10 Best Athlete-Owned Restaurants Slideshow
Though he now plays in the NFL, quarterback Vince Young remains king in Austin, Texas, for leading the Longhorn football team to the NCAA national championship in 2005. Last fall, he returned to his college stomping grounds to open his first restaurant downtown. The menu specializes in beef, from bacon and blue cheese bison sliders to locally sourced Texas prime grade steaks to a rich wagyu brisket burger balanced out by briny house-made pickles.
Vince Young Steakhouse
The namesake restaurant of Canada’s most beloved hockey player and NHL Hall of Famer is strategically located a block and a half from the Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays. Despite being closer to the ballpark than the hockey arena, Gretzky’s pulls in fans with local delicacies like poutine, a heart-clogging mash-up of skin-on fries, cheese curds, and a pool of gravy. There’s also pan-fried pierogies stuffed with bacon, potato, and cheddar, inspired by “The Great One’s” grandmother. For oenophiles, Gretzky produces his own brand of wine, No. 99, whose grapes are grown on a peninsula in Vineland, Ontario, considered the Napa of the North.
Like his former coach, Don Shula of Shula’s Steakhouse fame, retired Miami Dolphins quarterback, Dan Marino, went into the food business after his football career ended. Taking advantage of his fanbase, Marino has opened five establishments around Florida (and one in Las Vegas.) While the menu has the standard chops and steaks, you’re near the ocean, so tackle the mahi mahi Oscar topped with jumbo lump crab meat and drizzled with hollandaise or the sea bass served over sweet potato mash and painted with a Kahlua butter sauce. If the butter sauce makes you go, “Mmmmm,” Marino offers the recipes on his website.
In Denver, John Elway is God. The former Bronco quarterback did what few legends have done — won his second Super Bowl in 1999, retired on top, and then stayed retired. His foray into fine dining has been equally successful. He co-owns two eponymous restaurants, one in the Ritz-Carlton downtown and the other in the tony Cherry Creek neighborhood. The steakhouse menu will please carnivores with a caveman’s appetite, but skirt the standards to find the creative apps and sides, like lamb chops dipped in green chili fondue, crunchy calamari tossed with stuffed olives and cherry peppers, and duck confit fried rice.
An Australian grille in South Carolina? It might not be the first thought that comes to mind about the Southern state’s cuisine, but it’s there, set along the Intracoastal Waterway in the golfer’s paradise of North Myrtle Beach. From the open kitchen comes seared bourbon-bacon glazed ahi tuna crowning truffle risotto, jumbo diver scallops nestled among butternut squash ravioli and kissed by pomegranate gastrique, and a lobster BLT bulging with cornmeal-crusted tail meat. The links legend’s signature chardonnays, Rieslings, and cabernets round out the Wine Spectator Award for Excellence-recognized list of spirits.
While playing for the Seattle Supersonics in the late 1990’s, former NBA point guard, Gary Payton, became a co-owner of this authentic Southern spot. The menu is as fun to read as the food is to eat: Sho’Nuff Fried Green Tomatoes, Grandpa Walter Roast Pork Chop, Hoppin’ John Griddlejacks, and Down Home Mac and Cheese. Save room for dessert — the red velvet cake layered with cream cheese frosting is a winner.
Though he kicks clutch field goals for the San Diego Chargers, Nate Kaeding has maintained a connection to his hometown of Iowa City, Iowa, by buying a stake in this bare-knuckle burger and beer joint. The corn-fed beef comes from Ed Smith’s Farm, just 26 miles down the road, and the craft beer from breweries around the state, like Old Man River. So if you ever find yourself in Iowa, stop here for the Popejoy, a messy medley of patty meat, capicola, provolone, and muffaletta sauce.
Megan Woods Photography
Paying homage to his mother’s southern cooking, retired boxing champ and restaurateur, Evander Holyfield, named his roadside gem in Riverdale, Georgia after her. Most main course offerings, like oxtail, pigs feet, and fried chicken, are under $10 and sides just $1.75.
Michael Jordan’s sleek neighborhood place offers a seasonal menu, and maybe the best deal in town. On Wednesdays in the bar there is a fried chicken and champagne dinner. Sounds like an odd pairing, but the bird comes with Asian pear slaw, a seasonally spiced waffle, and potato wedges, and the bubbly is Moncuit Blanc de Blanc. At $16, it’s a steal.
Skateboarding icon Tony Hawk is a self-proclaimed foodie and investor in the Del Mar hot spot, Market. Chef Carl Schroeder, a Michael Mina and Bradley Odgen-protégé, turns out fresh California fare such as an heirloom tomato and burrata salad with a white cheddar parmesan cheese stick, sweet white corn and creamy dill dressing. Or how about a blue cheese soufflé with Santa Rosa plums, peach preserves, butter lettuce and candied almonds? Book reservations in advance. This place fills up fast.