There’s a certain energy at Reno’s East on days when the Michigan State University Spartans play football, Jessie Stipcak says.
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 in one bar means “a lot of energy,” she said. “They’re very lively.”
Therein lies the appeal of local sports bars on MSU game days, according to those who own or work at them.
If you aren’t watching from inside Spartan Stadium during the first home game on Sept. 2, the right sports bar offers food, drinks and a good seat in a communal environment.
“It’s about atmosphere,” said Frank Fata, general manager at Frank’s Press Box in Delta Township. “It’s all Spartan fans. Everyone’s all cheering for the same thing.”
With the first MSU football game of the season 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 you’re 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 MSU’s campus, the rest of the boost in weekly sales is almost certainly thanks to the return of Spartan football, Thompson said.
The sports bar, at 360 Albert St., seats up to 275 people and offers a view of games from 70 televisions. “We get pretty full,” Thompson said. “It’s a good mix. We get alumni who come to town, families come to watch the game and we have quite a few regulars.”
Just over 9 miles away in Delta Township, the Buffalo Wild Wings at 718 Delta Commerce Drive draws a crowd on game days, too.
“When the Spartans are on, about a half hour before game time we start to load up,” said the location’s general manager Matt Cusick. Just how busy the bar gets, though, usually depends on which team MSU is playing that day.
“We have some teams that we say travel well,” Cusick said, meaning fans of Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin often travel to Greater Lansing for game day.
“Being backed up to all these hotels behind us helps us out,” he said. “A lot of people leave the games and then come back to this side of town, so we get 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 in the bar offers a view of football.
“Anywhere you look out of the corner of your eye, you’re able to catch the Spartans,” he said.
Crunchy’s, East Lansing
There’s never a time when the dozen television sets at Crunchy’s aren’t tuned to some kind of sports event, said Mike Krueger, an owner.
“We’ve got soccer playing in there Sunday mornings,” he said Thursday. “We’ve got the Little League World Series playing in there today.”
And when there’s a Spartan football game, the bar’s staff, at 254 W. Grand River Ave., makes sure customers 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 hangs once before Krueger, his wife Jessica and business partner John Mosholder bought it seven years ago, but Crunchy’s is still known for its half-pound Crunchy burger and “bucket of beer,” which works out to 270 ounces of game-day drink.
“We’re kind of right in the middle of everything,” Krueger said. “Within walking distance to the stadium, good proximity to the neighborhood, great proximity to campus.”
Frank’s Press Box, Delta Township
Frank’s Press Box is truly a “Michigan State bar,” Fata said. “We don’t have any Michigan stuff hanging up here. It’s all Michigan State.”
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 own it. It’s been a bar for more than two decades, named after Fata’s grandfather Frank, who ran a restaurant out of the building prior to that.
“He’s the one who started the whole thing,” Fata said.
Frank’s is a neighborhood sports bar with “good pizza, good wings, friendly service and lots of TVs (40, to be exact) to watch the games,” Fata said.
Front 43/Cask & Company, Lansing
Neighboring eateries Cask & Co. and Front 43 Pub have five large projector screens and 36 50-inch televisions. When the Spartans play football, all of them are 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 have the same owner. There’s seating for 250 people inside and plenty of aptly named game-day food, Weaver said.
“You’ve got to have good food, cold beer, TVs and staff,” he said. “We’ve got a Spartan burger and Spartan roll, which is a sushi roll, and Spartan fries. Those are twice-fried french fries with beef brisket, bacon, queso cheese and green onions.”
The eateries also offer 46 different beers on tap.
Nuthouse Sports Grill, Lansing
It was the Lansing Lugnuts’ arrival downtown that inspired the opening of Nuthouse Sports Grill, at 420 E. Michigan Ave., 26 years ago, just 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 seats for about 300 people, and the menu has variety. There are burgers, sandwiches and pizza, but also a “nice selection of salads,” Bramson said.
“And although it sounds like normal bar fare, I think I’d put our food up against just about any other sports bar,” he said.
There are pool tables, foosball tables and dartboards inside and, Bramson said, Nuthouse staff tune 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’re very blessed that way.”
Reno’s East and North, East Lansing and Lansing
Reno’s East and Reno’s North are tied to MSU and its sports program in more ways than one.
Beginning next month, MSU head football coach Mel Tucker will be at Reno’s East, less than 2 miles away from Spartan Stadium, at 1310 Abbot Road, to tape live weekly radio broadcasts. Head basketball coaches Tom Izzo and Suzy Merchant broadcast weekly shows there, too.
Stipcak went to school at MSU and her part-time job as a waitress at Reno’s East led to her ownership of the sports bar in 2003. She bought Reno’s North, at 16460 Old U.S. 27, in 2014.
On MSU home football game days, Dean Transportation offers a shuttle between Reno’s East and Spartan Stadium before and after the game.
Both locations are about 10,000 square feet, with seating for about 350 people and about 60 televisions.
“We kind of have two different vibes,” Stipcak said. “We’ll have an outside area with numerous TVs where you can get fresh air and do the patio viewing. We also have an indoor viewing area as well and there are pool tables, video games, darts, lots of fun stuff to do inside.”
Students, professors, alumni and local residents mingle on game days, she said.
“What makes it exciting is our staff is very outgoing, they get really excited about the games, get dressed up and love engaging with the customers.”
Contact Rachel Greco at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @GrecoatLSJ .