City Pubs are local sports bars and restaurants that committed to show all Orlando City matches as the pimary sporting event of its time slot and put the match sound on for the duration of the game. I had a goal of attending a viewing party at each of the match day pubs and came close to accomplishing that goal, though there were a couple I was unable to get to during the year due to scheduling and logistics and other reasons. In this post I'll review the pubs I attended during 2015, say a little about the menu and the atmosphere, and tell you something about the type of fans each City Pub seems to attract, based on my observations. I'll also tell you which one I like the best.
Seminole County City Pubs
For 2015 there was only one City Pub in Seminole County: Liam Fitzpatrick's in Lake Mary. Liam's is a large, clean, modern sports bar/restaurant that styles itself as an Irish Pub. The food is good and the drink selection is plentiful. And due to its Lake Mary location near Timacuan, Heathrow, and Alaqua, it probably has the most expensive menu of any of the City Pubs I attended. Each time I went to a match here, the game was on almost all the TVs and they indeed had the restaurant game sound on the Orlando City match. However, in my veiw the sound was inadequate due to the fan base that Liam's draws for Orlando City games.
The Ruckus supporter group has claimed Liam's as their Seminole County viewing party home base, and this means that the bar does a bustling business with some of the passionate, enthusiastic, and very loud fans that make up the supporter group. Just as they do in the stadium, these supporters enjoy banging their drums and calling their chants and singing their songs throughout the entirety of the match. If you are a member of a supporter group, or if you enjoy hearing the chants more than hearing the broadcast, then this is a great destination to watch a match. Personally, I love the chants and drums and songs in the stadium, but if I'm watching a match on TV, I want to hear the analysis and the insights of the broadcast crew, since it helps me determine if I'm seeing and recognizing the same things that they are noticing as the game unfolds. In the stadium there is no play-by-play and I have to get that analysis by watching the match on the DVR or online after the fact, so I'd rather be energized by the supporters.
Downtown City Pubs
The Harry Buffalo is probably the City Pub I went to most during 2015, but it wasn't always for match day. During this season, Tom Traxxler and Jeff Radcliffe did the weekly Coach's show with Coach Adrian Heath each week during the season, and I attended these shows live for as long as my schedule permitted during the season. On match day, Harry Buffalo probably has the most casual fan base of any of the City Pubs I attended. There are always a few tables of purple-clad fans, but since the bar is on Church Street there are a lot of people who just wander in for food during matches and don't seem to be there specifically to watch the game.
Harry Buffalo has a traditional sports bar menu with a caveat that they have special menu items made with bison meat. The food is good and they have a large selection of beers on tap. Prices are moderate and the decor is traditional Church Street with lots of lovely wood interior and a Western-tinged atmosphere throughout.
Wall Street Plaza is the match day mecca for Orlando City fans on road games. Both recognized supporter groups (Ruckus and ILF) have a large presence throughout the various bars and restaurants in Wall Street Plaza, and the crowd tends to the younger, more vocal, and more energetic. You can find just about any casual dining cuisine you want among the locations in Wall Street Plaza. They might as well not have any sound at all because the crowd noise drowns out the PA system in any of the locations. This is definitely the number one place to go if you want to be surrounded by fans of the team and want to enjoy an atmosphere that is close to the energy you find in the stadium during home games.
For SODO residents that live south of Downtown Orlando, Johnny's Fillin' Station is the local City Pub. Johnny's has both an indoor and outdoor seating area (known as Johnny's Other Side) that show the matches on game day. They have a wide range of ages from young families to graybeards that come out for the matches, and the cuisine is typical American sports bar fare. The food is good and there is a nice selection of beers on draft. Johnny's is actually one of my favorite places to go watch a game, but because I live well north of Orlando in Seminole County, it's also the City Pub that is furthest away from me, so it keeps me from going to away games there as often as I would go to other locations.
City Pub of the Year
My vote for 2015 City Pub of the Year goes to The Hammered Lamb. The Hammered Lamb is on North Orange Avenue in the Lake Ivanhoe area north of downtown. It has a Mediterranean-inspired menu, making it the most unique in terms of food offerings among the City Pubs. There is indoor and outdoor seating, and like Johnny's the match-day crowd is diverse in age, and almost everyone who comes is there to watch the game. One of the unique things about The Hammered Lamb (among the City Pubs) is their "train shots" which they offer up every time a train goes by on the adjacent tracks. The outdoor seating is covered and you can stay dry from the rain, but it's open enough that there is usually a nice breeze and you can stay comfortable even on muggy and hot days when it feels like a sauna outside.
From my perspective, the biggest drawback about The Hammered Lamb is the limited on-site parking, but that is really only an inconvenience. You can find plenty of parking on the street or in nearby lots within a few blocks, so it's an easy walk to the bar once you get parked.
So what do you think? What was your favorite City Pub of 2015 and why? And for 2016 are there any other places you would like to see become City Pubs that were not affiliated with the team in 2015? Tell me and tell my readers in the comments!