64-21 53rd Drive
When it comes to all eyes upon’ em sporting events like a big prize fight or the Super Bowl let’s say, perhaps no other establishment shines as brightly as O’NEILL’S, what with its multitude of television screens and its oh-so-enthusiastic clientele. But where O’NEILL’S takes on a pretty special quality is when there’s a big race afoot, especially the Belmont Stakes. Because it’s an official OTB establishment, you can play the ponies right then and there, but you also get a chance to dig into some of the best pizza around, the finest burgers, and that unparalleled Porterhouse. Of course, they’ve also got a whole host of beers on tap here, too, whether you happen to be in a celebratory mood or maybe just want to drown your sorrows. (And by the way, make sure you come back for their Ship Roast at Friday Happy Hours!)
& ALE HOUSE
82-70 Austin Street
The ambience at AUSTIN’S STEAK & ALE HOUSE is incredibly conducive to horse-racing aficionados. For one thing, it’s an official OTB establishment, so not only do you get the benefit of some darn pleasant surroundings, but you can bet on any and all races right there at their OTB window. Moreso, AUSTIN’S also features a chalkboard with racing conditions scrawled on it that definitely gives you the feeling that you’re right there at the track (an immediacy also enhanced by the television-at-every-table theme in several of the dining areas). But the thing we probably like best about AUSTIN’S is how the full spectrum of its clientele runs the gamut from the truly hard-core to the occasional bettor/fan. That being said, die-hards can avail themselves of the indoor betting parlor just off the main bar area, while those just along for the ride can do a little wagering at the window, and then peruse their betting slips comfortably over a delicious steak on the just-reopened Trackside Cafe. Now if that doesn’t get you back again and again, well I don’t know what will!
THE IRISH CIRCLE
101-19 Rockaway Beach Boulevard
Looking for a little “beach” ambience to your Belmont experience? Why not check out THE IRISH CIRCLE. Now part of the OTB family, you don’t only get the opportunity to wager in-house here, but thanks to their newly renovated kitchen, you’ve also got a terrific menu from which to choose, including some fantastic burgers and pizza, their Belmont Steak salad (get it?), and a delightful little favorite called Moira’s Mozzarella Moons (deep-fried, with marinara sauce). THE IRISH CIRCLE’s been a neighborhood institution for years now, but even if it’s your first time, you’ll be welcomed like it’s your 40th. (And with good reason, because we’re pretty sure that once you get your first taste of the place, you’ll no doubt be back soon for their Sunday Brunch, too!)
63-28 Woodhaven Boulevard
Now you’re not allowed to place bets on racing at KILLARNEY’S COTTAGE (not officially, anyway!), but there’s such an enthusiastic following of horse racing here, count on them to have any number of races up on their nice array of PANASONIC flat-screens inside the bar area, on just about any given day. Ah yes, that bar area – definitely one of the nicer ones around, you’ll notice pretty quickly. Rugged brick walls are punctuated by some nicely framed windows out onto Woodhaven and 63rd Road, that copper ceiling dangles some pretty nifty vintage fans, and their lengthy bar is made of inlaid stone (from the old country, maybe?). Anyway, ambience doesn’t really make or break a place unless the food is good, so rest assured, if you’re looking to grab a burger while you’re watching The Big Race (and those seasoned fries!), you’re definitely in a great place to do so.
BLACKSTONE RESTAURANT & PUB
Formerly MARY McGUIRE’S, the new BLACKSTONE’S is a terrific sports bar for any occasion, but given that it’s an OTB establishment, races like the Belmont Stakes are extra special events here. One thing a bit different from a lot of other such venues, their equine sports are a completely separate entity here, located upstairs and away from the core crowd of baseball faithful. But that’s far from the main appeal of BLACKSTONE’S – because at the forefront of their reputation is some really friendly neighborly service from some of the best barkeeps and waitresses in town, and a very close second, their weeknight burgers or wings specials which, for those of us on a budget, are a very welcome antidote to remedying any… oh, I dunno… gambling losses we might have incurred recently.
2150 Hempstead Turnpike
What can we say, ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby… and while Baltimore is quite a ways away, and Kentucky even further, just a wee bit over the Queens County border into Nassau, we’ve got one of horse racing’s crown jewels. Look, the very Belmont Stakes themselves (Saturday June 6th) are obviously the hottest ticket on the venue’s calendar (although as of press time, Reserved Seat Applications were still available), but maybe you ought to take their flagship race as your cue to check the place out at some other point this summer, too. The season runs through the end of July, and you might be particularly interested in their “Party At The Park” offerings every Friday. Just visit www.NYRA.com/Belmont for complete information.