Sports Pub and Grill

Special to The Idaho StatesmanDecember 16, 2005 

— This is a busy time of year at Sports Pub and Grill, with the NFL season in full swing and an impressive line-up of college bowl games slated for the coming weeks.

And with 20 televisions and two 10-foot walls of video constantly flashing, it shouldn't be hard to find your gridiron game here.

Don't worry, though. You can watch basketball and hockey games on daily, too.

The décor at Sports Pub and Grill, a Peter Schott restaurant in the Boise Spectrum, aptly boasts a bombardment of sports-related paraphernalia. The walls are adorned with everything from NASCAR hoods to NFL team flags to Boise State Bronco decorations.

Sports Pub and Grill is split into two hemispheres — a large, bustling barroom sits next to a quieter dining room bedecked with dark wood tables. After 4:30 p.m., patrons under 21 are not allowed in the entire establishment.

The menu spans the gamut of American pub offerings, ranging from nachos to Reubens to more upscale fare such as grilled steaks and seafood pasta.

One chilly evening, we enjoyed extremely fresh tasting pints of Moose Drool ($4.05). This handcrafted brown ale from Montana played well with the veggie quesadilla ($8.99), a mixture of roasted eggplant, zucchini, red bell pepper and red onion, bonded together by gooey smoked Gouda, between crispy flour tortillas. The side of house-made roasted red salsa greatly embellished the quesadilla.

Next up was an order of "Kicked-Up" macaroni and cheese ($8.99), a shiny skillet loaded with bacon-flecked elbow noodles in a cheddar cheese-Parmesan sauce. Every third bite or so, we detected a touch of mustard.

This dish came with a green salad, garnished with cucumber, tomato, carrot and croutons, and what appeared to be house-made Italian vinaigrette.

The Reuben ($8.99) would have been better if it was made with pungent sauerkraut instead of cabbage-carrot slaw. Nonetheless, it was a good sandwich, made on grilled light rye with corned beef, melted Swiss and Thousand Island dressing, served with six panko-breaded onion rings.

Salmon fans will like the smoked salmon entrée ($12.99/ green salad included, in our case). A lightly smoked, pan-seared Atlantic salmon fillet came positioned on a large platter next to a heaping mound of sautéed (al dente) cauliflower, broccoli and carrots. The fish was tender and flaky, with a slightly sweet residual, due to the brown sugar in the marinade.

We finished off with a large square of moist carrot cake ($3.99) that boasted the right amount of spice, lathered with a thick layer of cream cheese frosting and zigzagged with caramel sauce.

A few days later, we came back for lunch.

The "Ultimate Sports Burger" ($5.99/lunch) wasn't as impressive as the name suggested. An overcooked beef patty, smoked ham, crispy bacon slices, Swiss cheese, lettuce and tomato came on a standard sesame seed bun smeared with orange-colored special sauce. The burger was served with a side of skinny, but not quite shoestring, fries.

We weren't much happier with the fish and chips ($5.99/lunch), mostly because the tempura-battered cod medallions were cold, next to a pile of equally cold fries. To make matters worse, the side of coleslaw was starting to turn.

The chicken Caesar ($7.48/lunch) saved the day, with a grilled chicken breast fanned out over a bed of freshly chopped romaine, croutons and shredded Parmesan tossed with a lemony Caesar dressing.

Sports Pub and Grill does some dishes better than others, as is the case at most pubs. But with friendly service and 16 rotating draft beers, you'll most likely leave here happy — unless your team gets routed.

James Patrick Kelly is The Idaho Statesman's restaurant critic. E-mail him at jpkfood@earthlink.net

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