Champions swings for the fences in sports bar cuisine

April 19, 2011

By David Hayes

The best way to judge a new eatery is by determining how well it handles the basics.

The lunch menu at Field of Champions Bar & Grill epitomizes the basics of casual dining.

Located on the banks of Issaquah Creek, the restaurant has been described as a cross between Red Robin and The Gas Lamp — essentially a family-friendly alehouse. The sports memorabilia ranges from donated local Little League banners to signed mementos of national sports icons, like Michael Jordan. As a sports bar, at least four flat-screen TVs can be seen from every seat in the house.

As a group of us watched a replay of the previous night’s Mariners’ game, we decided to cover our bases and order a variety of basics from the lunch menu.

I went straight for the heart of a sports bar’s menu and ordered a burger, but not just any slider. I chose the BBQ, which was not only big in size, but also huge in flavor. Come hungry, because this behemoth easily surpasses a quarter-pound, with toppings — including smoked bacon, cheddar cheese and onion rings — piled high. And no, the onion rings are not on the side, but on the burger.

As I have not yet perfected the technique to devour my food by unhinging my lower jaw, a la the boa constrictor, I had to remove one of the beer battered onion rings. Then at manageable size, the first bite into the burger was an explosion of tastes and texture, from the tangy barbecue sauce to the crunch of the onion ring and fresh veggies. The burger itself was grilled to order, so get it as rare or charred as your heart desires.

For the three of us who received fries with our meals, it was unanimous that Champions has done something special with their spuds. They were nice and crisp on the outside, and tender and flavor filled on the inside. For a little variety, the menu also offers freshly cut sweet potato fries or coleslaw.

Another bar menu staple is the chicken burger. A colleague found it quite satisfying — he really liked the bacon and the ciabatta roll it was served on providing a nice change of pace.

A third basic is the club sandwich. This one came stuffed with slow-roasted turkey breast and smoked bacon — the combination surprisingly flavorful, with the toasted wheat bread adding a nice taste and texture.

For those with less of an appetite, the menu features a half-sandwich-and-soup option. The turkey sandwich — featuring bakery-fresh bread and thick slabs of meat — offered quite the mouthful to sink your teeth into. And a cup of chili — mixed with beans, veggies, stewed tomatoes and ground beef — was enough to warm up anyone on a cold, rainy day.

Our token vegetarian ordered the soup-and-salad combo. Served in a traditional ramekin, the caramelized onions were salty and tasty, with a slice of bread floating on top providing the crust for the melted Swiss cheese. The secret ingredient making it completely irresistible was Jack Daniels. And while the salad came a little light on the dressing, the server was prompt in bringing extra on the side.

With a firm grip on the basics, I can’t help be assured Champions can easily handle the entreès offered, from smoked salmon pasta to grilled New York steak. A varied menu ensures return trips for this diner.

Restaurant reviews are a regular feature of The Issaquah Press. Reviewers visit restaurants unannounced and pay in full for their meals.

Field of Champions Sports Bar & Grill

  • 385 N.W. Gilman Blvd.
  • 392-4850
  • www.fieldofchampionssbg.com
  • 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
  • Appetizers — $3.95 to $9.95
  • Soups and salads — $3.95 to $13.95
  • Meals — $8.95 to $19.95

David Hayes: dhayes@isspress.com, 392-6434, ext. 237. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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