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Restaurants ready to tackle football season
Fans gather for eats, action
Derek Coyle, manager of Taco Mac in Cumming, pulls a beer Tuesday. The eatery will be serving many beers when college and pro football season starts this weekend. - photo by Jim Dean
Whether they root for the birds, the bees or Bengals, football fans can find a home across Forsyth County to cheer on their teams.

When Georgia Tech is playing, local Yellow Jackets fans gather at Taco Mac on Market Place Boulevard in Cumming.

“Our game watch — whether it’s basketball, baseball, soccer — we are meeting at Taco Mac,” said Michael Hickman, who heads up the West Lanier Georgia Tech Club. “It’s about the camaraderie.

“We talk about what we like that’s good and complain about what we don’t like.”

Depending on the game, anywhere from 10 to 40 Tech fans will meet there, Hickman said. But with about 2,400 members in the club, fans spread out at various local restaurants.

Tech kicks off its football season at 1 p.m. Saturday against Jacksonville State University. Five days later, on Sept. 10, the Jackets face Clemson on ESPN.

Taco Mac manager J.R. Davenport said football season brings “a pretty significant increase in business.”

“I would say by probably 20 to 30 percent,” he said.

But the restaurant isn’t just a college football hangout. Davenport said it also is the “NFL game day headquarters for the Falcons.”

Another Falcons hotspot is Summits Wayside Tavern. As manager Peter Gagne put it, “When the Falcons are doing well, so is business.”

But the restaurant isn’t exclusive to the Falcons, said Gagne, a New England Patriots supporter.  Fans of Ohio State and Louisiana State universities, as well as those of various professional teams, are known to frequent the Cumming tavern.

“We don’t have any one specific team that people follow,” he said. “We get every kind of fan ... so things should be heating up here in the next couple of weeks. We’ve also got a lot of fantasy football guys.”

It’s hard to find a local gathering place that’s not showing University of Georgia’s games. The Dawgs face Oklahoma State at 3:30 p.m. Saturday on ABC.

The local chapter of the UGA Alumni Association will meet in many locations throughout the season. Jennifer Morrell, who heads the Forsyth chapter of the UGA group, said it doesn’t have “a regular haunt anymore” since Indigo Joe’s closed.

“It’s tough for UGA games, because we compete with Athens being so close,” she said. “We have learned not to try to host a lot of game watches, but rather to have one or two for far away games,” she said.

With that in mind, the group’s next event is set for Sept. 19 at the Firkin & Crown in The Avenue Forsyth. That’s when the Dawgs face Arkansas.

Added Morrell: “I do know that for Big 10 games, Tanner’s Bar & Grill is the place.”

It’s not hard to find a place to watch the in-state teams, but where do Pittsburgh Steeler or Cincinnati Bengal fans go? How ‘bout Beef O’Bradys on Freedom Parkway in north Forsyth.

Owner David Graham doesn’t know why supporters of the AFC North foes started coming to the restaurant, but “last year, we were averaging around 20 or 30 fans per team.”

A Falcons fan, Graham said he’s “OK with that.”

“I’d rather have them here than somewhere else,” he said.

With 27 flat screen TVs in the restaurant, Graham said he’s able to show all games, even those of the Florida Gators “because of their popularity for the last couple of years.”

While large sports bars typically show many games, loyal fans should be careful in selecting just any restaurant.

For example, the Hudson Grille in Alpharetta is the gathering place for the Atlanta Auburn Club.

But when the Hudson Grille in Midtown opens later this month, the Atlanta chapter of the University of Alabama Alumni Association has already staked its claim there.

Florida fans might want to steer clear of TJ’s Sports Bar & Grill in Alpharetta, home to the Atlanta Seminole Club.

But Florida State University fans will not likely receive a warm welcome from the crowd at the Alpharetta Ale House, where the Atlanta Gator Club meets for games.

Lynn Andrews, a University of Georgia alumnus, said she “can’t get any more excited about football.”

But when it comes to watching games, Andrews opts out of official Dawgs hangouts.

“Sometimes, you don’t want to be too far from home,” she said. “A lot of friends will go to larger sports bars ... and those are always filled with a lot of people ... but most of my friends like to stick close to home so they can celebrate together.

“You have an opportunity to watch the games and meet your friends ... there are lots of friendly rivalries.”

Bill Norman, owner of Norman’s Landing, said his Atlanta Falcons and UGA customers come to his Peachtree Parkway restaurant for the food.

“We’ve got mini chicken sandwiches and we do mini burgers at the bar, and now we just added the crab cake,” he said. “We’ve got piña coladas from Costa Rica and just the coldest beer in town.”

With six TVs, Norman said the restaurant still has “a truckload of people for all the Georgia and Georgia Tech games.”

“We try to have a good time during the game, and before and after the game.”