Yes, it's that time of the decade. World Cup season has descended upon our fair city, and while it may be true that Americans are generally immune to the stimulating effects of soccer, it sure seems like global enthusiasm for the world's biggest sporting event is becoming contagious.
From June 11 to July 11, 32 nations will face off for the Cup. The group stage, in which eight groups of four teams play each other round-robin to determine which teams will advance, begins this Friday with the kickoff game between Mexico and South Africa. The best two teams from each group will advance to the second round, which will begin on June 26.
So far in the accompanying media feeding frenzy, we've discovered that the world's biggest stars are determined to injure themselves right before the tournament, that plastic noisemakers can be very controversial, and that North Korea's Kim Jung Il is a sore loser (okay, fine, we already knew that).
We know, it's kind of overwhelming. That's why WNYC is here to help.
As the competition is being held more than a few time zones off, the games will be airing early: 7:30am, 9am, and 2:30pm. Many New York bars and restaurants are planning on opening early and serving coffee and reduced menus (along with some tantalizing drink specials). With every nation under the sun represented in the five boroughs, you can expect eyes will be glued to screens from bodega and bistro, so there are plenty of options. Here's a small smattering.
Mi Tio Uruguayan Steakhouse (Uruguay)
8908 Queens Blvd; Elmhurst
Tiny Uruguay, famed for hosting the first World Cup in 1930 and for racking up two World Cup championships, has been down on its luck for the last six decades or so. After failing to qualify in 2006, Uruguayans are extra-excited to be going in with a strong squad this time around, and games at Mi Tio restaurant should be high-drama. The spacious restaurant will be opening early for games and expects to be packed. Consider having one of their succulent steaks drenched in chimichurri for breakfast. It will go well with the pounding Afro-Uruguayan candombe drumming music that will be hyping up the fans.
AsoRock Lounge and Restaurant (Nigeria)
13824 Farmers Blvd; Rochdale
Nigeria may not be the favorite among the African nations competing this year (that would be Ivory Coast or Cameroon), but that shouldn't stop Nigerians from coming out to support the team at the Aso Rock Lounge and Restaurant, located in the under-appreciated South Queens neighborhood of Rochdale. Come for the footie, stay for the mouth-numbing goat pepper soup.
Casa Galicia (Spain)
3709 31st Avenue; Astoria
Housed in a hulking Astoria building, the Casa Galicia is a community center for Galician Spaniards in the Tri-State Area (read: a place to watch Spanish soccer games). After sweeping Euro 2008, there are high expectations for Spain this year, so things should be especially heated. Officially, the Casa Galicia is a private social club and you need to know a member to get in, but a well-placed smile should get you through the door. If you make it, tasty tapas await.
Petite Abeille (France)
134 West Broadway, 401 E 20th St, 44 W 17th St; Downtown
All three locations of this terminally cute mini-chain of Belgian-style brasseries will be opening early for the 7:30am games and will be offering $3 Stellas during games. The patron who successfully predicts the score and winner of the afternoon games will win a big bottle of premium Belgian beer. One lucky person who comes closest to guessing the winner and score of the final, as well as the exact timing of each goal, will win a card that entitles them to free brunch for life.
116 Avenue C, East Village
In Germany 2006, the country of Serbia and Montenegro decided to split up mid-World Cup, leaving the national team in a very strange position of representing a nation that no longer existed. Now rid of pesky Montenegro, Serbia and its famed defense is still fierce as ever. At Kafana, a cozy Alphabet City eatery, Serbian fans will be cramming in for their opening game against Ghana on June 13 at 10am. For the 7:30 game against Germany on the June 18, things should get interesting: German soccer bar Zum Shnieder is located across the street.
257 Sixth Avenue; West Village
As one of the older Argentinean restaurants around in New York, Novecento always attracts large groups of rabid fans for Argentina matches. For their opening match this Saturday at 10am against Nigeria, they already have over 100 reservations, and will be offering a $20 fixe-prix breakfast menu. Hopes are high for the "Albiceleste" with the young prodigy Lionel Messi finally ready to play on the starting squad.
Berry Park (Everybody)
4 Berry Street; Williamsburg
Not only is Berry Park, Williamsburg's barn-chic rooftop beer garden, dutifully showing every single game for Brooklyn soccer freaks willing to rise early, but owner John Marchisio will be projecting the games on a giant 15-foot wall surrounded by a mural depicting Cape Town's Green Point stadium. Almost like being in South Africa.
583 Vanderbilt Avenue; Prospect Heights
Just opened this January, Woodwork is the pet project of soccer freak Ross Greenberg. The concept is a soccer-centric bar without the frat-house feel — a sports bar for gourmands. For the World Cup, Greenberg will be offering special small plates for each match based on the cuisines of the competing nations.
Sheep Station (Australia)
149 4th Avenue; Park Slope
Despite a 3-0 loss in a recent warm-up against the U.S. national team, Australians are feeling good after steamrolling through the Asian qualifiers on their road to the Cup. Sheep Station is the place to go to watch the "Socceroos" face Germany in their opening game this Sunday at 2:30.
Miss Favela (Brazil)
57 S. 5th Street; Williamsburg
After winning the whole tournament a whopping five times, its impossible to discount Brazil. This year, as always, they are going in as a potential winner even without buck-toothed superstar Ronaldinho on the squad. While Williamsburg might not be the Brazilian enclave that Astoria is, a solid crowd of brasileiros will be downing caipirinhas at Miss Favela, the bar and restaurant located in the shadows of the Williamsburg bridge (who may have a live samba band for the games). For the full Brazilian experience, stop by Made in Brazil on Astoria’s 31st Street, a cramped little club that charges a $15 entrance fee for the privilege of watching the game on a big projected screen.
Papaye Diner (Ghana)
2300 Grand Concourse; Fordham Heights
West Africans in the Bronx will be hanging out at Papaye Restaurant for games, one of the most beloved eateries among the Ghanaian community that lives along Grand Concourse. Ghana made it to the second round 2006, but faces a tough group this year, including Serbia, Germany, and Australia.
Now you know where to watch, find out which games are not to be missed.
Know any good places to watch games in the Bronx or Staten Island? Leave your picks in the comments page below.