20 Best Athlete-Owned Restaurants Slideshow
#1. Market Del Mar — Tony Hawk (Del Mar, Calif.)
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 a blue cheese soufflé with Santa Rosa plums, peach preserves, butter lettuce, and candied almonds. Book reservations in advance — this place fills up fast.
#2. One SixtyBlue — Michael Jordan (Chicago)
Michael Jordan’s sleek neighborhood place offers a seasonal menu, and maybe the best deal in town. On Wednesdays, the bar features 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.
One SixtyBlue has closed. It has been replaced by Asian barbecue restaurant bellyQ, which is owned by Michael Jordan, Cornerstone Restaurant Group and Chef Bill Kim and Yvonne Kim.
#3. Elway's — John Elway (Denver)
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, the other in Cherry Creek (and a third in Vail, Colo.). The steakhouse menu will please carnivores with a cavemans appetite, but skirt the standards to find the creative apps and sides, like lamb chops dipped in green chile fondue, crunchy calamari tossed with stuffed olives and cherry peppers.
#6. Shorts Burger and Shine — Nate Kaeding (Iowa City, Iowa)
Though he kicked 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 comes from breweries around the state, like Old Man River. If you ever find yourself in Iowa, stop here for the Popejoy, a messy medley of patty meat, capicola, provolone, and muffaletta sauce.
#7. The Kingfish Café — Gary Payton (Seattle)
While playing for the Seattle Supersonics in the late 1990s, 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: ShoNuff Fried Green Tomatoes, 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.
#8. Yao Restaurant & Bar — Yao Ming (Houston)
Yao Restaurant & Bar was good enough to be featured at number 19 on The Daily Meal's list of 25 Best Celebrity-Owned Restaurants. Former Houston Rockets center Yao Ming and his wife joined with friends and local restaurant owners to create a large space serving Chinese and Chinese-American food. Lettuce wraps, Peking dumplings, Kung Pao beef — it's all there.
#9. Bubba's Q — Al "Bubba" Baker (Avon, Ohio)
After retiring from professional football, defensive lineman Al "Bubba" Baker and his wife Sabrina opened a catering business featuring "Southern-style barbecue cuisine." Bubba's Q has since done pretty well, at least according to the accolades they list (among them Cleveland Magazine and Silver Spoon Awards for “Best Ribs” and “Best Barbecue Restaurant” from 2009 to 2011).
#10. Vince Young Steakhouse (Austin)
Though he now plays in the NFL, quarterback Vince Young remains king in Austin for leading the University of Texas football team to the NCAA national championship in 2005. Two years ago, 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 and a rich wagyu brisket burger balanced out by briny house-made pickles.
#12. Ditka's — Mike Ditka (Pittsburgh; Chicago; Oakbrook, Ill.)
The menus at all three locations of Da Coach's steakhouses are sprinkled with references to him, but if that's not enough, take a little bit of Ditka home. Buy Da Coach's clothing and accessories, specialty wines, and cigars.
Ditka's has been featured by Wine Enthusiast as a "wine friendly restaurant of the year." Highlights include the "Fullback Size" filet mignon with spinach and onion rings, and "Da Pork Chop." The restaurant was good enough to reach the ninth spot on our list of the 25 Best Celebrity-Owned Restaurants.
#13. Brett Favre's Steakhouse (Green Bay, Wis.)
With his replacement Aaron Rodgers having already equaled his success at bringing Superbowl trophies to Green Bay, you wonder how much longer Brett Favre's Steakhouse will continue to pull in regulars. But for now, it is doing very well. The restaurant is filled with Packers memorabilia, trophies, and personal items of the peripatetic quarterback. It's "the one place on Earth that captures the spirit of #4," notes the restaurant's web site, reflecting "Brett's Southern upbringing in its menu and warm, welcoming atmosphere."
Largest cuts include the 32-ounce porterhouse, Brett's Signature Steak (a 20-ounce portion of London Broil seasoned with cracked pepper, and garnished with sautéed button mushrooms), and Brett's Cut (20 ounces) of Titletown’s Best Prime Rib. That Southern upbringing shows itself on the menu, with items like Bayou pasta, blackened grouper, and jambalaya. And Friday nights feature perch, walleye, and all-you-can-eat cod.
