Harlem Guide to Watching the 2017 NBA Finals

Man, the 2017 NBA Playoffs have been lackluster for the most part.  The conference championships have been a formality since the Wizards choked and Zaza decided to prove his top 5 NBA goon merits.  With that nasty Robitussin taste almost out of our mouths, we can look forward to Round 3 of Cavs versus Warriors.  By now, it's fair to say that we should start calling this series our generation's Lakers vs. Celtics (sorry 90's heads, Bull's vs. Jazz doesn't count. Jazz never won one.).  

In fair Harlem, we've been yelling about who would take home the title since KD signed with the Silicon Valley All-Stars.  With so many basketball fans around and the Knicks in full-blown dumpster fire mode, it's only right that the local bars swell up for the NBA Finals. Every spot has its own nuance- nay, it ownje ne sais quoi.  At times, you want to be surrounded by folks that feel the need to yell out, "Stupid!" after a clumsy turnover or the requisite "Hold that" after a 3 pointer is made. Conversely, a quiet night, sipping on a glass of Malbec with bae shouldn't stop you from getting a good look at the game.  It's all about choices.  I'll help you make the right one with this definitive guide to watching the 2017 NBA Finals in Harlem. Let's see...

Harlem Tavern 116 & Frederick Douglass Blvd.

Harlem Tavern

Harlem Tavern

Harlem Tavern is the ultimate Game 7 spot.  It's the largest place on the list and guarantees that you at least get a decent view.  I estimate that there's around 20 screens.  Expect a house packed full of basketball fans poised to comment on every layup, every dunk and every crossover.  When I say packed, I mean packed.  Don't expect a seat unless you get there early enough to watch the pre-pre-game.  Even so, there are merits to a packed Harlem Tavern.  Often there's a DJ getting the crowd hype during timeouts.  We don't need to hear all those Buick commercials anyway.   The beers aren't the micro sort but there are some decent selections.  Food is only soso (burger is alright) and you may get your drink bumped out of your hand, but you can't beat this rowdy atmosphere full of Harlemmites.  This is THE game 7, winner takes all spot here.

TV Availability: ++++

Fandom Atmosphere: ++++

Conversation Atmosphere: ++

Drinks: +++

Find Bae: ++

Food: ++


Fumo 139th & Amsterdam

Fumo

Fumo

As one of the newcomers in the Harlem restaurant scene, Fumo has developed a great clientele based of the general cool ambiance of the place as well as stellar Italian cuisine.  The white bricks, big palms, gold accents and the diverse set of patrons add to natural ease of the place.  It's damn sexy in there man. 

As a place to watch the NBA Finals, it's a low key spot.  Serving a pretty good margherita pizza pie with a decent selection of wine is an added bonus.  To be clear, the bar has around 5 seats in complete view of the one flat screen and also some of the dining area can also catch the screen.  Most of the patrons will be having a family meal and won't be in tune with how many fouls JaVelle McGee has in the 3rd quarter like you may be, but that may work to your benefit if you're single and want the ability to have a good conversation without having to yell.

TV Availability: +

Fandom Atmosphere: ++

Conversation Atmosphere: ++++

Drinks: ++++

Find Bae: +++

Food: ++++


Harlem Public 149th & Broadway

Harlem Public

Harlem Public

It feels like it's been ages since Harlem Public came on the scene, offering craft beers on Broadway.  They've never lost their spot as one of the most frequented bars in the area and the clientele is a mixture of newbie and local. The bar service is top notch with local hero, Roni, behind the pine. 

In terms of space and TV accessibility, grabbing a good spot can be cutthroat. There are about 12 or so seats at the bar, but they fill up quickly with some folks hanging around since happy hr. My advice is to get there early and stalk a stool if you plan on getting the prime bar real estate.  The gastropub style food options are above average, including a damn good burger.  The beer selection is always top notch and there are maybe 4 screens in total to view the action.  Ideally, this a good spot for a game 4, but not a closeout game 7.  There's just not enough space

TVs: +++

Fandom Atmosphere: +++

Conversation Atmosphere: +++

Drinks: ++++

Find Bae: ++

Food: +++


At the Wallace 149th & Broadway

At the Wallace

At the Wallace

The owners of Harlem Public figured that you weren't going to be able to sit down for the game at Harlem Public, so they went on and opened a sporty bar next door with more bar seats and screens to pick up the stragglers. 

The snaking bar is typically boisterous, but not on the same level as a Harlem Tavern.  There's a little bit more room to maneuver and dead air to speak through.  The food is of the bar bite variety with some decent waffle fries and all types of hot dogs.  The beer and drink selection is not as expansive as Harlem Public, but they do offer some good prices on large drafts.  Also, another plus of At the Wallace is the nice jukebox.  You may end up hearing some old Outkast, Wu-Tang or Pet Shop Boys playing in the background.  Come here for a tightly contested game 6.

TV Availability: ++++

Fandom Atmosphere: +++

Conversation Atmosphere: +++

Drinks: +++

Find Bae: ++

Food: ++


Corner Social 126th & Lenox Ave. 

Corner Social

Corner Social

Voted most likely to turn into a club scene after the game, Corner Social is the place you want to go to see and be seen.  This is definitely a top 5 or so singles spot in Harlem, but it'll get packed. With a DJ typically spinning throughout the game, it's not the place for those looking to hear Marc Jackson and Van Gundy's thoughts on Kyrie's jumper.  This is more party then sports bar.

It'll be a fight to bar, so be ready when you get there.  Don't try to get happy thoughts of sitting down, they staff remove the bar stools at around 9pm with the hopes of squeezing in more patrons.  There are two TVs at the bar and a giant screen to supplement.  Aside from that, the beer selection is above average and the drinks are strong.  The problem is that once 9pm hits, you need to fight through the crowd to place your order.  Sometimes, that's what you want.  This place is cool for a game 5 or even a closeout game. 

TV Availability: +++

Fandom Atmosphere: +++

Conversation Atmosphere: ++

Drinks: +++

Find Bae: ++++

Food: ++


Grill On The Hill 140th & Amsterdam

Grill On the Hill

Grill On the Hill

Want a throwback dive bar with giants/jets beer promotions hanging?  This is your spot. I don't say that with any malice.  Sometimes a good dive bar hits the spot.  This would probably be the place one would find a ton of fantasy football players hitting refresh on their phones every 3 minutes. They have the TVs for everyone to get a clear view, a good jukebox and it doesn't get overly crowded. 

The beer selection is good enough to satisfy most people, with their food portions being the largest on the list.  Maybe this is the sleeper pick of the list for anyone searching for a solid all around option. 

TVs: ++++

Fandom Atmosphere: ++++

Conversation Atmosphere: +++

Drinks: +++

Find Bae: ++

Food: +++