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Sports bars upping their game

Sports bars upping their game

Restaurants offering sports fans high-end cuisine in polished settings

A new breed of sports bar is emerging with high-end eats and polished settings, from Emeril Lagasse’s Stadium in Las Vegas to the new Brackets in Dallas.

TVs also are being elevated in these higher-end sports bars, with wall-sized screens at High Velocity in the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa and the 30-foot screens at the posh National Pastime Sports Bar and Grill in the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md.

Brinda Holt Curley, president and chief operating officer of Brackets in Dallas, said the restaurant fills a need for sports fans who want high-quality food.

“Brackets is the missing link that ties a sports bar with a restaurant,” she said. “What we are trying to do is to fuse the two together. Even though we are a sports bar, we can have great food.”

Besides offering table tennis, shuffleboard, darts and televised sporting events, Brackets’ flat screens also get turned to “The Bachelor” television reality show to draw in a female contingent.

The menu, while showcasing burgers and wings like at any blue-collar sports bar, also features items like lobster ravioli in a white wine-sage cream sauce for $25 and a 16-ounce, ancho-chili-rubbed Cowboy Ribeye with garlic mashed potatoes, green beans and tobacco onions for $26.

Even the wings at Brackets get a gourmet spin, offered in traditional buffalo as well as “savory lemoncello and pepper.”

At High Velocity in the year-old JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa, sports-themed paintings and team logos are overshadowed by a 120-foot-long, 12-foot-high undulating TV wall above the bar. The bar has become a popular San Antonio destination for game-watching and entertaining with a Texas-inspired menu and two dozen beers on tap.

High Velocity’s menu features such non-traditional sports-bar fare as chicken Parmesan with house-made marinara over penne with provolone for $15 and a pan-seared teriyaki salmon fillet with citrus-soy dressed Asian greens for $18.

Early on with the upscale sports bar trend was celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, who opened Lagasse’s Stadium at The Palazzo Resort-Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas in September 2009.

The 24,000-square-foot sports bar and entertainment venue features billiards on the Las Vegas Strip patio and stadium-style seating in plush couches facing a 9-by-16-foot video wall. It also has more than 100 high-definition televisions and an extensive sports-book betting area.

“I wanted this place to be fun,” Lagasse said at the opening. “It’s not stuffy.”

The average check at Lagasse’s Stadium is close to $30. Menu items include barbecue shrimp with rosemary flatbread; New Orleans-style crab cakes; Creole-boiled shrimp cocktail, French dip sandwiches with garlic-roasted prime rib and truffle aioli on New Orleans French bread; and barbecued baby-back ribs with jalapeno cornbread.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected].

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