Barely in The End Zone

Pub grub at Chico’s newest sports bar proves unexciting

GOOD SPORTS<br>Dirk and Marti Canrinus have a late-afternoon snack at The End Zone

Dirk and Marti Canrinus have a late-afternoon snack at The End Zone

Photo By Mark Lore

The End Zone

250 Cohasset Rd.
Chico, CA 95926

(530) 899-7070

A sports bar is a sports bar is a sports bar, right? Well … yes and no.

It’s pretty typical to walk into any given sports bar and find a mostly male clientele, scantily clad waitresses, big-screen TVs taking up most of the wall space, and sports memorabilia and polished wood taking up the rest.

The point isn’t usually the food; it’s the space reserved for (mostly) male camaraderie over a beer, in front of a game (or five) while horsing down some deep-fried goodness. The menu staples won’t vary much—onion rings, fries, potato skins and burgers are standard.

Sometimes, in that rare hidden gem of an otherwise ordinary sports bar, you’ll find a menu that surprises you with a culinary home run.

The End Zone Sports Bar & Grill isn’t one of those places, but it does fine as your average sports bar. Male clientele? Check. Scantily clad waitresses? Check. TVs on every wall? Yup. Sports memorabilia/polished wood? Got it. Deep-fried food with your beer? Indeed.

My first visit to the End Zone coincided with a Giants game, so a friend and I hit up the popular bar to grab a burger and a brew. Not the biggest baseball fan, I resigned myself to watching never-ending innings over a Stella Artois and scouring the menu for that special something—that unique beer-battered onion ring, that specially marinated buffalo burger, that … juicy flame-grilled bratwurst? Nice.

We ordered the Hat Trick ($8.79): three appetizers on one plate. We chose bratwurst, mozzarella sticks and zucchini sticks over jalapeño poppers, onion rings or chicken strips. We gave the loaded potato skins ($8.49) a try, too. Then we moved on to burgers. My buddy got the “Spurs” burger ($8.49), a half-pound patty topped with bacon, onion rings, barbecue sauce and cheese, and I went with the veggie burger ($7.99), a vegetable patty served on a bun with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, mayo and cheese.

While I was coming to the realization that Barry Bonds’ thigh is roughly the circumference of my entire body, our food arrived.

The appetizer plate was a definite disappointment. The zucchini sticks were tough and didn’t taste freshly fried; each contained a shred of zucchini, making them mostly just sticks. The mozzarella sticks weren’t breaded in the traditional Italian bread crumbs, but rather in a chicken-finger type of breading. Weird. The brats were good, but looked like they had been sliced with a dull rock; the pieces were mangled and ripped and lay in a not-very-appetizing shredded pile. The menu advertised marinara sauce and honey mustard as accompanying dips, but a lone container of ranch arrived with the plate. Greasy and delicious, the potato skins were up to par.

Our burgers came, and the innings stretched on. I opened up my burger—no mayo. Our bubbly waitress had just disappeared, so I waited. And waited. Finally, she came back around, and I got the mayo and enjoyed the burger a great deal. The accompanying fries were disappointing.

On our next visit, we sampled the cheese quesadilla ($6.49) as a starter. Served with sour cream and salsa, it was pretty good. Unfortunately, the salsa in the little plastic cup looked brown, and I wondered if it was a special recipe (black bean salsa?). I asked our server, and he responded that it must have been sitting under the heat lamp for a while and we should just stir it. OK.

I got the BLTA ($8.49)—bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado on toasted sourdough with mayo. I sampled the garlic fries with my sandwich, and they were delicious. My companion got the Broadway Joe hot pastrami sandwich ($8.99)—pastrami served with sautéed onions, mustard and cheese. We ordered a small house salad and a cup of the tomato bisque soup, which ended up being slightly salty minestrone.

The sandwiches were good, but the End Zone would benefit from toasting the rolls; the meat sandwiches often turn the bread soggy by the time they’re served.

No home run, but a decent bunt, the End Zone is what it is: a sports bar. Go for the game, go for the atmosphere, but don’t go out of your way for the food.