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Britain meets Brazil at Churchill's

Pub is a go-to spot for World Cup watching

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Eating at Churchill's has a way of making you feel a bit more worldly. How appropriate, then, for the British pub to go all out for the 2014 World Cup.

“We open early for the U.S. and England games,” says Sarah, a server. “It gets really crowded in here, really busy.”

For Sunday’s big U.S. vs. Portugal game, Churchill’s began drawing a sizeable crowd early in the evening and was packed by the time the game started. Two flat-screen TVs and a projector at the far end of the bar broadcast the game.

Portugal ended up tying the U.S. 2-2, but in any case the food didn’t disappoint.

Opened in 1996, Churchill’s Pub has become a Bay Street mainstay for locals and a must-see for tourists. The atmosphere alone is enough to keep people coming back. It’s decked out in plenty of Union Jack flags and string lights, and by the entrance hangs a portrait of the pub’s namesake, Winston Churchill.

In honor of the World Cup, FIFA banners sponsored by Bud Light are hung all around the bar area. Inside the restaurant, the tables have placemats depicting double-decker buses and bright red telephone booths, enhancing the London mood. The rooftop bar overlooking the downtown skyline is perfect for breezy summer nights. Downstairs, Winston’s Wine Bar has a mile-long listing of sophisticated wines.

Behind the main bar sits all the alcohol you could dream of, from Malibu to Smirnoff to Jagermeister, but the bartenders note that most people just order beer. And rest assured that the beer list doesn’t just contain Miller and Coors. They carry Weihenstephaner from Germany and Hobgoblin from England, as well as Savannah’s own Southbound.

Like a Southern styling of Cheers, Churchill’s has plenty of devoted regulars who frequent the place on weeknights. But there are also visitors looking to blend in with the locals.

Unlike some bars in Savannah, there are guests of all ages, from people who barely look 21 to fifty- or sixty-somethings. The music accommodates all of their tastes, playing the Arctic Monkeys and the White Stripes right after Tom Petty and Aerosmith. There’s even a digital jukebox at the end of the bar.

But by far, the biggest selling point is that the bar food is actually good. Forget the days of greasy fries and half-assed salads.

At Churchill’s, you can order a charcuterie board with your bourbon and Coke. After all, head chef Mike DeMarco didn’t appear on TV show “Hell’s Kitchen” for nothing.

As far as the food goes, Churchill’s is more than just a gimmicky England-themed tourist trap. Yes, the most popular food on the menu is a toss-up between fish n’ chips and bangers n’ mash, and the menu does have an entire section dedicated to British food, but the chefs clearly endeavor to move past the typical fare.

The menu is diverse, offering everything from shrimp and grits to red pepper hummus to BBQ pork ribs. It’s an easy way to introduce Savannah to the outside world.

Recommended by the wait staff, the steak and ale pie looks a bit unassuming at first, almost like an enlarged potpie. It’s filled with chunks of steak and potatoes and smothered in a tangy brown ale sauce with onion and mushroom. The sautéed vegetables that come with the pie are wonderfully done, and the baked potato was perfectly starchy. A doily was tucked under the pie’s saucer, giving the whole plate an adorable upgrade.

Another highly recommended entrée was the braised pork shank, marinated in apple and fennel. Host Kyle Goodloe didn’t hesitate to suggest it, saying, “It’s the best thing on the menu, for sure.” The mac and cheese is another favorite, as is the smoked brie appetizer.

Even the salads are carefully arranged to look as great as they taste. The Churchill’s house salad has strawberries, candied almonds, and sharp red onions, and the addition of grilled chicken makes the flavors stand out.

When the U.S. plays their next World Cup game on Thursday, June 26, you can count on Churchill’s for all your game day needs. From delicious cocktails to international cuisine to a friendly wait staff, Churchill’s has you covered.

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