America's Favorite Athlete-Owned Restaurants Slideshow
July 27, 2011
America ranks its own favorite jock-owned eateries
Joe Theismann's (Alexandria, Va.)
Wikimedia Commons/Ted Van Pelt
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.
Bubba's Q (Avon, Ohio)
After retiring from professional football, defensive lineman Al "Bubba" Baker and his wife Sabrina opened a catering business featuring "Southern-style barbeque cuisine." Bubba's Q has since done pretty well, at least according to the accolades they list (among them Cleveland Magazine, Silver Spoon Awards “Best Ribs” and “Best Barbecue Restaurant” 2009 to 2011).
Shula's (More than 30 locations)
"Shula's beats them all just like Coach Shula did!" claimed one commenter. The former Dolphins coach has done well with his chain of Shula’s steakhouses, which feature pigskin menus, a clubby vibe, linebacker-sized appetizers, and a food challenge with its own hall of fame: Shula's 48oz. Club. It was also good enough to make a recent list of The Daily Meal's 25 Best Celebrity-Owned Restaurants.
Island Way Grill (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 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.
Tiffany's (Five Locations)
"Tiffany's, owned by Tony Siragusa should be on this list," noted one commenter, who also cited the "great ribs." That may be so, but according to Tiffany's, "The Goose" became co-owner of the Pine Brook location. Any credit for those ribs should go to Tiffany's owner and founder, Michael Romanelli, who opened the first location in Union, N.J., more than 30 years ago.
Randy White's BBQ (Frisco, Texas)
Yao Restaurant & Bar (Houston)
Wikimedia Commons/Keith Allison
"Yao Ming has a wonderful Chinese restaurant in Houston," noted one commenter. "Great entrées, beautiful atmosphere, and it has very reasonable prices." Indeed, Yao Restaurant & Bar was good enough to be featured at #19 on a list of 25 Best Celebrity-Owned Restaurants. Yao 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.
Lee Roy Selmon's (7 Locations in South Florida)
Yelp/Ian W. and Ivan de Naples
The Hall-of-Fame defensive end for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has seven locations of Lee Roy Selmon's in South Florida. Nothing against "The Gentle Giant," but given the amazing barbecue to be found in Texas, the Carolinas, and well, all the places on the typical list of great American barbecue styles, sauces, and joints, it's hard to believe anyone who says America's "best barbecue" is in Florida. Then again, you can't knock it 'til you try it.
"Did you people forget that Phoenix exists?" asked one commenter. "What about Majerle's?" With great places like Pizzeria Bianco, Pane Bianco, and FnB, among others, no one can forget about Phoenix (there's also In-N-Out there!)
Former Phoenix Sun guard, "Thunder Dan" Majerle was renowned for his ability to shoot from downtown, his restaurant, little more than a block from US Airways Arena, is situated squarely in it (actually, there are three locations). The menu features references to former players and basketball references like Sir Charles Chicken Sandwich, and includes burgers, sandwiches, salads, and wraps, along with the traditional sports bar appetizers (nachos, wings, sliders, and quesadillas).
Another Arizona athlete-owned favorite, Wolfley's, is of course, named for former St. Louis/Phoenix Cardinals running back, and colorful sports commentator Wolfley. Wolfley's was noted as having "great food, prices, and service." Wolfley, born and raised in Buffalo, also serves Buffalo wings, staying true to the authentic recipe from the Anchor Bar.
Brett Favre's Steakhouse (Green Bay)
Wikimedia Commons/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jennifer A. Villalovo
One reader swore by Brett Favre's Steakhouse in Green Bay: "People come from all over the country just to eat there, so you know it's not just Packer fans." Others, less so: "It was truly one of the worst-tasting and over-priced establishments I've ever eaten at. It was seriously that bad."
Hard to think of Packer fans being homers for Favre anymore, so you're inclined to trust the first commenter. Can you take advice from someone who tastes establishments anyway?
Ditka's (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 a list of 25 Best Celebrity-Owned Restaurants.
Fred Smerlas and Steve DeOssie: Fred & Steve's Steakhouse (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 'n cheese, and "tobacco onions."
"Tresca in Boston is a gem!" noted one commenter. "Can't believe it was overlooked for a bunch of burger joints with athlete names attached." 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.
Billy Sims' Barbecue (17 locations)
Sims spent just five years as a running back for the Detroit Lions, but his name graces more than three times as many barbecue joints in Oklahoma and Missouri. Two signature dishes at Billy Sims' Barbecue include "The Heisman" (chopped brisket or pulled pork, with bologna and a hot link) and "The Triple 20" (pulled pork drizzled with Billy’s Secret Sauce, and topped with coleslaw and Provolone).
