Raising the bar for sports fans

Photo: Fred Lopez

A wonderful season of football is on tap at various Lake and Sumter county sports bars.

It’s the first day of the NFL season. Fans are lining up before the game so they can get inside and watch their beloved Pittsburgh Steelers.

That may not sound too unusual, except that the Steelers are opening their season some 1,062 miles away in Cleveland. But a little thing like distance doesn’t deter Steeler Nation from swooping into the Lake County sports bar scene and turning it into a sea of black and gold.

That’s the case at Graffiti Junktion, 2400 S. Highway U.S. 27 in Clermont, 352.989.5835.

“Steeler fans come here in full force on Sunday,” says Amber Taylor, supervisor of the sports bar. “In fact, they take up an entire side. We also attract a good number of New York Giants fans.”

Of course, all football fans converge upon Graffiti Junktion, a vibrant locale where the walls and tables are ablaze with colorful art and pigskin fanatics exchange high-fives and hugs.

A large horseshoe-shaped bar, high tables, and picnic tables line the interior of Graffiti Junktion, which offers both NFL Sunday Ticket and a college football package. Thanks to 18 strategically placed TVs, fans can focus exclusively on their own team or follow several games at once. There are also two TVs outside on a spacious deck overlooking Clermont’s hilly countryside.

The bar offers these weekend specials: the aptly named “2-Point Conversion” includes hot wings, quesadillas, potato sticks, potato tots, and beef nachos for $15; unlimited bloody marys and mimosas can be enjoyed until 3pm for $15; buckets of five domestic beers for $12 or buckets of five Bud Light cans for $10; a pitcher of beer and 12 wings is $12.

But here’s where Graffiti Junktion really scores with fans: During football season, management puts up an inflatable bounce house for children on the deck, making a trip to this sports bar a trouble-free family affair.

When watching a game live from the 50-yard line is not in the cards, Graffiti Junktion provides a wonderful alternative.


Cousin Vinnie’s Family Sports Restaurant

10700 U.S. Highway 441, Suite 101, Leesburg // 352.253.2442 

TVs: Five. NFL Ticket: Yes. Other packages: SEC college football. Gameday specials: $2 Bud Light drafts, occasional special food items.

In a state full of transplants, sports fans naturally cling to their hometown teams from around the country.

Cousin Vinnie’s, known for its Buffalo wings, has more than a coincidental connection to that city. Owner Vinnie Vittoria grew up in North Tonawanda, New York, outside Buffalo, and he patterned his menu after Buffalo’s Anchor Bar, which is credited as the birthplace of original Buffalo wings. Cousin Vinnie’s has more than 30 flavors of wing sauce and six seasonings.

With 15 tables and a bar, Cousin Vinnie’s is large enough for a crowd, but more intimate than a chain. Naturally, the restaurant caters to Buffalo Bills fans. But Vinnie’s not just a homer. An eclectic décor includes Pittsburgh’s “Terrible Towel” from the 1970s, and the place is a hangout for Steelers fans, including some who’ve been coming there “religiously” for years, manager Amanda Daniels says. The weekends are always busy, and the TVs are in demand because it’s first-come, first-served, Amanda says—so, Bills fans, win one for Vinnie.

Dani’s Sports Bar and Grill

369 State Road 44, Wildwood // 352.399.2973

TVs: Six, as well as a 120-inch screen for major sporting events. NFL Ticket: Yes. Other packages: Everything except boxing. Gameday specials: Present this article and receive a 15 percent discount on anything except package liquor. At Dani’s, patrons enjoy popular food items such as steak and Indian curry, and shoot pool.

Froggers Bar and Grill

 4931 Lake Park Court, Mount Dora // 352.385.3555 

TVs: 26. NFL Ticket: Yes. Other packages: College football, Major League Baseball, NBA. Gameday specials: Saturday—15 wings and a pitcher of beer for $16.95; Sunday—$6.50 pitchers of domestic beer. Enjoy casual grub and cocktails, and games such as darts and pool.

Hurricane Dockside Grill

3351 W. Burleigh Blvd., Tavares // 352.508.5137

TVs: 22. NFL Ticket: Yes. Gameday specials: Food and drink specials. Call for specifics. At Hurricane Dockside Grill, college football Saturdays are more electric than NFL Sundays, especially when the Florida Gators and Florida State Seminoles play road games.

The 24 Tap Room

1197 W. North Blvd., Suite 26, Leesburg // 352.315.0198

TVs: Four 48-inch television sets (more coming for football season). NFL Ticket: Yes. Gameday specials: On Saturdays, get discounts on craft beer from breweries in Gainesville, Miami, and Tallahassee, the homes of the state’s football powers. Enjoy 24 draft lines of craft beer.

Tiki West Raw Bar and Gril

118 W. Ruby St., Tavares // 352.508.5783

TVs: 12. NFL Ticket: Yes. Other packages: College football, MLB. Gameday specials: All-day, everyday happy hour; football specials TBD. The laid-back bar has a Caribbean vibe, but sports fans can watch American pastimes like football and baseball at TVs surrounding a raw oyster bar. Orlando City’s away soccer games attract viewing parties with drink specials.

Gator’s Dockside

15241 U.S. Highway 441, Eustis // 352.357.1255

TVs: 21. NFL Ticket: Yes. Other packages: UFC. Gameday specials: Beer specials. Sundays bring in a big Patriots base along with Packers and Steelers fans, and Saturdays attract Florida and Florida State viewers, but all groups are welcome. One of the few area bars to televise UFC Fight Nights. (Locations also in The Villages (2), and Clermont (2)).

Beef O’Brady’s Family Sports Pubs

2586 W. County Road 48, Bushnell // 352.568.7000

TVs: 30. NFL Ticket: Yes. Gameday specials: 2-for-1 bloody marys plus draft specials. This location gets a church crowd, and the NFL is a religion for the fans of Green Bay, Pittsburgh, and Florida’s three NFL teams who wage friendly battles. Each Beef’s has different hours and sports packages, so call ahead. (Locations also in Leesburg, The Villages (3), Wildwood, Mount Dora, Clermont).

World of Beer

2751 W. Torch Lake Dr., Brownwood, The Villages // 352.633.9519

TVs: 12. NFL Ticket: Yes. Other packages: MLB, NBA, NHL. Gameday specials: TBD. The bar has good sight lines, hosts NFL fantasy league draft parties, and reserves tables for fans from any college or NFL team. (Locations also at Spanish Springs in The Villages and Clermont).

Compiled by: Chris Gerbasi and James Combs