Where to Watch the World Cup and Why

by Janne Barklis

Here’s what I like: beer, mood appropriate music, movie theatres, my living room, and easy access to food—generally high-caliber food, but I have been known to eat an open bag of stale Fritos if it is within arm’s reach. 

What I like more than all those things, however, is collective crowd energy.  What I mean is that there is nothing more pleasant for me than the sensation of being on the same page with a room, street, or park full of strangers.  Whether it is a tacky St. Patrick’s Day Parade or a comically sophisticated poetry reading, I get a predictable high from a group, large or small, convening to enjoy the same event and our committed enthusiasm to engage with it.  The most entertaining form of engagement, which happens to be my favorite form, is yelling loudly at a television screen.  Maybe because it is just so ridiculous, and nothing says unsolicited camaraderie than choosing to be ridiculous, so righteously, with so many other fans—usually in costume.

Unfortunately, I rarely get to partake in this behavior as I have the tricky habit of landing on raucous episodes of Jerry Springer only when alone, and I do not often follow high profile sporting events.  I enjoy stadium baseball games.  I dabble in tennis tournaments.  I’ll share my carnivorous spirit at Super Bowl parties and yell when others yell.  But in general, I have to spend a long time guessing which team is wearing which color.

However every four years something truly magical hits television screens all over the world.  The World Cup is the only sporting event that garners the same hype, by way of its 4-year anticipation, as the Olympics and, for me, is easier to follow.  Played throughout 12 cities in Brazil, this tournament breaks down simply.  One sport.  32 countries.  8 starting groups.  4 teams to a starting group.  Countless slow motion replays of soccer balls colliding with unfortunate cheekbones or one player’s foot with another player’s ribcage.  Excuse me for sounding brutal but that collective wince from everyone watching is one of the best parts of the tournament.  And it’s all over in four weeks.

Why am I hyping this event here, one that seems to have nothing to do with food, drinks, or films?  In order to maximize the joy of World Cup madness it requires some of my other favorite things, which I imagine overlap with some of your favorite things.  For that reason, I would like to share where I will be watching the World Cup this year—along with what I will be eating and drinking.

New Parkway Theater - Oakland, CA

New Parkway Theater – Oakland, CA

1. The New Parkway, Oakland

Because it feels like my living room with a much better screen.

Whenever I gush about The New Parkway, my excitement is equally matched by my surprise that more people have not found this venue.  The New Parkway, the second generation of the Parkway Theatre closed in 2009, opened December 2012.  I began frequenting the theatre once I caught on to their two-for-one tickets on Wednesdays (since disbanded).  I return at least once a month to detox from real life in the quaint comfort of fiction and familiarity.  The New Parkway boasts two theatres.  My favorite of the two is outfitted with only two rows of standard red theatre seats.  The majority of the seating is couches, love seats, and armchairs accessorized by coffee and side tables for your dinner, appetizers, popcorn, desserts, beers, sangria, and pretty much anything else you could want as it functions like a full restaurant.

Audience at the New Parkway Theater in Oakland, CA. Courtesy of Doug Duran.

Audience at the New Parkway Theater in Oakland, CA. Courtesy of Doug Duran.

Throughout the theatre you begin to notice magical silver contraptions.  This is what allows your food to be delivered to you during the movie—and for our purposes, the game.  I have heard of similar businesses in Austin, TX and most recently have seen much more luxurious versions popping up in my hometown of San Diego.  The nicest part of the Parkway aesthetic is its down-to-earth quality and price tag.  Playing both mainstream and blast-from-the-past features, I am constantly checking their calendar for the next quirky film or event.  Next up, of course, being World Cup 2014.  For $5 a pop you can see 63 out of the 64 games.  You can preorder tickets and see the full schedule here.  With beers on tap and a sweet meal I do not have to cook myself, I plan to enjoy the World Cup on a couch reminiscent of home but without those stale Fritos.

Westbrae Biergarten -- Berkeley, CA. Photo by DSA Architects.

Westbrae Biergarten — Berkeley, CA. Photo by DSA Architects.

2. Westbrae Biergarten [New Berkeley Beer Garden], West Berkeley

Because sometimes you want light music and sunshine to accompany your day-drinking.

If you have lived a short time in Berkeley, you have most likely heard of Brazil Café.  However, you may not know it as a café.  You may know it as the neon green food truck—that bright Lego piece amidst the dirty concrete up close to CAL campus.  Once a neighbor to the rather drab Ace Hardware, Brazil Café has found a much more charming home—though it did not start that way.  Thanks to the vision of Linda and Carl Lasagna, the once junkyard and eyesore on the corner of Gilman and Curtis has now transitioned into the much-anticipated West Berkeley Beer Garden.  This spot was so alluring that on my way home from a weekend in the woods, tired and in much need of a shower, I still stopped for a quick pint and tour.  Famous for their tri-tip sandwich, ironically Brazil Café seems much more at home nestled alongside this German-style beer bar.  The ambiance is light and happy due to the combined sonic ambiance of flirty Latin music and running water from the water feature/garden in the center.  While I was not impressed with the Café’s appetizers—a bit overpriced—and the beer menu—which does not seem to take full advantage of what the local breweries have to offer, I am happy to accommodate some initial growing pains.  I have heard accounts of additional food trucks setting up shop, including the rotisserie specialty truck, Roli Roti, as well as a not-yet-open coffee shop in the corner of the garden.  The plans are promising.  And, of course, this newest addition to West Berkeley will also play host to the World Cup with one television and one large portable screen for the center of the garden.  As long as the weather is warm and sunny, this would be my recommendation for the next four weeks—and the summer in general.  For more information, check out their website.

Westbrae Biergarten -- Berkeley, CA. Photo by DSA Architects.

Westbrae Biergarten — Berkeley, CA. Photo by DSA Architects.

Janne BarklisJanne Barklis has a background in writing and experience both on and off stage, and is passionate about coupling her interests in meaningful storytelling and multimedia aesthetics. You can see one of her first endeavors of writing, travel, photography, and performance in the multimedia exhibit Short Spine at www.jannebarklis.com. Her most current project is preparing for a six week jaunt through Eastern Europe where she plans to eat well, drink abundantly, and converse with eccentric strangers.

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