Watching the Rose Bowl at home on New Year's Day is a hard-to-beat experience, particularly for those who take full advantage of expanded hours at local establishments on New Year's Eve. But the shared experience of watching the Badgers play in the Grandaddy of Them All (ESPN, 4:10 p.m.) with a joint full of rosy-cheeked fellow fans is also hard to beat.
The Great Dane's Hilldale brewpub and pool hall (357 Price Place) promise to be awash in red, owing in part to the Dane's collection of high-def TVs, but also to its menu, which offers far better than the average bar fare. Manager Brad Czachor recommends the Rose Bowl Chili, served only on football game days, and a pair of special hot dogs. Both are 12-inch sausages, wrapped in bacon and deep fried. One is smothered in chili and cheese, the other slathered in chipotle mayo and topped with jalapeños.
Beer snobs should consider the Vintage Brewing Company (674 S. Whitney Way). A Finnish Sahti, brewed on premises, is featured and should go down nicely near the fireplace. The Vintage has never hosted a Rose Bowl before, but manager Mike Bridges says a nice crowd turns out to watch Monday Night Football each week.
In the shadow of Camp Randall, the Big Ten Pub (1330 Regent St.) has always been an underrated sports bar with not just a variety of big screens, but also little TVs at most booths. Rose Bowl specials cover both ends of the taste spectrum with buckets of shorties and mimosas.
It's hard to go wrong at the Plaza Tavern (319 N. Henry St.), where owner Dean Hetue says history will be made. "The Plaza's never been open on New Year's Day. For the 40 years it was owned by the Huss family, it was always closed."
Hetue isn't expecting more than 30 or 40 patrons to show up and watch the Rose Bowl on the Plaza's projection screen TV, but with comfy booths, plenty of bar games for halftime diversion and, of course, world-famous Plaza burgers, it might be the ideal venue.
Plus, it's close to State Street, where an ad hoc victory parade is most likely to form.