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Game Time! But Where?

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Thursday, June 05, 2008, at 02:01AM
GreenBamboo Ed Fuentes

A banner outside Little Tokyo's Green Bamboo invites Lakers fans inside.

Since moving to Downtown ten years ago, I’ve avoided sports bars for two reasons. First, there just aren't that many Downtown, and perhaps more importantly, they're often filled with those pesky fans from the East Coast.

Like so many around town, I will be turning on the television tonight to watch the Downtown Los Angeles Lakers take on the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the NBA Finals (coverage starts at 6pm). While I'll likely watch from home, there's something enticing about joining a possible Laker fan enclave, far away from the larger hotels filled with out-of-town guests.

The question is, where can a Downtowner best watch the Lakers?

Easy to find Downtown are the places with an HDTV hovering over the bar, like at the Chop Suey Café’s Far Bar (347 E. 1st St) or 410 Boyd Street, both possible choices for game night. Royal Clayton’s English Pub (1855 Industrial St) has two large TV’s in a comfortable seating area.

For loud and noisy, with the occasional out-of-towner to jeer, Weiland Brewery (400 E. 1st St) is a solid choice if you don't mind the jukebox drowning out play-by-play. Also on the candidate list is the Weiland Underground, found beneath City National Plaza (505 S. Flower St).

Casey's Bar & Grill (613 S. Grand Ave) may make also make the cut. An expansive menu and properly positioned TVs are scattered throughout the restaurant. The FOX Sports Bar at Staples Center (1111 S. Figueroa St) was a great experience when it first opened, but the flickering TV walls will have you wonder if you're watching an old video tape. Plus, the lines to get in during a home game will have you wish you were stuck in traffic listening to the radio.

Perhaps not yet on your list, but worth a shot, is Green Bamboo (136 S Central Ave) in Little Tokyo. The spot was designed to be a sports bar, with a TV in every sight line, and the quick staff are used to serving sports fans. And with the two (almost) realistic paintings, one of Shaq and the other of Kobe, there’s a link to the recent past.

The best part about a series guaranteed at least four games? You don't have to pick just one spot. For sentimental reasons, I may take in one game at Philippe's (1001 N. Alameda St). There is something about a small TV in front of long tables filled with locals, like Chinatown resident Jesse Yip, 75, who has watched the Lakers over the last few decades and can tell you a few things. “Oh, these boys are good,” he nods over a lamb sandwich, “but nothing like West and Chamberlain's team. They should have won a few more titles.”

But what about their 9pm closing time? The counter staffer assured me that if there is a crowd, a kitchen crew member will make sure to turn off the TV after the last person leaves––unless it goes past 10:20pm. Then it just gets turned off.

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