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9 Restaurants Owned by Athletes

by: Howard Cosmell On  Friday, June 10, 2011
Tags:  Athletes   Don Shula   Food   Restaurants  

Athletes owned restaurants rarely succeed. Like athletes and music, or athletes and acting, or basically athletes doing anything but athletics is a recipe for disaster. Sadly, this list proves that, with few exceptions, athletes should stay the hell out of the kitchen. “The kitchen” being a metaphor for “any aspect of hospitality development.”

Prepare yourself for a sea of onion rings, calamari, grilled chicken Caesars, and some moderately priced steaks. Here are 9 restaurants owned by athletes.

9. Market

Now, this first entry is unique in that it’s the only entry on this list that doesn’t have the athlete’s name in the title. So who owns this guy? None other than noted gourmand (what?) Tony Hawk! And wouldn’t you know it, he’s not like the other guys. His outpost has 4.5 out of 5 stars on Yelp and is uber-expensive. The menu appears to be mostly farm-to-market type dishes. What’s the matter Tony? Don’t you like steak and calamari?

Market breaks the mold not just of most athlete-owned restaurants, but most restaurants overall. Don’t expect to see this phenomenon on the list again.

8. Shula’s

Coach Don Shula has a name that I have just grown to connote with a great steak. It’s the type of place the wife and I would dine at after a road trip in Florida, and it would hit the spot. It’s a steakhouse. And a pretty big chain. His name now graces 25 restaurants and serves as the benchmark for sports-branded restaurants. After deciding to go into the biz, he waited five years to open, honing the concept. Then rather than expand immediately, he took his sweet time. While the restaurant, like many on this list, may not be the most interesting concept in the world (I mean, it’s Don Shula-themed), it certainly is run well and has given Don yet another career after football.

7. D. Wade’s Sports Grill

I hate this guy, so a generic sports grill with his dyslexically-spelled name on it probably won’t do much to wow me. I’ve sat here for about four minutes trying to think of some clever joke in which the waiters flop around and get calls, but they’re all pretty convoluted.

I can’t even make fun of the Ft. Lauderdale establishment anymore because it closed. And pretty unceremoniously, as I can tell. It opened in 2008, and save for one lonely Yelp review, it’s hard to find much evidence this place even existed. He had plans on making it a chain, but it seems the first outpost of New American (snooze) cuisine didn’t last long enough to be spun off. That restaurant business is a fickle bitch.

Hmmm. Maybe it had something to do with their marketing efforts, seeing as how they had a MySpace page in 2009. Little misguided, fellas.

6. Brett Favre’s Steakhouse

Fancy sign, Brett.

I really think Brett Favre was a little too “on the nose” with the cuisine here. That’s not very exciting. A southern white guy likes steaks? Really? Amazeballs. He should have gone a different direction and done a Jamaican grill or an authentic Vietnamese pho restaurant. I bet I can guess on what Brett Favre’s take on steak is: big. But what kind of spin does he put on a Vietnamese classic? A curious nation needs to know.

In case you were wondering, Brett’s eatery is located in Green Bay, so it has probably endured a fate similar to Favre. First everyone loved it, then they hated it, then they thought it was a pervy creep, then they just wanted it to go away, so they all started eating at Aaron Rodger’s Good Time American Steakery and Eatatorium.

5. Elway’s

John Elway personally promises to lean casually at every diner's table.

This restaurant is indicative of a number of beefs I have with these athlete-owned restaurants. They’re boring. From their names to their cuisines, they’re all pretty much the same. The place is going to have some wildly boring name (like Elway’s) and the cuisine will be moderately priced steaks. It’s like deciding to go eat at the Matriott by the airport, only they’re gonna have a bunch of jerseys hanging up.

Here’s where I would normally get in to what kind of restaurant Elway’s is, but I pretty much just did. There are two locations, but the downtown Denver one seems to be the flashier of the two and is located in the Ritz-Carlton. It’s also got décor like Mad Men, which is kinda funny, too.

4. Mickey Mantle’s Steakhouse

Shock! Mickey Mantle decided to buck the trend of boring athlete-owned restaurants with…a steakhouse. In Oklahoma City. How’s that for excitement? Yeah, I think it’s pretty crappy too. The digs also serves fried pickle chips and fried asparagus. We call that “State Fair fusion.” Porterhouse is $60 bucks. Which is pretty cheap, but when you remember that you also have to eat the steak in Oklahoma, you don’t look at the cost just in terms of dollars.

3. Mickey Mantle’s (No suffix)

What the opposite of Oklahoma City? If you said Central Park South, you’re probably right. #7 also put his name on this prestigious Manhattan address, and turned it into a late-80’s hotspot that has now fizzled into just another theme restaurant with a terribly familiar menu consisting of onion rings, burgers, chicken parm, and, strangely enough, pigs in a blanket. Huh. That last one was unexpected.

It’s still got the great address, but a theme restaurant wasn’t the novelty it was when the place opened in 1988. It’s cool to see the memorabilia, but taking a meal here instead of at one of the millions of other more original joints is probably a missed opportunity.

2. Hulk Hogan’s Pastamania

If there’s one type of food that is likely to make me Hulk out, it’s pasta. I Start screaming and sweating at the thought of farfalle or fusili. Really just revs my engine. So I totally get where the Hulk was coming from when he decided to open Pastamania in that bastion of culinary delights, Minneapolis’ Mall of America. I’m getting hungry just thinking about a wrestler selling me spaghetti in a giant mall. It’s great for dates, too! I’m hulking out just thinking about their marinara!

It should go without saying that this establishment has been closed for a long, long time. Since 1995, actually.

1. Johnny Bench’s Home Plate Restaurant

It closed in the early 80’s, so there’s not too much info on this place, but I am enthralled. It looks so swanky and so 70’s. I love the GIANT scoreboard in the dining room. I bet everyone that dined here looked like they belonged in a cigarette ad. Sexy. The best part about this place and this photo is that the restaurant was located inside a mall. Uh-mazing. I’m not sure I have the knowledge or the resources to exist in the 1970’s dating scene. It’s scary and different.




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