I am the last person that anyone would expect to set foot inside a sports bar…especially one that is as hardcore as Fanatics on Princess Street but I had been hearing so many good things about their food, I just had to give it a shot. Harvey and I went on an evening when there wasn’t much going on sports-wise except a Jays game and some CFL football which clearly doesn’t draw the kind of crowds you see there during hockey season or on a Monday night in the fall. So, although there were still quite a few full tables, the atmosphere was quiet and calm. Perfect for dinner.
From the second I stepped in, I was impressed. Again, I have no interest in sports but if I did, I would be in heaven in this place. There are TVs everywhere, including in each booth, over the bar (that one is ENORMOUS), around poles in the centre of the restaurant and on pretty much every wall. No matter where you are seated, you can watch at least two sporting events with ease.
My attention was then drawn to how clean and nicely decorated the place is. The booths and tables have all been refurbished and in some cases, completely replaced since the days of Shoeless Joe’s. I felt totally comfortable despite the sport-filled surroundings. The menu came, followed shortly afterward by a bowl of home made potato chips. Yum! Free chips to start your meal is definitely a great way to get my attention. The menu was overwhelming – in a good way. Harvey and I took our time, thanks to the friendly and very helpful waitress, and looked over the many, many options – all of which sounded delicious. What I loved most about the menu was that, although it has all the pub standards (burgers, sandwiches, pasta, pizza and salads) none of these items were the same old we’ve come to expect from other pubs in town. Everything had an interesting twist.
Our starter was the loaded potato skins that were terrific (but could probably have been a meal all on their own). They came piping hot, stuffed with chili, onions, bacon and cheese with salsa and sour cream for dipping. For the main course, I finally settled on the grilled cheese sandwich that came in a basket with fresh cut fries and slaw. I also got gravy on the side and I’m glad I did because it was some of the best gravy I’ve had in a while. The sandwich itself was the best grilled cheese I’ve ever tasted. One half was old cheddar with spinach and roasted red pepper and the other half had jalapeno Havarti with guacamole and caramelized onions. Delish! Harv ended up with the club sandwich, also complete with fresh cut fries and slaw and made on a fresh Ciabatta roll. He seemed pretty pleased.
The service was great, the food was delicious and more than enough for the money spent and the atmosphere was more than tolerable for the non-sports fan. The TV volume was on but not in an intrusive way at all. I can imagine for those of you who love going to bar for the game, that this would be the ultimate venue. They even have TVs on the patio! The upstairs area, which used to be a billiards room, is now a party room called The Sky Box. I think their own words (as written in the menu) describe it best:
The Fanatics Sky Box is a great place for your next team meeting, celebration or office party.
Our Sky Box will accommodate up to forty people while they enjoy two HD projectors, two big screen TVs and a Wii gaming system.
The ultimate Fanatic experience awaits you…book your party now!
I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty awesome to me. I wonder if they’d let me put Weeds or Mad Men on the TV instead…
So now that I’ve been, will I go again? Absolutely. I may even consider checking out a sporting event of some sort. I bet the place gets pretty exciting during play offs. Plus, I still need to try their pizza. According to the sign outside, it’s “the best thin crust pizza in town”. After my experience, I kind of believe them.