Chicken wings and football go together like the Patriots and Bill Belichick.

But sometimes, like Tom Brady, you just want something more, something a little different.

Maybe you’re over the whole sports bar scene, with the app-heavy menus and crowds of fans cheering so loudly you can’t hear the game. Or maybe you’d like to take your spouse or significant other along, but they want a real dinner, something a little more substantial – or elevated, even – than nachos and domestic draft beer.

We’ve rounded up a few places that meet those goals, whether you dedicate every Sunday to watching football or are looking for a new spot to catch the occasional hockey or basketball game. Many other restaurants in the Greater Portland area have big televisions and good food, but some of them are now closed on Sundays because of the pandemic, so this is just a sampling. Be sure to check the hours before you go, because some places close earlier than in past years and are unavailable for Sunday night football.

See you at kickoff.

After playing a game of flag football, a group of friends eat at Salvage BBQ and watch the Patriots game. Derek Davis/Staff photographer

MASH TUN

29 Wharf St., Portland, 802-505-5115; 3 p.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, noon to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday, noon to midnight Sunday. facebook.com/portlandmashtun

When Chris Hafford of Portland, a Patriots fan, wants to watch a game, he often heads down to Mash Tun in the Old Port for its cozy atmosphere, good food and huge selection of local craft beers.

“It’s not like a big, super-loud sports bar,” he said. “It’s more like a chill place to sit, get some good food and drink, some really good beers.”

Mash Tun has 35 craft beers on tap, three 65-inch Samsung TVs, and a menu prepared by kitchen manager Juan Cordero that includes a good burger but also has oysters, lobster rolls, parmesan truffle fries, and a cheese plate. “Their tacos are amazing, so that’s usually what I get,” Hafford said.

If you want something besides beer, the bar has a selection of specialty cocktails, wine and whiskies.

Owner Ricky Binet said he doesn’t run game-day specials “but that’s because our food is not expensive. We have $6 burgers that are amazing.”

Binet said there are always a few fans in the bar when the Patriots are playing, but Mash Tun customers also like watching English football (cough cough, that would be soccer), hockey and other sports in season.

“If you want a sports bar, it’s not your place,” Binet said. “There are not four million TVs, it’s not a rah, rah Bud Light place. It’s a craft beer destination. We don’t have any junky beer. We have the best of the best Maine beers and maybe a few from overseas.”

OLD PORT SEA GRILL

90 Commercial St., Portland, 207-879-6100; noon to 9 p.m. Thursday, Sunday and Monday, noon to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. oldportseagrill.com

There’s always some kind of sports on the two flat-screen TVs in this restaurant’s bar and lounge, where you can dine on seafood from the raw bar, or order Lobster Pad Thai or pan-seared scallops from the dining room menu while watching your favorite team. The bar has seating for 20, or you can choose one of 28 seats at the high-top tables, so “there’s usually plenty of room for walk-in availability,” general manager Justin St. Louis said.

Even the bar snacks are elevated here. Once, instead of regular fried chicken wings, the menu featured cured and confited wings with a chaga-stout barbecue sauce. Another time, game-day customers feasted on little duck bao buns. “It’s not your typical wings and sliders,” St. Louis said.

Sometimes the restaurant partners with beer companies for special promotions. One year, during Patriots games, the staff held raffles: Buy a Lone Pine beer, get a raffle ticket. Every time the Patriots scored, they’d raffle off some Long Pine swag. St. Louis said they are planning similar events this season, but nothing’s confirmed yet. Keep an eye on the restaurant’s social media accounts for details.

Our suggestion for one more fun thing to do here: During the commercials, check out the restaurant’s 500-gallon saltwater tank filled with tropical fish.

RI RA IRISH PUB & RESTAURANT

72 Commercial St., Portland, 207-761-4446; 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Sunday. rira.com/portland

Yes, Ri Ra is a pub, and you can get chicken wings, burgers, nachos and other game-day favorites here. But the menu offers so much more: seafood chowder, lobster egg rolls, short rib poutine, shepherd’s pie and beef-and-Guinness pie.

