Bar Exam: Sports & Social Maryland at Live! Casino & Hotel
It was a scene that no doubt played out similarly in sports bars across the region. On the day after Christmas, when third string Ravens quarterback Josh Johnson (Who? more than one person asks) throws a touchdown pass to put Baltimore up 7-3 on Cincinnati, the crowd at Sports & Social Maryland at Hanover’s Live! Casino & Hotel Maryland erupts. But then, minutes later, something curious happens. The patrons seem equally excited when the Lions take the lead over the Falcons in a meaningless game. In fact, cheers and groans are heard from every corner of this space throughout the afternoon, as they undoubtedly will this month during the NCAA Final Four and the start of the NBA playoffs.
Welcome to Sports & Social, Baltimore’s first sports bar in a sports book—that is, an establishment where people can place bets on sporting events. Here, fans’ loyalty is to the betting ticket they hold in their hand, not necessarily to their favorite team. Some may call it soulless, but in the state’s new era of legalized sports gambling, it’s a reality.
Sports & Social is a sports bar on steroids. Look around and you’ll see plenty of people drinking from a $60, 128-ounce “beer tower.” Most of them seem to favor Bud Light, but other less macro varieties, including a Live! Lager made by Devil’s Backbone in Virginia, are available on tap. The cocktail list is surprisingly sophisticated, and we particularly enjoyed the blackberry ginger margarita, made by the busy bartender with care, using tequila blanco, Fee Brothers orange bitters, ginger syrup, blackberries, and lime and lemon juices.
Foodwise, Sports & Social cooks up much of what you’d imagine at a sports bar: wings, nachos, sliders, and flatbreads. But there’s also some slightly more elevated fare, including a chicken avocado BLT, a blackened mahi-mahi wrap, and several bowls, including a Korean one with veggies, gochujang sauce, citrus soy sauce, and steamed rice.
If the bar is open, sports (and betting odds) are everywhere on the massive 100-foot media wall—which includes a 47-foot big screen—behind the bar. The bank of screens is so big, in fact, that if you’re sitting at the bar, it’s hard to see them all. The best place to be sitting, from a TV-watching standpoint, is in one of the comfortable theater-style seats in the front row of the dining area’s upper tier.
As the one o’clock games sped toward their conclusions, someone was cheering like it was the Super Bowl after virtually every play. It was an exhilarating, if not profitable, way to spend a Sunday afternoon. We all left pleasantly full, but only one person in our group departed with extra money in her wallet. Using her head—not her heart—she bet on the Bengals.
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