Does Sport Have Game?

Pizza and burgers, surrounded by 1,500 flat-screen TVs.

Upscale sports bistros threaten to proliferate the way pho places have in Seattle. The latter phenomenon hasn't yet ended (I think I heard that someone was planning to open a new pho joint in my garage next weekend), and the lavish-sports-bar push in this ball-smitten burg continues, despite the fact that FX McRory's has been around for—gasp!—a quarter century. "Upscale" has been the local push. Fox Sports Grill, downtown's Vegas-style high-fiving headquarters since autumn of '03, remains the class of the competition. It has the requisite manly look and a diverse (some would say pretentious) menu dudes/chicks can dig. But the new guy in town, a wanna-be in many ways, may have game. Sport Restaurant and Bar, for one thing, has parking. The place occupies the north side of Fisher Plaza, in the triangle formed by Denny Avenue, Broad Street, and Fifth Avenue. Where is that? If the Space Needle wore a skirt, perverts could look up it from the semicircle bar area of SR&B. The place also has plenty of seating amid the obligatory sports memorabilia and was doing better than 50 percent lunch biz on Jan. 25, its first Tuesday of existence. The night before, there'd been little live sports programming available to occupy SR&B's approximately 1,500 Samsung high-defs (sometimes you have to settle for a beach thumb-wrestling event beamed in from New Guinea). The staffers (the polyester baseball blouses they wear carry fandom to desperate expectations) just about outnumbered the customers, but my server insisted that the first weekend's take had been "huge" because of pro football and other sports. SR&B has a menu as limited as Fox's is vast: steaks, burgers, fries, and pizza, basically. It seems odd that the selections would be this simple, given that the owner-chef is John Howie, advocate of a thousand taste treats at Magnolia's Palisade and presently at Seastar in Bellevue. Howie said he wanted a place with good value—"kind of high-end but affordable." (The house chardonnay, for example, is the ubiquitous, great-for-its-price Columbia Crest 2002 reserve.) Howie also wants SR&B to be kid-friendly (it's 75 percent restaurant, 25 percent bar). To that end, he bought 300,000 sports trading cards, which he gives away to children as part of an ongoing contest. (The April 9 drawing winner will get a LeBron James–autographed basketball.) Sports fan Howie, at the Super Bowl the first time we spoke, said he's been a local sports season-ticket holder "since I could afford them" and is pleased so far to see locally affiliated jocks visiting his joint. The centerpiece of the SR&B carte is a selection of burgers featuring a Snake River Farms version of Japanese Kobe beef. The $8.50-and-up burgers cost about half of what you pay for the locally definitive Kobe-beef burger at Oceanaire Seafood Room. The difference is that the SR&B version (served with very bland jojo spuds) can be consumed at one sitting by a normal human being; the Oceanaire ($14.95, served with about a bushel's worth of fries) can be consumed by a normal pod of whales. The SR&B's is a very good hamburger. The beef is extremely tender and flavorful, and the sauce (something like the stuff at Kidd Valley) is a fine complement. There's almost as much meat in the bold, Texas-style beanless chili ($6.95 cup, $10.95 bowl), a dish of which Howie is especially proud. Another early favorite among customers is a selection of cracker-thin-crust pizzas. My 8-inch scampi-and-cheese pie ($9.50; $11.95 for the larger version) was somewhat long on the fontina, short on the seafood. Various other selections are available, along with salads, sandwiches, a couple of seafood items, and some steaks. By my third visit. I'd just about gotten the gist of the menu. Salads ($4.95 to $12.95) are ordinary, with iceberg, romaine, and onion crisps providing the crunch and standard dressings adding the flavor. The vaunted "Chop Chop With Salumi's Salami Salad" ($8.50 half, $12.95 whole) was a veritable refrigerator cleanup. The menu cites nine ingredients, but I never found much of the salami. Skipping the steaks, I instead tried the most exotic-sounding item: Jamaican jerk chick-wings ($9.95). It was a dozen drummettes in a lime-accented sauce and probably was meant to be shared; wings get a little monotonous after the ninth or 10th. During my Saturday visit, there was a celebrity jock sighting: Sonics coach Nate McMillan and family, weary, perhaps, having exhausted all of their pho dine-out options. Sport Restaurant & Bar, 140 Fourth Ave. N. (in Fisher Plaza), 206-404-7767, BELLTOWN. 11:30 a.m.–midnight daily.

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