PHOTO: Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken is a Memphis institution. (Photo via Flickr/Evan Blaser)
The wait is over. March is here and the madness isn't far behind.
The 2017 NCAA Tournament gets underway this week, bringing some of college basketball's best teams and biggest fans to 14 cities across the U.S. The action tips off in Dayton, Ohio and continues into the weekend via eight destinations spanning from coast to coast.
Once the Sweet 16 is set, the tournament will head to four regional sites, which include New York City. At last, the Final Four contenders will face off in the desert of Glendale, Arizona on the first weekend in April.
While it's anyone's guess which team will win it all, one thing is certain, all of those matchups are sure to work up fans' appetite. Fortunately, there are plenty of stellar restaurants and bars to discover in all 14 tournament sites.
The tournament begins inside Dayton's UD Arena every year with the First Four play-in games. But before the field is trimmed to 64 teams be sure to sample some delectable Italian food at the Spaghetti Warehouse. The food is great, and the atmosphere is every bit as special. Plus, the restaurant celebrates Meatball Madness this time of year; You can vote for your favorite entree for a shot to win a free appetizer.
Buffalo, New York
Pearl Street Grill & Brewery is just a 10-minute walk from the KeyBank Center and is the ideal place to chow down in Buffalo before, during or after the games. In addition to a vast selection of beer, Pearl Street boasts a diverse menu that includes Buffalo-style wings (of course!) as well as mouth-watering sandwiches, burgers and pizzas.
Located less than one mile from the BMO Harris Bradley Center, Sanford Restaurant is a no-brainer if you're looking for the perfect spot for a hearty pre or postgame meal. Owner and executive chef Justin Aprahamian has been honored on several occasions by the James Beard Foundation and keeps things fresh with an ever-changing menu.
Voted the best seafood restaurant in Orlando by the Orlando Sentinel's 18th annual Foodie Awards last year, Big Fin Seafood Kitchen features a substantial menu including everything from crab claws, sushi and oysters to lamb chops and fried alligator.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Basketball fans visiting Salt Lake City this March can't go wrong with a trip to either Takashi or Red Iguana—it just depends whether they're in the mood for Japanese or Mexican. The former is only a four-minute drive from Vivint Smart Home Arena and boasts items like succulent shiitake lamb shank, while the latter is a Utah institution located just as close to the arena and serving up beloved signature mole dishes.
Greenville, South Carolina
Halls Chophouse is merely a six-minute drive from Bon Secours Wellness Arena and is where visitors to Greenville will find one of the best steaks in South Carolina. The menu is overflowing with locally-sourced ingredients while the excellent food is complemented by views of the Reedy River.
Indianapolis is home to an impressive steakhouse scene, and St. Elmo's is easily one of the best. (Just ask the locals.) Located a short walk from Bankers Life Fieldhouse, this downtown Indy landmark takes steak and seafood to the next level and also features an old-school cocktail lounge.
You won't find a better pizza in Tulsa than Andolini's Pizzeria. Located just a brief drive from the BOK Center, this restaurant offers delicious New York-style pizzas and classic Italian dishes as well as a large craft beer selection. The mozzarella here is even made in-house.
Burgers and Brew's name says it all, and with more than 25 different specialty burgers and 30 craft beer taps to choose from, you'll be hard-pressed not to leave this Sacramento staple 100 percent satisfied. The best part? There are two locations within six minutes of the Golden 1 Center.
Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City is renowned for its world-class barbecue, and while there are plenty of standout joints for those seeking smoked deliciousness, a fresh experience awaits at Grunauer. Just five minutes from the Sprint Center, this restaurant serves authentic Germanic cuisine sure to pair beautifully with any one of the German and Austrian beers available.
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San Jose, California
The Boiling Crab is well worth the short drive outside of San Jose. Select a fresh catch to be steamed or boiled in a Cajun-style blend of spices; then have it tossed in your choice of seasoning. Options include Rajun Cajun, lemon pepper, garlic sauce or all three. Really hungry? Add a side of gumbo or sweet potato fries.
New York, New York
Head across the street from Madison Square Garden to find American Whiskey, a Southern-influenced sports bar offering a diverse menu of items designed to pair flawlessly with one of its many whiskey selections. If you're not sure which to try, order a flight and find out what you like.
Since the NCAA Tournament won't head to Nashville until next year, Memphis is easily the No. 1 stop for barbecue among this season's sites. While you'll definitely want to check out Corky's BBQ and Central BBQ, Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken is a game-changer and should top your list.
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Just a 12-minute walk from FedExForum, Gus's has won countless awards thanks to its unrivaled fried chicken that combines the perfect amount of spice, crunch and juiciness.
Next month's Final Four and National Championship Game will be played at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. Fortunately for fans, Yard House is just a 10-minute walk from the arena.
In addition to a limitless craft beer menu, Yard House boasts a huge food menu offering up everything from Nashville hot chicken to spicy jambalaya. Yard House also offers a late-night happy hour that fans can take advantage of after the nets and confetti come down April 3.