Whether on the gridiron, hardwood, diamond, or ice, athletes raise our expectations, and in crucial moments, dash our hopes or fulfill our dreams. Some of them cement fame and glory by following through on guarantees. Others fall, get backpage bullied, and live accepting that they never won a ring. Whatever their success in the record books, many gridiron heroes and ballpark messiahs have splashed their names on dining establishments that also serve as a shrine to their athletic glory. But there's not necessarily any correlation between winning and the ability to open a great restaurant.
For the last two years, The Daily Meal has evaluated the best athlete-owned restaurants in America, looking at restaurants owned or invested in by boxers, golfers, skateboarders, hockey players, quarterbacks, and basketball legends. For most, the formula is pretty standard: generic pub food, lots of TVs, even more memorabilia covering the walls, and always, always, spinach artichoke dip. The only thing usually missing is the athlete himself.
Don’t expect to spot Brett Favre greeting guests at his steakhouse in Green Bay. And what about say, for instance, Michael Jordan's The Steak House N.Y.C.? The website may claim that the restaurant was "designed to reflect Michael's sense of taste and style," but the way its representatives respond to the most innocent of questions about His Airness' basic involvement lead you to the conclusion that the only connection to him is a licensing one.
But the reality is that whether or not the athlete is there, or even regularly involved, there are athlete-owned restaurants that put out popular food — and some of it's even good. On the West Coast, skateboarder Tony Hawk has invested in a restaurant that's kitchen is run by a James Beard Foundation "California Chef of the Year." Meanwhile, NFL quarterback Vince Young not only has a steakhouse in Austin, but also supplies his own brand of smoked meat to area grocery stores.
To determine this year's champs we investigated reader suggestions, evaluated local reviews, tallied popular rating sites, and scoured menus for more than 35 athlete-owned restaurants across the country to narrow the list to just the 20 best. This year's list includes steakhouses, Southern specialists, barbecue joints, sports grills, high-end dining, and Chinese restaurants that are owned, or partially owned, by athletes. Check out the slideshow for all the details. And if you think that there are any we left out, feel free to let us know in the comments.
Additional reporting by Dan Myers.