In the Game

Gooch's Grill is a comfy sports/college bar with respectable eats

If for no other reason, you should like Gooch's Grill because of this statement on Gooch's MySpace page: "Tucson Weekly is the only reading material we allow in Gooch's Bar!!"

Thankfully, there are also plenty of other reasons to like this Sixth Street sports bar, in the spot formerly known as Belushe's. There are numerous plasma TV screens (10 in the main bar room, with a couple of others in smaller rooms) to shout at when your team's quarterback makes an ill-advised pass; the outside patio is a lovely place to hang out and catch live music; the drinks are affordable; and the food is good enough.

Garrett and I wandered in for a weeknight dinner and seated ourselves. Gooch's has something of a Hooters vibe, in part because the female servers wear tight black tank tops with "Gooch's Grill" on the front and "G Spot" on the back.

The menu offers pretty much what you'd expect a bar menu to offer: nachos, wings, salads, fries, sandwiches, hot dogs, burgers and fish and chips; there's even a small kids' menu. We ordered the nachos with ground beef ($7.95) to split, while Garrett decided to try the true bleu burger (with, as the menu describes, "bleu cheese, bleu cheese and ... bleu cheese," $7.95). I opted for the Gooch's Italian sausage sandwich (with Italian sausage, sweet or hot peppers, onions and provolone cheese, $6.95).

Our food was delayed—our server apologized and cited a shift change as the reason—but once the nachos arrived, we were impressed. The menu notes that Gooch's makes their own tortilla chips, and they were wonderful. Those chips were covered with jack, cheddar, nacho cheese, green onions and not ground beef, but little cubes of steak. Although we had to ask our server for the missing salsa and sour cream, the nachos were a treat.

I enjoyed my Italian sausage sandwich. Although it was just a touch dry, the cheese, the sausage and the (slightly) hot peppers, which I chose instead of the sweet peppers, worked together nicely. Unfortunately, Garrett was not impressed by his burger, largely because it was overcooked. Our server didn't ask how he wanted his burger prepared, and it came somewhere between medium-well and well-done, which is not how burgers should be cooked, in our opinion. Partially because of the overcooking, the burger was dry, which Garrett tried to fix by slathering it in ketchup.

All sandwiches and burgers come with fries, chips or tots. I got the fries and liked them; they're medium-thick with a coating. Garrett talked the server into giving him onion rings, which were quite large; the ring I stole from him tasted just fine.

I returned a couple of days later with Adam the Art Director and his better half, Laura, for a game-day lunch. (Fun fact: I made the mistake of wearing a Stanford T-shirt, and a group of amped-up UA students at an adjacent table gave me a bit of hell.) We split the grilled chicken quesadilla ($7.95) to start. Laura picked "The Frenchy" sandwich (basically a French dip, $7.95) while Adam ordered the Philly with sliced steak (other options include chicken and turkey, $7.95). I decided to give the burgers another shot and selected Ketch's favorite (with green chile, pepperjack cheese and a "Southwest sauce," $7.95).

Our server—who was competent, if, well, I'll use the word spacey—brought Adam and Laura's Bud Lights ($3 each) and the quesadilla in a timely fashion. The four quesadilla portions were scarfed down quickly, because they were delicious; the chunks of chicken were just the right size, and the quesadilla was grilled to perfection. Unfortunately, it was missing the promised green chiles.

Our sandwiches, like on visit no. 1, offered both ups and downs. Ups: My burger this time was cooked to a perfect medium (I made a point of telling the server I wanted it that way) and was tasty, even if the "Southwest sauce" was almost unnoticeable; Adam liked his Philly, largely because the mushrooms, peppers and onions added a mild kick to the sandwich. Downs: The Philly could have used more provolone cheese; and Laura's French dip was rather bland, thanks to ho-hum meat and au jus. I was also bummed because I ordered tots with my sandwich, and got fries instead; I took a tot from Adam and found it to be rather enjoyable.

All in all, Gooch's Grill is a fun place with bar food that's a hint above average. (They also deliver that food to those located south of Grant Road, north of Broadway Boulevard, east of Euclid Avenue and west of Tucson Boulevard.) It's a fine place to watch a game—and an excellent place to do a bit of reading.

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