At the Penn State bar in New York

New York is a good sports town, but sadly it is not a college football town. Professional sports dominate NYC, namely the Yankees and Mets in baseball, and the Jets and Giants in football. There are no big-time college teams in the New York metro area, unless you count Rutgers in New Jers….nah, there are no big time college programs here.

McFadden's is Notre Dame's bar

McFadden's is Notre Dame's bar

Even so, there are plenty of college football fans. Some fans are from the city and went elsewhere to college, but most are from outside the city and bring their fandom with them to NYC. Fans of specific football teams like to get together and watch games, and the best places to do that are sports bars around the city.

Because there are hundreds of bars in Manhattan – many of them sports bars – it is necessary to coordinate each team’s fan base so they all show up at the same places and watch the games together. This is accomplished by the alumni chapters of each school, which designate a bar an official “team bar.” It’s not clear to me whether or not money changes hands up front, but the arrangement is advantageous to the bars because they get tons of business directed their way, often during otherwise down times. An alumni association will designate a bar a team bar and will encourage all fans to patronize that bar to watch their team’s games. In exchange, the bars always show the team’s games, have specials on food and drinks, and often wear the team’s colors during the game.

Tonic-2Since our cable company doesn’t carry the Big Ten Network – which televised Penn State’s game today against Temple – I decided to try out Penn State’s official bar in New York, Tonic East, located on the bar-heavy 3rd Avenue at 29th Street. Tonic East is a fairly standard sports bar, featuring televisions and projections of the game on every square inch of wall in the 3-story building. They open at 11:00 am on Saturdays, and when I arrived right at 11, there was already a line of about 10 PSU-garbed people – all women, interestingly enough.

This isn't the best quality photo since it was taken with my Blackberry, but you get the idea

This isn't the best quality photo since it was taken with my Blackberry, but you get the idea

I sat at the bar for 4 hours – an hour pre-game and all 3 hours of the game itself – and had a great time. The place was pretty crowded by kickoff at noon, and was standing room only shortly afterwards. All the bartenders and waitresses wore Penn State clothes, and they had a special Penn State game menu. I had a pretty good half-pound cheeseburger and fries with a Coke for just $7 – positively cheap by NYC standards. I watched the game up close on large projection behind the bar, with sound pumped into the restrooms so I never missed a minute. The fans were loud and cheered as if they were at the stadium, often chanting the actual cheers. Someone even brought a cowbell for the traditional P-S-U chant. If I couldn’t be at the game itself on an absolutely perfect September afternoon, this was the next best place.

With cheap food, a big screen TV, and enthusiastic Penn State fans, Tonic East will definitely be a repeat on game days this Fall…


Blue2 copy



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4 responses to “At the Penn State bar in New York

  1. Abuela

    Wonderful! I am glad you enjoyed the game and a $7 meal! Wow! I would like to go there with you and see a game!

  2. As a football fan myself, I truly understand the need to congregate with like minded fans to cheer the team on. It is euphoric when your team wins and the “misery loves company” saying can be applied when you loose. Glad you had fun watching PSU win another game for Joe Pa! I have very fond memories of going to and watching football games on TV with you. Most of time we were for the same team, but not when Alabama was one of the teams. Where did I go wrong?! Anyway, my calendar is marked for September 11, 2010, PSU vs Alabama. It’s gonna be great!!

  3. Don-o

    Sounds better than the restaurant we found with the Penn State game on TV north of Atlanta. You were young and we were staying at your grandmother’s house when she didn’t have the cable network which was broadcasting the game. But we enjoyed watching it while we ate. The place and food were fine however nobody else cared about the game. We have been challenged on many occasions to find Penn State games on TV. We have also had a lot of fun and many great memories going to Penn State games in Birmingham, Tuscaloosa and State College.

  4. cable companies are also offering broadband internet these days and the cost is cheap too ~.”

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