedule. Those wearing gear from their favorite national teams — even the U.S.A. — may purchase house margaritas for only $5. 419 Travis Street

Latin Bites
The acclaimed Peruvian restaurant will be showing most of the matches and will open early on weekends or for matches where Peru is competing. Happy hour specials, including $6 wells, $5 glasses of wine, $3 beers, and half-off appetizers, are available from 2:30 to 6:30 pm Monday through Saturday. See website for complete schedule. 5709 Woodway Dr.

Nick’s Place
The West Houston institution will open at 7 am Friday through Sunday for World Cup matches. During the week, Nick’s opens at 11 am. By reputation, the calzones are to die for. 2713 Rockyridge Dr.

Eight Row Flint
Agricole Hospitality’s bar devoted to whiskey, beer, and tacos will open at 1 pm (one hour early) to show matches that kick off at that time. Happy hour specials include $3 tacos, $3 select beers, and $3 select house cocktails. 1039 Yale St.

Pluckers Wing Bar
The wing joint will open early for Mexico’s matches — 9:45 am on June 17 and 23 and 8:45 am on June 27 — with $1 off its 34-ounce drafts of Dos Equis. In addition, Pluckers Club members can compete for the opportunity to win $2,500 by correctly picking the tournament’s final four teams. Four Houston-area locations; see website for details.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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