Day drinking is one of life’s great joys. To drink in the morning is to surrender your time to leisure. To drink before noon is to enjoy a day of complete apathy; once your feet begin to feel a bit lighter in their shoes, the rest of the afternoon and a considerable part of the evening has already been spoken for.
Which is why, even though team U.S.A won’t see any World Cup action until at least 2022, it’s exciting that the World Cup is not only upon us but is going down in a place so far removed from our shores that several of the games will start as early as six in the morning. If ever you needed an excuse for pre-breakfast beers, the reason is nigh.
Whether you're drinking to celebrate the pageantry of international soccer, quell your nerves as your adopted squad
takes the field, or simply forget about the sorry state of our own national soccer program, here are the Triangle’s top spots to raise a pint during this summer’s World Cup, kicking off in Russia on June 14. Pull up a bar stool for a few pre-work pints, or, hell, take the entire day off and have yourself a solo party.
Start in the Oak City at what’s arguably the Triangle’s most authentic English pub, London Bridge Pub
. With a dark-paneled interior and tall beer taps rising from the hulking bar, London Bridge prides itself on being a soccer fan’s soccer bar and is exactly the type of place you’d expect to find carousing soccer hooligans
donning Liverpool jerseys, holding their team scarves aloft on a Sunday afternoon.
As an official support outpost for local soccer clubs North Carolina FC and NC Courage and Raleigh’s chapter of our national team’s support club, American Outlaws, soccer is king at London Bridge. The bar features games on several interior flat screens and plans to erect an outdoor tent with a massive projector screen for the bigger matches. Given the U.S.’s exclusion from this year’s World Cup, London Bridge is only opening for one of the six a.m. matches, when France plays Australia on Saturday, June 16, though they still plan to open at eight on every other match day.
After an early morning game, take an Uber or Lyft (remember, we’re responsibly day drinking here, so let’s not get behind the wheel, OK?) toward Hillsborough Street for a few at the Players’ Retreat
. This sixty-seven-year-old bar in the shadow of the Bell Tower is high on personality and low on pretense, priding itself on being “less of a bar and more of a family.” With a bar-length slate of flat screens and two projection screens, the Players’ Retreat is one of Raleigh’s most exciting places to watch soccer.
“We had about sixty people in here for the Champions League final,” bar manager Travis Boyer says. “It’s great because Raleigh is becoming more and more of a soccer town.” With a lengthy menu trading in bar-food staples like wings, burgers, and ribs, mid-morning at the Players’ Retreat might be a good time to pile a few plates of food into your suds-soaked stomach before heading to Durham for the next game.
Downtown Durham’s Bull McCabe’s Irish Pub
boasts one of the Triangle’s premier indoor-outdoor hangs. With televisions located both inside the bar and lining the outdoor patio wall, there’s hardly a bad seat in the pub. That'll likely be especially true when they open their doors at eight in the morning for a select slate of games, including Argentina v. Iceland, Brazil v. Costa Rica, and England v. Panama. There are nineteen beers on tap and another ten in bottles and cans, making Bull McCabe’s a perfect place to post up for a morning or an afternoon of World Cup action and world-class suds. And given its location in the heart of downtown, taking an hour to walk it off before the next slate of games is not only doable, it’s downright enjoyable.
A bar that regularly plays Saturday-morning English Premier League games has got to be a good spot when the biggest tournament on Earth comes around, right? Right. Mattie B’s Public House
in Durham keeps its tap selection tight, focusing on a handful of carefully chosen craft beers, many of which are N.C.-brewed. Opening early-ish (nine a.m. on the weekends) during the tournament, Mattie B’s plans to feature food and drink from World Cup-bound countries. Week one will feature Mexican-inspired food and beer specials, with the “host country” rotating every week and a half. Here’s hoping for an Icelandic-themed week, because who doesn’t want to pair a plate of fermented shark with a White Street Kölsch?
Over in Chapel Hill, you should have one destination in mind: Italian Pizzeria III
“This is the best place to watch international soccer,” co-owner Angelo Marrone told me over a pie late last week. As devastated as he is that Italy will miss out on World Cup action for the first time in more than six decades, Marrone realizes that soccer fans count on his Franklin Street pizzeria to get their fix. But he won’t be opening for some of those super early matchups.
“I got a wife and kids,” he said, laughing. “Unless it’s Italy, I can’t be thinking about no six a.m. games.”
Rest assured though, Marrone and his brother, Vincenzo, plan to open their doors early for compelling games. So grab a table and a pitcher of Yuengling, order a large plain pie (add sausage and mushrooms if you insist on toppings), the Penne Vesuvio, and a half-dozen garlic knots, and remind Angelo and Vincenzo that there’s always next World Cup.