There are sports bars, and then there are sports bars. Side Line Sports Bar and Grill is one of the latter with its friendly, welcoming neighborhood feel.
One Monday, I thought I'd venture to see what this place is like, and get a jump on the Monday night football pre-game commentary.
Side Line is only open to those who are 21 years old and older because it's just that: a bar. Plus, smoking is permitted throughout the premises. It was not too smoky while I was there, but a number of people were enjoying their squares.
The look is very casual with a full bar seating area, tables and booths, and enough TVs to be seen all around: one 8-feet screen, three big-screen TVs, and eight other TVs scattered about.
Pool tables and video games are part of the entertainment, and guests were having fun in these areas. Side Line not only caters to sports, but there is also a space in one area of the bar that features live bands Wednesday through Saturday. For those looking to really be daring, there's even a dance floor for those who so desire.
I grabbed a table in full view of the 8-foot screen to watch the pre-game commentary. The audio was overhead throughout the bar. The lone server on the floor soon attended to me, and I ordered a Michelob Ultra. Service was really good here, even with the one person attending to everyone. The server did a fine job of it, though.
Beer prices are best during happy hour when domestic bottles are $1.75 Monday-Friday, 2-7pm. Side Line has a decent beer selection, including Amber Bock, Boulevard Wheat, Bud Select, Budweiser, Bud Ultra, Coors, Foster's, Sam Adams, Heineken, Michelob Miller Genuine Draft, Shiner Bock, St. Pauli Girl and more. In addition, a full bar is available with double cocktails served all day, every day. With my beer, nachos ($6.95) sounded like a good bar food to munch on to begin.
Bar food can be an adventure in food mediocrity, and through the years I have determined bar food falls in three categories: good, better and best. I'd say Side Line has some of the best bar food around. Let me tell you why.
Instead of the nachos being layers of chips topped with cheese and jalapeno peppers--where many chips are without cheese--it appeared there were two layers of chips with melted Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheeses throughout--not just on top--then the very top was dotted with picked jalapenos and diced tomatoes. Sour cream and salsa was served on the side.
I also ordered Deep Fried Mushrooms ($5.95), knowing I would be taking some of these home.
A basket of mushrooms, with a breaded coating, were deep-fried and served with Ranch dressing. These were good, but nothing exceptional. Other appetizers include Quesadillas ($6.95), Buffalo Wings ($5.95), Potato Skins ($5.95), Egg Rolls ($5.95), Beer Battered Cheese Sticks ($5.95) and Summer Sausage and Cheese Plate ($5.95).
About an hour into my stay here, people began pouring in to play pool, have dinner and just to hang out. Side Line is a perfect place for that--it's comfy and unpretentious.
The menu reads more like a restaurant than a bar. I've come to expect certain bar food staples, but this menu offers a good variety for all bar goers. In addition to the appetizers, Side Line offers Salads (Tuna, Cajun Chicken, Grilled Chicken, House) for $7.95 or less; Dinners (New York Strip, Fried Shrimp Dinner, Steak and Shrimp) for $17.95 or less; and Hamburgers and Sandwiches at $8.95 and less (Hamburgers, Patty Melt, Tuna Melt, Fish Sandwich, Cajun Chicken Breast, Char-Broiled Chicken Breast, Chicken Club, Stadium Hot Dog, Steak Sandwich and Ham and Cheese on Rye).
I felt bold this evening, ordering the New York Strip ($17.95) for dinner. This was a charbroiled 12-ounce center cut steak, and it could be served with either a baked potato or French Fries and a dinner salad. I went with a baked potato. To my surprise, this was a very good steak. It was thick, juicy, cooked to my specification--rare to medium rare--and the best part was that it had a fresh taste and quite tender. The baked potato was rich with flavor, full of cheddar cheese. The salad was iceberg lettuce, red onion and tomato.
I brought an All-American Cheeseburger ($6.50) home for a friend. Again, to my pleasant surprise, this cheeseburger was much better than I expected. This square meat patty was at least one-half inch thick, juicy and had a fine grilled taste to it. It was a tasty and hearty burger, far exceeding my bar food expectations.
Side Line Sports Bar & Grill
5936 S. Lewis Ave.
Side Line has a perfect local neighborhood-feel about it, ideal for meeting friends for a cold brew, very good bar food and enough TV's for everyone.
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