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Sushi for Huskies, Burgers for Wildcats: Where fans can officially gather on Final Four weekend

Sushi for Huskies, Burgers for Wildcats: Where fans can officially gather on Final Four weekend

Now that the Final Four is set, it's time for the 12 official fan gathering restaurants to hang up those team flags and welcome baskeball fans from across the country.

For the first time at an NCAA basketball finals weekend, Hospitality Zones have been established with select Houston area restaurants as designated spots for fans for each of the remaining teams. Fans are encouraged to gather to watch the game and grab a bite at the designated spots.

With three restaurants per team (one each in Downtown/Midtown, Galleria/Uptown and the Washington Corridor) how's a new-to-town net-lover to choose? We've got your back.

Kentucky

As the winner of the East regional, Kentucky fans have a couple great choices — and one really bad one. First, let me implore you, even if you're a Wildcat and you're staying in the Galleria Westin, please venture beyond the Chili's in the mall to cheer on your team. Please.

Especially since Kentucky fans have the option of heading to one of Houston's best burger spots. Christian's Tailgate in Midtown has plenty of tv screens and a decent selection of beer, but it's the burgers that have gotten them national attention from Playboy and Hamburger America, among others.

Your Washington Ave space, Sawyer Park is actually a nice space with tons of screens and a nice rooftop area, especially since Kentucky fans should crowd out the normal crowd. The bar food is fine in a pinch but I wouldn't recommend it.

University of Connecticut

The three restaurants that will be home for Huskies are a solid if oddly global bloc. Near Washington, Cadillac Bar was known for years as a dive-y Tex-Mex joint where people liked to party — with Sharpied walls to match. Now that it's owned by Landry's, it's been cleaned up and kitschified (good-bye, graffiti) but the drinks and the Tex-Mex are still draws.

For something a little swankier, head to Midtown's Sushi Raku, which has some of the best sushi in the city in a large, trendy space. Honestly the only thing aboutr Raku that says "sports" is the 24 Hour Fitness upstairs, but I'm assuming they'll be putting in some big screens and offering sake bombs, so why not?

Or for a more traditional sports bar experience head to Texadelphia near the Galleria, which is not as big but totally sports-focused in addition to serving some decent cheese steaks. While none of these restaurants draws real excitement on a culinary scale (except Raku on a good night), there's not really a bad choice either.

Butler

Oh, Butler. I hope Indianapolis is not secretly a culinary mecca, because the Southeast bracket seems to have come up short in the good food department.There's Maggiano's in the Galleria area, which is consistently high-quality, if not local or terribly original.

For drinking and watching the games hit Front Porch Pub in Midtown, which is kinda small but perfect for those objectives as well as for Midtown people watching. Or 360 Sports Lounge on Washington Avenue wouldn't be bad either — for a description, see Sawyer Park, above.

Virginia Comonwealth University

If the general advice here is to drink at the Washington bars, eat at the downtown/midtown restaurants and be wary of the Galleria, the Southwest Regional fan gathering spots are a little different.

The Galleria choice, Gigi's Asian Bistro, is a restaurant that's admittedly inside a mall, but it's also a large and pretty space, the work of second-generation Houston restaurant family and a spot for some excellent Chinese food — especially the signature dumplings.

However the downtown spot, *17 and Sam Bar in the Alden-Houston Hotel, is a set of two smallish spaces separated by the lobby and not particularly designed for sports watching. And with the recent changeover of command, I can't be too sure of the execution of the food on either side (though I hear the Sam Bar burger is good).

The Washington pick, Porch Swing Pub, is one of the block's best spots, essentially a larger version of Front Porch Pub in Midtown with similar stregths and more room to roam.

Of course no fan spending time in Houston should do so while limiting themselves to a handful of restaurants. Check out the CultureMap City Guide and our CultureLists for even more ideas.

News_Bars_Christian's Tailgate
Designated hangouts: Christian's Tailgate is for Kentucky Wildcat fans Photo by Spencer Hutton
News_360 Sports Lounge_young adults_drinking
360 Sports Lounge is for the Butler faithful Courtesy of 360 Sports Lounge
News_Sushi Raku_lounge
Sushi Raku aims for U Conn fans Photo by © Jill Hunter
News_bar_Porch Swing
Porch Swing is a spot for VCU fans