A few years ago Jay Christensen of thewizardofodds.blogspot.com noted Sims' has a sense of humor too: "Oklahoma fans can now take aim at their rivals from Texas in a unique way. The men's room at Billy Sims Barbecue in Tulsa features a toilet with an upside-down Longhorn in the bowl."
Seau's (San Diego)
Wikimedia Commons/JJ Hall and cassplumbing.com
Another contentious commenter pick. All-Pro former linebacker Junior Seau's eponymous 14,500-square-foot restaurant, opened in 1996. The menu features random sports backdrops and fare you'd expect given most athletes' restaurant preferences. There are salads, sandwiches, burgers, pizza, pasta, grilled fish, a sushi lounge, and the requisite flat screens.
Your choice who to believe, the commenter who calls it the "worst athlete restaurant," or one who says, "You haven't lived until you've had the biscuits and sausage gravy (or any other of the menu choices) at Seau's in Mission Valley in San Diego!" Learn more about Seau's and 19 other sports-themed eateries in 20 Sports-Crazy Restaurants.
Jerome Bettis’ Grille 36 (Pittsburgh)
Wikimedia Commons/DHHS and Yelp/allyp
The menu features items like pierogies, deep-fried pretzels, boneless wings, pasta, flatbreads, burgers, salads, and of course... spinach artichoke dip. It's backed by the Fort Lauderdale-based G.R.E.A.T. Grille Group, which is behind several other "Sports Grilles" (with Eddie George and Jeff Conine) with two NFL team-themed restaurants (Colts and Texans) scheduled to open in 2011.
Incidentally, Matt McCue, the author of the original piece, is a Packers fan.
Gone, But Not Forgotten... But Still Gone, Or Not Athlete-Owned
You can't blame many athlete-owned restaurants for having closed. It takes a lot of fame and staying power or truly excellent food for places to outlive the glories of the gridiron. As noted above, there's no shame in the long list of now-closed, once-athlete-owned restaurants. Still, it's always funny to see people get outraged about things they're wrong about. For instance, getting upset about places not being included on a list when they can't possibly be vouching for food quality any more recently than 16 years ago (Johnny Unitas' Golden Arm), or more (Rusty's, 20 years ago).
Rusty's (New York City)
"I can't believe you list a top 10 athlete-owned places without mentioning Rusty Staub's places," one commenter noted. Even Rusty might be surprised by this praise, considering as his foundation confirmed by telephone, Rusty closed his Cajun-style restaurant on Manhattan's Upper East Side in 1991. Both locations have shuttered.
Johnny Unitas' Golden Arm Restaurant (Baltimore)
"Johnny Unitas' Golden Arm Restaurant near Baltimore not mentioned?" one commenter asked. Nope. According to the Baltimore Sun, the restaurant and cocktail lounge closed in 1994. Also, unfortunately, Johnny U passed away in 2002.
Bunz and Company (Roseville, Calif.)
"So where is Danny Bunz's Bunz and Company of Roseville, California?" asked one commenter. Well, supposedly, Bunz sold the restaurant in 1999.
Jared Allen's Sport Arena & Grill (Kansas City, Mo.)
"Ever hear of Wine Em', Dine 'Em, 69 'Em'?" asked one commenter, outraged. "Jared Allen will hurt someone for not being on this list."
Likely not. One, that was the motto, not the name. Two, as is often the case with restaurants named for athletes, according to news reports, "Allen did not invest in the restaurant, located at 700 Southwest Blvd., but he was paid for the use of his name." And three, it closed in 2008... just a few months after opening. Shocking.
Ziggy & Mad Dog's (Islamorado, Fla.)
"So how about looking into your research next time.... Thank you for your attention and patience," noted one commenter, citing Ziggy & Mad Dog's as an overlooked athlete-owned restaurant.
It's true that in September 2005, former Miami Dolphin tight end, James Michael "Mad Dog" Mandich and his business partner bought Ziggie's Conch, a restaurant in a building that dated back to the 30s (and is said to have been the site of many an Al Capone card game). The restaurant continues, and it may very well be Islamorada's premier spot for the finest steaks, chops and seafood. But unfortunately, Mad Dog passed away earlier in 2011.
Michael Jordan's Steakhouse (New York City and Uncasville, Conn.)
Given the tragedies Michael Jordan visited on the Knicks, it wouldn't really be appropriate for "His Airness" to have a restaurant in Grand Central, one of New York's most beloved and iconic transportation hubs. New Yorkers needn't fear. As New York Magazine notes, "If you’re looking for him, he ain’t there." Michael Jordan's Steakhouses license Mike's name, that's as far as his affiliation goes.