By Steve Springer
Watching a Big East basketball game is a great experience, whether in person or on TV. The sights and sounds of a collegiate game day in a huge arena can reward a fan with a lifetime of memories. But why limit oneself to only two senses. There can be more to it than that. Much more.
A diehard fan of Big East Basketball participates in the game day activities inside the arena, but doesn’t limit oneself to just watching one’s team fly up and down the floor, basking in the cheers, chants, whistles, and squeaking of hightops on the hardwood. There are three other senses that can indulge the fan into making the most out of the experience.
Tailgating is an excellent way to dive into the tastes and smells of college football.Â It’s not, however, ideal during basketball season, at least not traditionally.Â The majority of the Big East hoops season falls during the cold winter months, with many of the schools located in the bitterly cold Northeast. We can’t all have home games in sunny Tampa, Florida like the Bulls do. So the rest of us are forced to find good grub and spirits indoors. The following is an attempt to narrow the best post game and late-night dining establishments in Louisville into a top five as we slide behind the wheel of a Naughty Volvo S60:
- Cardinal Hall of Fame Cafe— There’s no other restaurant in the world that represents a team better than the Cardinal Hall of Fame Cafe represents the University of Louisville.Â The restaurant resides in the shadow of the nicest on-campus stadium in the country, Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. Stepping into the restaurant you are surrounded by reminders of Cardinal greatness, with your feet traversing the Walk of Fame, consisting of tiles that display the name, sport, years played, and induction year of the finest athletes in the school’s history. The entryway includes dozens of trophies, jerseys, balls, and all sorts of memorabilia. On one wall is a giant mural featuring the likenesses of Darrell Griffith, Wes Unseld, Pervis Ellison, Howard Schnellenberger, and of course, Hall of Fame coach Denny Crum, amongst many others. Quite the nostalgic feeling, having a two-time championship coach, Fiesta Bowl winning coach, and hardwood and pigskin giants along with the steaks, pizza, seafood, and everything else on an eclectic menu. A literal sensory overload of everything Cardinal.
- Dennyâ€™s Restaurant — What collegiate midnight munchies marathon would be complete without the world famous Grand Slam Breakfast from the Dennyâ€™s on Eastern Parkway?Â After a game’s worth of seven dollar beers at the arena, partying your tail off celebrating a hard-earned Big East victory and yet more brew, you could be celebrating into the wee hours of the morning and quickly approaching the break of dawn. Denny’s would be the destination of choice, as long as all the other breakfast places aren’t open yet. Pancakes, bacon, eggs, French toast- easy on the wallet, but not the arteries.
- Papa John’s — A dedicated UofL fan will always find a way to support his school, even when it’s satisfying late night hunger. What better way to accomplish that than patronizing one of UofL’s largest contributors? Papa John Schnatter of Louisville started his worldwide pizza chain in Louisville in the closet of his father’s business and it grew into the best pizza chain in the world. He drops major coinage on UofL whenever possible, contributing to many different athletic facilities/events, scholarships, and to top it off, he donated so much to the construction of the football stadium that he earned the naming rights, thus Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. He really represents the spirit of generosity and a true Cardinal fan always stops by Papa’s when craving a pizza.
- Granville Inn — A unique local spot on our dining tour would be the Granville Inn on Third Street, just off the campus. The atmosphere on game day during the season is electric.Â The party is always rocking here after a victory and they have the best burger in town.Â It combines an historic look (1930’s) with the contemporary sounds of college bands and music, partying the night away after a big win over rival West Virginia, or a blowout of Cincinnati. Jessica, the day manager, has been a UofL fan her entire life, and her being revolves around keeping them full and happy, after wins and losses.
- White Castle — Finally, at any time of night after a game, no matter how tired, wasted, hungover, almost broke you are, there’s always White Castle. The mini hamburgers are available 24 hours a day, which is great because some people’s hunger is available 24 hours a day, or especially after late night celebrations.Â The hamburgers aren’t too bad if you can fill up on a couple (not likely). But after about five or six, they all start to taste the same and really just serve the purpose of filling your gullet instead of pleasing your tastebuds.Â One caveat, however. They do have a drive thru, but the smell and the grease that permeates the bag, your clothes, everything, should not be allowed into the luxurious cabin of the Naughty S60. Put them in the trunk, on the roof, whatever you have to do to keep from soiling the leather.
We’ve covered four of the five senses, leaving only the sense of touch. What better way to cap off the full sensory experience than by feeling the quiet rumble of the 300 horsepower engine throw you back in your seat as you race to get that pizza back to your dorm room or wherever you call home before it gets cold, or as you hug the turns with the all wheel drive suspension to make sure you get those burgers out of the trunk before the smell of onions and fries drown out that new car smell. Combine the Naughty S60 and any (or all if you dare) of these dining experiences to make your late night driving and dining course really special.