Real Sports Bar
The Real Sports Bar at Maple Leaf Square is a mammoth man cave - an adult's arcade and according to ESPN the best sports bar in North America. Call it what you want - this place is huge.
During my recent visit the Leafs weren't playing so there wasn't the usual line-up. Outside the bar, the formally attired bodyguard (who admitted he didn't watch sports and had no idea who was playing that night) asked me if I had a reservation. I didn't, so I walk in to put a party of four on the wait list. The waiting list is an hour.
45 minutes later my electronic buzzer thingy starts vibrating and it's time to go in. With 199 flat screen televisions (all broadcasting sports, natch), free WiFi, an arcade section including table top hockey and virtual golf and - oh yeah - a two story flatscreen, HDTV with a size that rivals the one just put outside of the ACC, there seems to be very little reason to disregard this as somewhere one could visit religiously to watch the game.
We are brought upstairs and given high seats overlooking the entire downstairs bar and the gigantic TV just above it. I love the fact that no matter where you sit, including in the bathroom, you have a television to watch in clear sight. Everything is sports. Even the bottom of a glass has either a basketball or a football welded into it.
We order an entree each and they arrive in a very quick manner. My friend orders the "Grilled Chicken Sandwich on Focaccia" ($12.99) which comes with a house salad on the side as requested. Of course I dug in for a bite. The bread is wonderfully toasted with tenderly crisped but moist chicken breast coupled with fresh tomatoes and provolone cheese. The garlic aioli infuses a perfect amount of tang.
For the vegetarian sports fan this place has some decent options. My veggie lady friend ordererd the "Grilled Portobello Mushroom Sandwich" ($11.99) with tomato pesto and herbed goat cheese on focaccia. This entree arrives with a side order of sweet potato fries. The kitchen is skimpy on this night with the goat cheese but when I squinted hard enough I could see it. The veggies and mushrooms brushed with tomato pesto taste fresh and savoury. Being a meat eater myself, I can't imagine this being the most filling item on the menu but the great tasting sweet potato fries helped fill the void. Nonetheless, my friend assured me this was on her list of fave veggie sandwiches in the city.
Just like any decent sports bar, wings are on the menu and in a very big way. The thing to get is "Chef Tony's Ultimate Chicken Wings" (1LB $12.99, 2LBS $24.99, 4LBS $47.99) which seem pricey compared to many wing options around town....but there's a reason for this. They're big, crispy and, most importantly, meaty (not fatty). There are 11 sauce options including Chipotle BBQ, Cajun Dry Rub, Lime Salt and Pepper. My girlfriend (who eats out as much as I do) orders wings with medium Buffalo sauce which are a bit too sour and vinegary for both our liking. Oh well....next time maybe we'll go for the Thai Sweet Chili.
Finally, what would a sports bar be without hot dogs? I personally take a liking to the foot long "Bacon Wrapped Dog" ($12.99 - top photo) which comes with cheddar cheese supplied by Burkie's Dog House (a vendor at the ACC) and a side order of house cut fries. Not a great option for those on a diet, so my girlfriend warns me, (who comes to a sports bar when they're on a diet anyway) but the dog comes to life with crispy bacon and perfectly melted cheese.
While taking my first bite into this beast I had to check I wasn't drooling all over myself. This was one juicy dog. I loved it. Sided with warm fries (the regular kind, with skin-on), this is one classic American meal. If I closed by eyes for a moment, I could have been at Wrigley Field.
For dessert I indulge in the "Black and White" milkshake ($6.99) which consists of vanilla ice cream with hot fudge and chocolate chips. It's definitely a serving for two, but I attempt this on my own with everyone else feeling stuffed from their meals. I almost finished it. The hot fudge wasn't hot and seemed to be more like chocolate syrup than fudge. I also would have preferred if the chocolate chips were mixed in rather than just some sprinkled on top. But overall it was a good milkshake. I can't complain too much about something with these ingredients.
One additional note: the prices. While one might expect a restaurant owned by MLSE to have inflated prices, the menu here (both food and drinks) is actually quite reasonable and is good value for the money, especially when you factor in all the "free entertainment" throughout the place. Domestic bottled beer starts at $4.75 and there are over 100 taps.