Raising the Bar

Game On Sports Grille has set a new standard for sports-themed restaurants

Sports-themed establishments (bars, restaurants and the like) are a dime a dozen, and generally serve up cheap beer and greasy food in a dingy environment with TVs blaring—not that I mind, actually. I frequent some of these fine local establishments whenever I'm in the mood for a cold beer and fried munchies.

But Game On Sports Grille is different. The owners of this upscale sports bar/restaurant took the old Chuy's on the northwest corner of Oracle and Orange Grove roads and did an amazing job remodeling the once-dingy space into a sleek, modern joint with many well-placed flat-screen TVs, a polished bar and reasonable prices—not to mention attentive service.

I had heard rumors of cheap, delicious wings, which I was really excited about—rightfully so, as it turned out. We started off our rainy weekday-evening visit with nice, cold Full Sail Session beers (99 cents each) and a few varieties of wings (50 cents each; a minimum order of six per flavor). Six each of the classic, ancho chili and spicy BBQ wings were brought in short order by our smiling server. The classic wings, with Frank's Red Hot Sauce, were crispy and spicy, but not too spicy. They're contenders for my favorite wings in Tucson, if I dare say so. The ancho wings were subtle and flavorful, with just a hint of heat, and the spicy BBQ were truly outstanding, with a sweet homemade barbecue sauce that packed a little punch right at the end. After devouring our wings, Ted and I were definitely ready to see if the entrées stacked up.

Two giant platters of food arrived moments after the chic stainless-steel wing baskets (who knew baskets could be mod?) were whisked away. The large trifecta burger ($8.99) was placed in front of me, with a generous mound of hand-cut fries; the equally giant Southwest open-faced corn (sic) beef reuben ($7.49) with a huge pile of fresh, crunchy coleslaw was Ted's entrée. The burger was delicious; it was just a touch overcooked, but the tasty, tangy barbecue sauce and generous helping of cheddar cheese and caramelized onions made up for it. The fries were nothing short of amazing: perfectly cooked—crispy on the outside and flaky-hot on the inside—and well-seasoned to boot. The heaping pile of corned beef was thinly sliced, piled high on rye and not too salty, and smothered in cheddar jack cheese. The coleslaw was fresh, crunchy and light, and not overdressed.

We left, stuffed and scheming about when we would be able to come nosh on more wings.

Our next visit, a late lunch on a hot Saturday afternoon, showed Game On's consistency and excellence. We couldn't resist another go at the Full Sail beer—we got the amber lager ($1) and a Session (99 cents)—and decided to try out a few appetizers, even though the wing menu was there, taunting me. The bacon-wrapped shrimp were a delight with a honey chipotle glaze, and not overcooked at all ($7.99); the half-time Buffalo cheese-stick originals ($6.99)—a breaded crispy mix of blue and Monterey jack cheeses, served with Frank's Red Hot Sauce and ranch dressing—set the bar for all future deep-fried pieces of cheese I shall consume. Next up was the Tucson Philly cheese steak sandwich ($5.49 regular size) and knock-out fish and chips ($7.99), on the server's recommendation.

The cheese steak was good—not revelatory, but darn good. A generous pile of meat, cheese, peppers, onion, lettuce and tomato somehow all fit in a soft hoagie. The only thing it was missing was more peppers. I couldn't resist getting the fries again ... and again, they were superb. The fish and chips were also excellent: Three large pieces of whitefish sat steaming-hot on a mound of those yummy fries. The batter was crispy and flavorful without overwhelming the moist, flaky, tender fish. The tartar sauce wasn't even necessary, but was also delish, and tangy, a great complement to the fish.

Game On certainly has its game on and is setting a new standard for sports-themed establishments in Tucson. Their menu also features some fresh and delicious-looking salads, south-of-the-border creations, soups and desserts. It has clean, sleek, modern surroundings without pretension. There's not a greasy plate in sight, and service is thoughtful and always with a smile. Each booth features its own flat-screen TV, and there are plenty of others to look at from the tables and bars.

I could get used to that. Well, that, and the wings.

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