Step-Ahead Sports Bar 

Throwbacks is a sports bar, but the food is (generally) better than what you'd expect

Sometimes it's difficult not to judge a place by its outward appearance, location or previous tenant; but as with all things in life, going in with an open mind is of utmost importance for the overall enjoyment of the experience.

Throwbacks, at Prince Road and First Avenue, is housed in a former Famous Sam's, and the owners have done a wonderful job sprucing up the place from the dank pit it once was. It's clean and modern, with two dozen or so TVs scattered about the place for optimal event viewing from any seat in the house. They've also incorporated a closed-off area with several pool tables and a separate bar that allows smoking.

Beer selection, price and inexpensive yet tasty food are of utmost importance when considering the success or failure of a sports bar, and Throwbacks gets a passing grade, although there are a few areas with room for improvement. There's a nice bottled beer selection featuring some local microbrews and other craft beers, although the choice of brews on tap leaves something to be desired if you're looking for something other than the traditional domestics, light beers, Guinness or Dos Equis. (A note to our very nice server: Audible Ale is not a red. Or an amber. It's about as amber as Jessica Simpson is brunette.) But there are a few nice draft selections that aren't part of the Bud, Coors and Miller families. Bottles run from $3.25 to $6.25 and drafts are in the $3-to-$7 range, depending on what's on tap and on special.

The food at Throwbacks is better than your typical bar fare. The onion rings ($6) were cut super-thick and freshly battered with a nice, light batter dotted with herbs and spices. The calamari ($7), while not freshly battered, wasn't overly chewy and the chipotle aioli was a nice departure from the traditional marinara or ranch dipping sauce. There are a good variety of other appetizers to nosh on, from your typical wings and mozzarella sticks to meatball sliders and pretzel bites.

Entrées run the gamut from salads, soups, chili and loaded baked potatoes to a variety of burgers and dogs, top sirloin steak and fish and chips. The short-rib French dip ($12), the fish and chips ($11) and the Seventh Inning hot dog ($7) were all especially tasty. The short ribs used on the dip added an interesting balance of sweetness and vinegar that contrasted with the tangy horseradish; the fish was dipped in the same tasty batter as the onion rings and came in a very generous portion; and the Seventh Inning dog had a great spicy kick to it thanks to the slathering of house-made chili and diced fresh jalapeños.

My bloody mary burger ($11) was disappointing—the description of blackened tomatoes with horseradish cream, pepper jack cheese and a fried egg, topped with shaved celery, sounded unique and tasty, but the execution was poor. The egg was overcooked, and there wasn't enough horseradish or pepper jack to lend the proper bite to the sandwich. The shaved celery was probably a good idea in theory, but in practice it was stringy and awkward on the burger. My other complaint was that the fries, on both visits, were a bit limp. They needed a couple of more minutes in the fryer at a higher temp.

Both visits to Throwbacks were highlighted by the friendly service, though the servers need to work on improving their beer and menu knowledge, and check back on the tables a little more frequently—there shouldn't ever be an empty glass unless you're bringing the check. Bottom line? Throwbacks is a much-needed improvement in the neighborhood and will be a great place to watch sporting events, get a cold drink and enjoy some above-standard bar fare.

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