Walk into the dining room at Allsports Café, take a look around, and you’ll have no doubt what the focus is. Every spare bit of wall space is covered either with some item of sports memorabilia – local and otherwise, old and new – or a TV (including a huge projection unit) tuned to sports programming. Racing, baseball, basketball, hockey, even a little interest in the FIFA world cup… but according to our waitress, football is by far the most popular.
We learned this on a recent scouting mission to find a good place to catch a few games this fall, and it was immediately obvious why readers of The Roanoker have voted it “Best Place to Watch the Game.” I believe there was one seat in the entire room that didn’t face a TV (and my wife made me sit in it, naturally). Th e sports vibe defi nitely carries over to the menu, both in content and in theme. Most items are named aft er a famous athlete, a legendary coach, a popular team, or Dennis Rodman. (Hey, Worm, I’m just kidding! Please don’t hurt me.)
When we sat down, there was a sign in a table tent reading, “Try our fried pickle chips.” So just to prove what non-conformists we are, we tried the fried pickle chips. I had had fried pickle spears before and wasn’t all that impressed. These were pretty good, though. The pickle flavor wasn’t quite as overwhelming, and the texture was much crisper. I’m no physicist, but I think the greater surface area afforded by the crinkle-cut pickle chip gives a much better frying experience. (I’ve written to Steven Hawking about it, but he never writes back…)
Anyway, since we were checking out good game-food, I couldn’t say no to the buffalo wings. These have also won plaudits from Roanoker readers, and not without reason. Available in a baker’s dozen of flavors (including honey barbecue, teriyaki, and garlic hot), they were ample sized and juicy. I did have to call a foul, since they were lightly breaded (wings are so much better just deep-fried or grilled naked!) and since the “red devil” sauce didn’t hurt me as bad as the waitress promised it would. But still very tasty. I decided to pay homage to another fantastic year for Duke’s men’s basketball by ordering the Blue Devil burger. Thick char-grilled beef on a yeasty Kaiser with blue cheese crumbles, mayo and romaine. It was well seasoned and tasty, and cooked perfectly to order, but I don’t think I’d be running up and down the court after having one. Especially after deciding to have a side of seasoned waffle fries with it.
My wife decided to try one of the seven specialty pizzas on the list, and opted for The Intimidator. I don’t know whether Earnhardt liked pork barbecue with red onions and cheddar with slaw on the side, but we thought it was pretty good. Plenty of meat, and a surprisingly tasty and crisp crust.
If you’re not really into sports, and your girlfriend is a vegan, well, I’m not sure this is the place for you. But casual sports fans and die-hard, face-painting, jersey-wearing maniacs will find a casual and friendly place to find some hearty Man Food and plenty of TVs to watch the game on. You’ll want to come hungry, though you may want to leave your vuvuzela at home.