Finding America’s Best Sports Bars: Idaho’s Corner Club Has Nailed the Formula
One month ago Extra Mustard put out a call: We wanted to crown the best sports bars in America, and we wanted you beautiful lushes to help us do it. Nominations poured in, and we took it from there: Talking to patrons, consulting Yelp reviews, having reporters make the rounds. It wasn’t hard work, and we didn’t have to do it. But boy, did we enjoy it.
Last week we crowned Standings, in New York City, as the finest east coast destination for thirsty sports fans. This time around, we followed our compass westward.
You can begin telling us how wrong we are … now.
West region selection: The Corner Club
202 N. Main Street • Moscow, ID 83843 • 208.882.2915 • cornerclubmoscow.com
From the outside, the Corner Club in Moscow, Idaho looks more like a Cold War bomb shelter than a sports bar, but don’t let the windowless, cinder-block building’s appearance fool you. When you step inside, you will understand why the Corner Club has earned, and maintains, its legendary status. Although small and impossibly jammed on game night, the Corner Club is a classic college sports watering hole that is fanatical in its devotion to the home team: the University of Idaho Vandals.
Inside, the bar is L-shaped, with a shuffleboard table running down the long area of the L, and the main boozin’ area in the short stem. There are eight sturdy tables varying in size—some as large as a truck bed, others no bigger than a lunch tray—each plastered with news clippings about the Vandals with headlines like “Guts, Glory,” and “‘It’s huge to win a game like this,’” referring to the Vandals’ 2009 Humanitarian Bowl Championship. The bar itself boasts 10 stools, and it’s quickly evident that this is not a lounging bar, but a standing bar where there is space to dig in and cheer on your favorite team, Idaho-based or otherwise. This past Tuesday at 5:00pm, patrons were watching horse racing or the MLB All-Star game.
Despite the Vandals swag adorning every wall, this bar is a no-frills drinking establishment that serves up its famous “Tubs”—32 ounce cups of beer (PBR, Rolling Rock, Sessions, Ranier, Bud, Bud Light, to name a few)—for $4.00. Patrons can also enjoy Washington state microbrew Red Hook, while hard cider seekers will find Angry Orchard on tap.
Between happy hour (3:00-6:00) and 9:00 PM, the crowd is comprised of work-a-day regulars who come in to visit, watch ESPN, or simply unwind. “This is your classic blue-collar kind of bar,” Joe Roach, a steady patron of twenty years, said. “But from 9:00 on, it’s totally different. It’s a college bar.”
“It’s like two different worlds,” added Shan Dudley, who noted that she bartended in Moscow in the 1970s when there were thirty-two bars in the small college town.
“I disagree,” Rich Miller, another regular and a former beer delivery man, interjected. “This is a place where white-collar people and blue-collar folks can come together.”
And what connects them? The Vandals, and the classic stories of the Corner Club itself.
Consider the John Yarno autographed football that resides in a wall-mounted glass-case along with other Vandals memorabilia. “I’d always heard that when Yarno was drafted by the Seahawks, he got the call here at the Corner Club,” owner Marc Trivelpiece said. “And then awhile back, Yarno came in and I asked him. He confirmed it—he actually took the call in the bar.”
Other legends abound. Five-time NBA All-Star Gus Johnson played for the Vandals from 1962-1963, and one night Herm Goetz—who opened the Corner Club in 1948—asked the 6′-6″ Johnson to show-off his famous jumping ability. Standing flat-footed, Johnson jumped and touched an 11′-6″ ceiling beam. Goetz drove a nail in the beam marking the spot Johnson hit, and laid down a subsequent challenge: Anyone who could jump that high and bend the nail would drink for free. 23 years later, Joey Johnson— kid brother of NBA star Dennis Johnson—was traveling through Moscow with his college team when his coaches took him to the Corner Club to face the nail. On his third try, Johnson succeeded at bending the sky-high fastener.
That nail was lost when the original structure was torn down and the bar moved into the connecting building behind it, but the story lives on. As will the Corner Club.
Number of TVs: Seven.
Sustenance: Free popcorn is served daily, and you can always buy chips, jerky, and pickled Polish sausages. Every Wednesday, bottomless, unshelled salted peanuts are available. Just throw the shells on the floor—it’s tradition.
Quirky memorabilia: A giant, three-foot-long Rainier bottle opener that Mickey Rooney used in a 1980s Rainier commercial.
Random sign bolted to the ceiling: “HOH,” as in Ida-HOH.
What you might miss: A single black brick painted 11 feet, six inches above the entrance, commemorating “The Nail.”
Mark your calendar: Thursday night is Ladies Nights. Double-shot drinks for $2.50.
Brandon R. Schrand is the author of The Enders Hotel, and most recently Works Cited: An Alphabetical Odyssey of Mayhem & Misbehavior. He teaches creative writing at the University of Idaho in Moscow, where he lives with his wife and two children. brandonschrand.com