Ri Ra is a lively place, but not elbow-to-elbow during a football game. Football nights at Ri Ra tend to attract couples and travelers out to grab a bite of dinner and watch a game, according to managing partner Spencer Brantley. “We don’t have a bunch of people wearing the team colors and screaming at the TVs,” he said. “It’s more of a low-key vibe.”

The pub has three bars, two of which have big televisions. In the Victorian Bar, you’ll find a 48-inch TV and a 70-incher off to the side, Brantley said, as well as a drop-down screen that is at least 96 inches. In the Shop Bar, there are two 50-inch flat-screen TVs and two small televisions – about 10 inches –  behind the bar, he said.

The Patriots game against the Panthers is projected on the big screen at Salvage BBQ in Portland. Derek Davis/Staff photographer

SALVAGE BBQ

919 Congress St., Portland, 207-553-2100; noon to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, noon to 8 p.m. Sunday. salvagebbq.com

Jay Villani, the owner of Salvage BBQ, knows that he sounds un-American, but here it is: “I cannot stand American football.”

A patron follows football on a phone while eating at Salvage BBQ. Derek Davis/Staff photographer

Them’s fightin’ words in Patriots territory, but Villani grew up on Staten Island, and “when I was a kid, the Patriots sucked.”

Nevertheless, football fans are welcome to gather – and those in the know do show up – in the spacious Salvage dining room to watch games on the restaurant’s big-screen TVs, which Villani estimates measure at least 50 inches. Since he (hilariously) hates football, “I couldn’t even tell you how big they are.” But the TVs do come with an NFL package “so people can request games and stuff.”

The menu is all barbecue, including pulled pork, brisket, St. Louis-style ribs, barbecue chicken and sausages. Sides include hush puppies, mac and cheese, and cornbread. For dessert, there’s always pie.

If you, like Villani, are not a football fan, never fear. The restaurant also welcomes soccer, hockey, basketball and baseball fans in season.

Craig Bodo of Raleigh, North Carolina, watches the Patriots play at Salvage BBQ in Portland. Bodo said he was looking for a place where he could watch the game but also have some decent food and good beer. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

THE PORTHOLE RESTAURANT & PUB

20 Custom House Wharf, Portland, 207-773-4653; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday and Wednesday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday and Thursday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. portholemaine.com

The Porthole has a big lounge area that is transformed into additional table seating in winter. The room has a couple of televisions hanging from the ceiling, and a huge big-screen TV.

“We do put the games on, on Sunday on the big screen, and if anybody wants to put any other games on, we accommodate,” said general manager Beth Poitras. “But it’s not like people are coming in just to watch the game. It’s mostly for restaurant seating.”

So if you want to watch a game, afternoon or evening, just ask. Then check out the menu for its seared diver scallops, steak tips, lobster bisque, lobster and scallop cakes, as well as a more casual selection of appetizers and sandwiches.

FORESIDE TAVERN

270 Route 1, Falmouth, 207-835-0019; noon to 8 p.m. Wednesday, noon to 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. theforesidetavern.com

Foreside Tavern gets a lot of what owner Anne Rutherford calls “first-halfers.” They eat their meal during the first half of the game, then go home to their couches.

But, she added, “we do have a couple of regulars who come like it’s their living room and yell at the television, without fail, every game.”

The tavern has two 60-inch TVs, and four others that range in size, scattered around the bar and lounge so that no matter where you sit, you can see the game.

“We always fill up, and we play the game over the speakers in the bar, but it’s not a bonkers crowd,” Rutherford said.

The restaurant often offers game-day specials, most recently a soft pretzel with honey mustard sauce and beer cheese made from Lone Pine Pale Ale. Also look for a buffalo chicken dip topped with scallions and served with chips.

But if you want real dinner, your choices include pan-fried haddock with lemon brown butter and capers, crisp duck breast with mango rice and curry gastrique, seafood gumbo and more.

Hockey fans are also fans of Foreside Tavern. The tavern has a signed jersey from former Boston Bruins player and Hockey Hall of Famer Ray Bourque hanging on the wall. “He’s actually been in here a couple of times,” Rutherford said.


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