#14. Fred & Steve's Steakhouse — Fred Smerlas and Steve DeOssie (Lincoln, R.I.)
Fred Smerlas (nose tackle with the Bills, 49ers, and Patriots) and Steve DeOssie (linebacker, long snapper, and former Cowboy, Giant, and Patriot) opened their steakhouse, Fred & Steve's Steakhouse, in the Twin River Casino in 2007. House specialties on the self-described "wicked good menu" include sweet creamed corn off the cob with pancetta, smothered cubanelle peppers, lobster mac and cheese, and "tobacco onions."
#16. Majerle's — Dan Majerle (Phoenix)
Former Phoenix Suns guard "Thunder Dan" Majerle was renowned for his ability to shoot from downtown. His restaurant, a little more than a block from US Airways Arena, is situated squarely in the downtown district. (Actually, there are three locations.) The menu features references to former players like the Sir Charles Chicken Sandwich, and includes burgers, sandwiches, salads, and wraps, along with the traditional sports bar appetizers (nachos, wings, sliders, and quesadillas).
#17. Wayne Gretzky’s (Toronto, Ontario)
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 mashup 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, that's grapes are grown on a peninsula in Vineland, Ontario, considered to be the "Napa of the North."
#18. Greg Norman’s Australian Grille (Myrtle Beach, S.C.)
An Australian grille in South Carolina? It might not be the first thing that comes to mind for 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 with 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.
#19. Joe Theismann's (Alexandria, Va.)
Many dishes at Joe Theismann's sound pretty run-of-the-mill — wedge salad, seared ahi tuna, baked brie — but you have to be doing something right to have the staying power this former Redskins' quarterback's restaurant does, since it opened 35 years ago. Of greatest interest perhaps is the "steakhouse-style pork," described as "dry-bbq rubbed," a customer favorite for 30 years.
#20. Strawberry's Sports Grill — Daryl Strawberry (Queens, N.Y.)
The Straw Man only recently got into the restaurant business, opening Strawberry's Sports Grill in Douglaston, Queens, in August 2010. There's really no cohesive theme to the menu besides comfort food — there's spinach artichoke dip, of course, and other sports grill classics like nachos, burgers, salads, and chicken tenders. But the restaurant seems proudest of its barbecue — house-smoked brisket, baby back ribs, pulled pork, Memphis-style dry-rubbed spare ribs, and smoked chicken are among the standouts.
#11. Island Way Grill — Mike "A-Train" Alstott (Clearwater, Fla.)
The creation of businessman and restaurant-owner Frank Chivas, who partnered with former Buccaneers running back Mike "A-Train" Alstott (and others), Island Way Grill boasts that it's "all about fresh fish." The site says the restaurant has its own boats, which "make daily trips to the middle grounds to bring back fresh tuna, mahi, snapper, and other local species... If it's any fresher, it is still in the Gulf." Fish is cooked around an oak and citrus-fired open pit.
#5. Arnold Palmer's Restaurant (La Quinta, Calif.)
"Taste the good life" is the tagline of Arnold Palmer's Restaurant in La Quinta, Calif. Makes sense. If anyone's living the good life, you'd think it would have to be Palmer. He won 92 national and international championships (61 of them on the regular PGA Tour) he's designed golf courses, and hey, he even invented a famous drink. Some of chef Brett Maddock's menu highlights include pear salad, honey-soy glazed halibut, braised beef short ribs, and pan-seared sea scallops. But there are a variety of broiler selections and a considerable number of "Arnie's favorite comfort foods," from traditional meatloaf and beef stroganoff to chicken pot pie.
#4. Tresca — Ray Bourque (Boston)
Twenty-one seasons with the Boston Bruins made Ray Bourque a legend in Boston. Even though it wasn't until joining the Colorado Avalanche that he won the Stanley Cup, Bourque chose Boston as the place to open his Italian restaurant, Tresca. There's a four-course tasting menu to help you navigate choosing between crespelle, vongoline, cioppino, osso bucco, maiale Abbruzzese, and other promising dishes.