The World Cup kicks off this afternoon with a match between host country Brazil and Croatia and will end, 64 matches later, with the crowning of a new champion on July 13. There’s even a chance the winner will be someone other than Brazil. But if you weren’t able to snag a flight to Rio, the next best way to watch the World Cup is with your fellow countrymen and -women. To that end, Houstonia has compiled a highly unscientific list of the best places in town to watch (almost) all 32 national squads. Feel free to suggest favorite gathering spots for the countries we missed (Bosnia, Algeria, et. al.) or to dispute our choices in the comments.
If you want to watch Lionel Messi and company try to knock off their South American rivals Brazil at this Galleria-area cafe, you’ll have to pony up— the restaurant charges a $20 cover to watch Argentina games. “It’s going to be pretty packed,” a manager told me.
3055 Sage Rd. #130
Formerly known as the Firkin and Phoenix, this cozy bar hosts an Australian Rules Football final party each fall. This month, Houston Aussies will crowd in to watch a different kind of footy as their national soccer team competes on the world stage.
1915 Westheimer Rd
When it comes to watching the Brazilian national team compete on their home turf, there’s no better place than this traditional restaurant, which will offer a $25 full buffet (kids under 8 half off) each time Brazil plays. The restaurant has already sold out for this afternoon’s match between Brazil and Croatia, so make reservations early for future games.
12288 Westheimer Rd.
Nosh on arepas, bandeja paisa, and empanadas while you cheer on the Colombian national team, led by celebrated coach Jose Pekerman.
9425 Richmond Ave.
This English-style pub has long been Houston’s go-to spot for international soccer—they famously open early in the morning to show live matches—and BuzzFeed recently named it the top place in Texas to watch the World Cup. With an excellent selection of beers from the British Isles, a traditional English breakfast, and the Union Jack everywhere (no angry e-mails—we know the English team uses the St. George's Cross flag), English fans should feel especially welcome here. Doors open at 9am for 10:30 games, and every match features a grand prize drawing.
5920 Richmond Ave.
In the 2010 World Cup, a large French contingent staked out this Midtown sports bar to watch their team embarrass themselves by failing to win a single game and finishing last in their group. Thanks to an easy draw, France seems likely to improve their performance this time around, and there’s no better place to watch them than at a place with 60 HDTVs and drink specials during all matches.
2303 Smith St.
This German-themed bar in Midtown features bratwurst, kielbasa, Bavarian pretzels, and all the Bitburger and Franziskaner you can drink. Where better to watch the German national team make their run at the World Cup?
2616 Louisiana St.
In 2004, Greece shocked the world by winning the UEFA European Championship. While they haven’t matched that result since, their national team is one of the toughest in the world. The manager at this Montrose coffee and wine bar said Houston Greeks will be welcome, although “anybody can come.”
2502B Dunlavy St.
According to the manager, “every time Honduras plays we get packed.” And why not, with a menu of “comida tipica tradicional Hondurena”—think carne asada and parillada de pollo, and a fully-stocked bar?
5945 Bellaire Blvd.
This gourmet Italian food chain was founded in Treviso in 1986 and has since expanded around the world, including opening its Houston location in Midtown. Snack on bruschetta, gnocchi, and wood-fired pizzas as you watch the Italian national team try to repeat their 2006 World Cup championship.
3201 Louisiana St. #103
At this upscale lounge on Washington Ave you can smoke a hookah ($2 off during the World Cup) and enjoy excellent drink specials ($2 beers, buy one shot, get one free) while watching the Iranian national team compete on 13 flat-screen TVs. Make goals, not nukes!
3730 Washington Ave.
This famous Houston karaoke bar, now in its third and largest location, is the place to sit at the bar drinking sake while watching the Japanese national team try to make it out of its group. But please: no karaoke during the matches.
11124 Westheimer Rd.
Fans will pack into every Mexican bar and restaurant—and that’s a lot of bars and restaurants—to cheer on their national team. But if all else fails, watch matches at this West University institution, which seeks to replicate the experience of eating in the streets of Mexico City.
3245 Southwest Fwy.
A bukateria is a cafeteria, and a finger-licking bukateria is obviously the best kind. Although it specializes in Nigerian food, this West African restaurant also serves food from neighboring Ghana and Cameroon—perfect for fans of those two national teams.
9811 Bissonnet St.
Although this chic Greenway Plaza wine bar only has a few TV sets, Portuguese fans will find a congenial atmosphere to watch Ronaldo and company (but mostly Ronaldo) face off against Germany, Ghana, and US in the World Cup’s Group of Death.
3833 Richmond Ave.
Word has it that “Houspaniards” like to cheer on their beloved La Furia Roja—the defending World Cup champs—upstairs at the Montrose coffee shop Agora. The Spanish team, chockfull of world-class players like Sergio Ramos, Xabi Alonso, and Diego Costa, starts their World Cup tomorrow with a rematch of the 2010 final against The Netherlands.
1712 Westheimer Rd.
Boasting the largest HD screen in Houston (21-feet long) and around 50 more flat screens spread out across a cavernous bar, Lucky’s Pub in East Downtown will be home base for the Houston chapter of the American Outlaws. The Houston Dynamo, who play a few blocks away at BBVA Compass Stadium, will host viewing parties at the bar for all US matches.
801 St. Emanuel St.
Uruguay’s hopes rest on the shoulders of Liverpool striker Luis Suarez, who tied the Premier League single-season goal record this year. This family-run restaurant features South American–style grilled steaks and seafood and will be filled with fans hoping their team can pull a repeat of the 1950 World Cup, when they beat Brazil in Rio De Janeiro in a shocking upset.
10234 Westheimer Rd.
Located in the same building as Phoenicia Specialty Foods—an international grocery store for an international city—this cosmopolitan downtown bar is the perfect place to watch the world’s biggest sporting event, no matter what country you’re from or what team you support.
1001 Austin St.