Eats and Entertainment

The enormous World Sports Grille is like the Super Bowl of sports bars--but the food could use some help

The World Sports Grille stays true to its name with a menu that includes a plethora of "international" food.

A flick of the page takes you from pizza (including both Greek and Thai pizzas, $8.99 and $9.99 respectively), to North African tagine (from $10.99 to $18.99, depending on content and size) to a Szechwan pork-rib noodle bowl ($10.99). There are also pastas, panini, sandwiches, soups, salads, burgers, etc.--it's the proverbial "something for everyone" menu, and then some.

As for the "sports" part of the name: This is a sports bar on steroids. There's so much visual and audio stimulation--I could see five big-screen TVs, with three different games on, from where I sat--you could feel a bit overwhelmed.

The pleasant lunchtime hostess escorted us through the enormous building to one of the rooms in back; this gave us a good chance to take it all in. In the barroom, you have a choice of sitting in a living room-like space (which is kind of neat) or at the bar, at the center of which is a column of light that changes color continually (which is kind of over the top). Several dining areas have both booths and tables on different levels. There's lots of glass and wood, and enough memorabilia to rival a sports hall of fame.

And then there's the game room, which takes up at least half of the space. This should be no surprise, as the brains behind WSG are the Sega Entertainment folks. Every conceivable electronic game is there; for the more-traditional gamers, there are dart boards and several pool tables. It's loud, but the kiddies all seemed to be having fun.

Now, back to the food.

The menu consists of pages of colorfully described food items, some with pictures. (Personally, pictures on menus turn me off, but perhaps I'm in the minority.) We started with the appetizer-sampler platter ($16.99), where we had a choice of four items from a list of seven: wings, Tex-Mex rolls, Kobe-beef hot dogs, Santa Fe potato skins, chicken tenders, bruschetta and vegetable spring rolls. We took the first four, and also ordered two beers from the long, international beer list ($4.25 each). WSG offers decent and worldly wine and cocktail lists, too.

I opted for a blue cheese and avocado burger, cooked medium, with fries ($9.49), and John ordered a turkey club ($8.59) with fruit on the side.

The sampler platter arrived quickly, but most of the items did not impress us: They were attractive to the eye in both scope and presentation, but relatively bland in taste. Several dipping sauces accompanied the food: sour cream, blue cheese, honey mustard, a ranch-salsa-mayo dip and pickle relish. The potato skins had so much stuff on them--chicken, olives and Monterey jack and cheddar cheese--that you couldn't taste the potato. The wings were small and tough; the sauce was mediocre. The two mini Kobe dogs (Kobe beef hot dogs ... who knew?) were so-so. The one plus was the Tex-Mex rolls: Crispy tortillas were wrapped around chicken, black beans, corn, red peppers, avocado, onion, jalapeños and the same cheeses as the skins.

Our server had taken the order without writing anything down, and he had to come back to check, because he'd forgotten what we'd ordered for entrées. When I told him I'd ordered a burger, his response was "well-done," and I corrected him. Well, when I got my burger, it was well-done, rendering it dry and nearly tasteless. Yes, there was half of an avocado on top and a sprinkling of blue-cheese crumbles, but still it suffered from being on the grill too long. The fries were cold and greasy.

John's sandwich, on the other hand, was the very definition of a good, traditional club sandwich. Turkey, ham, bacon, jack and Swiss cheeses, tomatoes and lettuce had been artfully layered between three slices of sourdough toast; there was enough for leftovers.

Thankfully, our dinner experience was a vast improvement over lunch. We ordered the bruschetta ($4 during happy hour, 4 to 7 p.m. weekdays; normally $7.99) as an appetizer. This was a mistake: Sure, there were tomatoes, basil and a drizzle of balsamic glaze, but there was so much garlic and onions that it was inedible. Plus, the cheese wasn't even melted. Our server noticed we weren't eating it and took it away with a sincere apology.

John ordered the fish and chips ($11.99), and I had the pepper steak ($16.99). For beverages, John had a Bass Ale ($3.13 at happy hour), and I had a glass of Michel Picard pinot noir ($6.99).

The fish and chips consisted of light, ever-so-crispy tempura batter on two large pieces of moist, white fish. The coleslaw was crisp and nicely chilled, while the fries were unfortunately over-salted.

My pepper steak came exactly as ordered: medium rare, with a great char on the outside. A light, creamy cognac sauce balanced out the crunchy peppercorns that had been pressed into the steak. The wild rice seemed too much like a packaged mix, but the kitchen deserves props for using roasted sweet potatoes as the side veggies, even if they were undercooked.

When we decided on the chocolate lava cake ($4.99) to split as dessert, our server warned us that it was small, but after all that food, "small" sounded just right. I've certainly had better versions, and a little more "lava" might have been nice, but it's hard to argue with warm-chocolate anything.

World Sports Grille's food didn't exactly win me over--there were just too many weak points--but I can understand why it's so popular with other folks.