There’s a certain energy in Reno’s East on days when the Michigan State University Spartans play football, says Jessie Stipcak.
Stipcak, who now owns the Abbot Road sports bar, was an MSU student when she started working there as a waitress in 1996, and the energy on an MSU football Saturday has been the same every fall since.
A lot of Michigan State fans at a bar means “a lot of energy,” he said. “They are very lively.”
Therein lies the appeal of local sports bars on MSU game days, according to those who own or work in them.
If you’re not watching from inside Spartan Stadium during the home opener on September 2, the right sports bar offers food, drinks and a great seat in a community setting.
“It’s about the atmosphere,” said Frank Fata, general manager of Frank’s Press Box in Delta Township. “They’re all Spartan fans. They’re all cheering for the same thing.”
With MSU’s first football game of the season just days away, here’s a closer look at half a dozen popular sports bars, both in East Lansing and throughout Greater Lansing, to consider when looking for a place to watch.
Buffalo Wild Wings, East Lansing and Delta Township
Business at Buffalo Wild Wings in East Lansing nearly doubles from summer to fall every year, said Tim Thompson, the location’s general manager.
While much of that is attributed to the return of students to the MSU campus, the rest of the increase in weekly sales is almost certainly due to the return of Spartan football, Thompson said.
The sports bar, at 360 Albert St., seats 275 people and offers a view of the games from 70 televisions. “We’re pretty full,” Thompson said. “It’s a good mix. We have alumni coming to town, families coming to watch the game, and we have quite a few repeat customers.”
Just over 9 miles away in Delta Township, Buffalo Wild Wings at 718 Delta Commerce Drive also draws a crowd on game days.
“When the Spartans are on, about a half hour before game time, we start loading up,” location general manager Matt Cusick said. However, the bar’s occupancy level generally depends on which team MSU is playing that day.
“We have some teams that we say travel well,” Cusick said, meaning fans from Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin often travel to Greater Lansing for game day.
“Being supported by all these hotels behind us helps us,” he said. “A lot of people leave games and then come back to this side of town, so we have a good crowd during the game and then a good crowd after the game.”
Both Thompson and Cusick said Buffalo Wild Wings’ popularity isn’t just about the wing options on the menu and the more than 30 beers on tap. Every seat at the bar offers a view of the football.
“Wherever you look out of the corner of your eye, you can catch the Spartans,” he said.
Crunchy’s, East Lansing
There’s never a time when the dozen or so TVs at Crunchy’s aren’t tuned for some sort of sporting event, said Mike Krueger, owner.
“We have soccer playing there on Sunday mornings,” he said Thursday. “We have the Little League World Series playing there today.”
And when there’s a Spartan football game, the staff at the bar, at 254 W. Grand River Ave., make sure patrons can watch it, he said.
Beyond its proximity to Spartan Stadium less than a mile away, Crunchy’s has a well-established history in East Lansing. Paul Grattarola, whose nickname was Crunchy, opened it 40 years ago in 1982.
The sports bar changed locations once before Krueger, his wife Jessica, and their business partner John Mosholder bought it seven years ago, but Crunchy’s is still known for its half-pound Crunchy burger and “beer bucket,” which equals to 270 ounces of play. -drink of the day
“We’re right in the middle of everything,” Krueger said. “Short distance to stadium, good proximity to neighborhood, great proximity to campus.”
Frank’s Press Box, Delta Township
Frank’s Press Box is really a “state of Michigan bar,” Fata said. “We don’t have anything from Michigan hanging here. It’s all from the state of Michigan.”
The 200-plus seat sports bar, at 7216 W. Saginaw Hwy., is also a family affair. Fata’s father and his father’s two brothers are the owners. It’s been a bar for over two decades, named after Fata’s grandfather Frank, who ran a restaurant out of the building before that.
“He’s the one who started it all,” Fata said.
Frank’s is a neighborhood sports bar with “good pizza, good wings, friendly service and plenty of TVs (40, to be exact) to watch the games,” Fata said.
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Front 43/Cask & Company, Lansing
Neighboring restaurants Cask & Co. and Front 43 Pub have five large projection screens and 36 50-inch televisions. When the Spartans play football, everyone is tuned in, said Kurt Weaver, director of operations for both.
“And we always have the sound on for MSU games,” he said.
The restaurants, at 3425 E. Saginaw St. in Lansing, share 6,500 square feet and are jointly owned. There’s seating for 250 people inside and plenty of aptly named game-day food, Weaver said.
“You have to have good food, cold beer, televisions and staff,” he said. “We have a Spartan burger and a Spartan roll, which is a sushi roll, and Spartan fries. It’s double-fried fries with brisket, bacon, cheese, and green onions.”
The restaurants also offer 46 different beers on tap.
Nuthouse Sports Grill, Lansing
It was the arrival of downtown Lansing Lugnuts that inspired the opening of Nuthouse Sports Grill, at 420 E. Michigan Ave., 26 years ago, directly across the street from what is now Jackson Field.
“We opened the same year as the Lugnuts,” said Tom “Dewey” Bramson, its managing partner, but it’s a popular sports bar for more than just baseball games.
There are 21 televisions and seating for about 300 people, and the menu has variety. There are burgers, sandwiches and pizza, but also a “good selection of salads,” Bramson said.
“And while it sounds like regular bar food, I think I’d compare our food to any other sports bar,” he said.
There are pool tables, foosball tables and dart boards inside and, Bramson said, the Nuthouse staff tunes the bar’s televisions to college and professional football games in the fall.
“We see a lot of regulars, a lot of familiar faces,” he said. “We are very blessed that way.”
East and North of Reno, East Lansing and Lansing
Reno’s East and Reno’s North are tied to MSU and its athletic program in more ways than one.
Starting next month, MSU head football coach Mel Tucker will be in Reno’s East, less than 2 miles from Spartan Stadium at 1310 Abbot Road, to record weekly live radio broadcasts. Head basketball coaches Tom Izzo and Suzy Merchant also broadcast weekly shows there.
Stipcak went to school at MSU and her part-time job as a waitress at Reno’s East led to her owning the sports bar in 2003. She bought Reno’s North, at 16460 Old US 27, in 2014.
On MSU home football game days, Dean Transportation offers shuttle service between Reno’s East and Spartan Stadium before and after the game.
Both venues are about 10,000 square feet, with seating for about 350 people and about 60 televisions.
“We have two different vibes,” Stipcak said. “We’ll have an outside area with numerous TVs where you can get some fresh air and watch the yard. We also have an inside viewing area and there are pool tables, video games, darts, lots of fun things to do inside.”
Students, faculty, alumni and local residents mingle on game days, he said.
“What makes it exciting is that our staff are very outgoing, they get very excited about the games, they dress well and they love interacting with customers.”
Contact Rachel Greco at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @GrecoatLSJ .