By Ted Scheffler, City Weekly -- With spring in the air and baseball back in swing, I find myself veering toward sports bars a little more than usual. The crack of a bat and the snap of opening a cold bottle of brew are two of my favorite sounds. I used to think that sport-themed bars and restaurants were a fairly new invention, coming along in maybe the past couple of decades. Back in the day, almost any bar was a sports bar; many had a TV in the corner where patrons watched their favorite teams and events. It turns out, however, that Boston’s famous McGreevy’s—thought to be America’s first sports bar—has been around for 120 years! Opened in 1894 by “Nuf Ced” McGreevy, it was originally called the 3rd Base Saloon. So, apparently, the American sports bar isn’t as new of a phenomenon as I’d thought.
Salt Lake City isn’t as sports-crazed as some places I’ve lived, where publicly root-root-rooting for your favorite team can be a risky proposition. That was especially true for me, a Red Sox fan, living in New York City. Here, things are a bit mellower. Jazz and Real Salt Lake fans tend to be more forgiving of the opposition than, for instance, Yankee and Phillies fans are. But regardless of your sporting allegiances, here’s a squad of great places to take in a game, match, tournament, race or other sporting competition.
One of my favorite spots to watch sports is ’Bout Time Pub & Grub (multiple locations, BoutTimePub.com), particularly the Gateway mall location, where servers like Jamie go out of their way to make you feel at home. Created by Joe and Paula Fraser, the first ’Bout Time in West Jordan has spawned locations from St. George to Ogden. I suspect the popularity is due in part to the grub. The food at ’Bout Time is superior to most bar food, ranging from the traditional burgers, wings, pizzas and such to not-so-traditional Irish nachos: deep-fried potato slices topped with ranch dressing, cheese, bacon, sour cream and parsley. I also really like the Monterey chicken: three boneless breasts with mesquite seasoning, grilled and topped with provolone, ham and fresh slices of avocado. And hey, it may be a sports bar, but you can get a drinkable bottle of wine here, too.
If you suffer from ADD, I’d recommend staying away from The Huddle Sports Bar & Grill (2400 E. Fort Union Blvd., 801-438-8300, TheHuddleSportsBar.com). With 24 big HDTVs and two ginormous 8-foot projection TVs, there are distractions aplenty, and the senses are bombarded with sports of every stripe. The daily specials at The Huddle are popular, especially the $3 barbecue burgers on weekends. There’s a big selection of full-strength bottled beers that make good sipping with menu items like the housemade chile verde, the sensational steak sandwich, Asian pot stickers, fabulous fish tacos and much more, including breakfast on Sundays during football season.
I remember reviewing the first Iggy’s Sports Grill (multiple locations, IggysSportsGrill.com) many years ago, and thinking, “This is a concept that will be very popular.” I was correct, as it turns out; there are now nine locations in Utah. What makes Iggy’s so appealing? Well, it’s a friendly, comfy place to watch sports, for starters. Settle in with a 25-ounce beer and dig into Iggy apps like bacon-wrapped chicken wings or a bottomless bowl of chips and salsa. For entrees, you can’t beat the Yankee pot roast (not named for the New York Yankees, I’d point out), country-fried steak or baby back ribs. The brick-oven pizzas are good, too, especially the deep-dish Chicago pie. And, while it wouldn’t fly in many sports bars, you won’t be ejected if you decide to order a piña colada to accompany your coconut shrimp.
If there’s a friendlier sports-bar staff in Utah than at Legends Sports Pub (677 S. 200 West, 801-355-3598, WhyLegends.com), I haven’t found it. And the daily $5 specials—which include choices like burritos, pizza, tacos, sandwiches and such, and both soup and salad—are damned hard to beat. On Fridays, I like to drop $5 for a cheese pizza, salad and clam chowder—what a bargain. And, who could resist libations like the Fighting Irish Car Bomb, Topless in Key West or, my favorite drink of decadence, the Scooby Snack: Coconut Jack Rum, Melon Liqueur, pineapple juice, sweet & sour mix, plus cream.
After a Scooby Snack, you might not have room for food. But if you do, I suggest starting with a quartet of beef, pork or chicken sliders or maybe Legends’ famous poutine—a City Weekly Best of Utah award-winner. I also find it hard to pass up the comforting open-face turkey sandwich, served on white bread with turkey gravy and a choice of spuds. For dessert, you could simply indulge in another Scooby Snack, or perhaps enjoy a classic banana split or ice cream sundae.
The original Lumpy’s (now in three locations, LumpysBar.com) qualifies as one of Salt Lake City’s first sport-friendly bars—in fact, one of SLC’s friendliest bars, period. Patrons are never far from a TV—there are even monitors in some of the booths—and rib-sticking fare like the jambalaya, Cajun-seasoned rib-eye steak, chicken potpie and classic fish & chips makes Lumpy’s a terrific spot to enjoy the big game.
Other faves for sports aficionados include Dick N’ Dixies (479 E. 300 South, 801-521-3556), especially for soccer nuts—some of the Real Salt Lake team and coaches even hang out there—The Point After in Murray (5445 S. 900 East, 801-266-9552, PointAfterSLC.com) and The Puck (3396 S. Decker Lake Drive, 801-975-7825, ThePuck.org), adjacent to the Maverik Center in West Valley City.