The culinary bar tends to be set pretty low for sports-themed restaurants and bars, but that’s been slowly changing over the years.
Back in the 1980s, Harry & Steve’s in Mesa helped pioneer the idea southeast Valley sports bars actually could serve good-tasting burgers, sandwiches and even full-blown entrees.
But while there have been others that have followed suit — most recently, Blue 32 in Gilbert — too many sports bars still field rosters of sub-par menu items.
That’s why I had high hopes when Tailgaters Grill opened earlier this year on the northeast corner of Higley and Queen Creek roads. Southeast Gilbert residents could use a good sports bar — actually, a good restaurant of any kind.
Sadly, they won’t find one in Tailgaters.
The building’s warehouse-like interior is pleasant enough — two walls of concrete block and two of windows, including a roll-up that opens the U-shaped bar to the side patio. There are plenty of requisite flat-panel TVs for watching games.
So red flags go up when friends and I walk in on a busy college football Saturday afternoon, expecting a crowd, and find fewer than 10 patrons, all sitting at the bar.
A order of buffalo wings (six for $6, pictured above) quickly sheds light on the problem. At a buck apiece, I’m expecting much better than the mummified specimens — dry and shriveled-up — that arrive.
A plate of strangely coarse hummus ($6.75, pictured at bottom) is equally disappointing. A red version is roasted red pepper; a green is jalapeno and cilantro. I point this out because they taste about the same — bland.
How do you screw up something as bulletproof as pizza? Here’s how: Burn some chorizo — make sure it’s jet black — then crumble it on a frozen sausage-and-pepperoni pizza from the grocery store, and the result will be almost identical to the Meat Lovers ($10, pictured at right) I tried.
During four visits to Tailgaters (no relation to the West Valley sports bar of the same name, I should point out), I try in vain to find something worthy to recommend.
It’s not going to be the tasteless cheese steak (a whopping $11) with cheese like hardened glue, the dried-out, chewy Rueben ($8.25) or the Italian sausage ($8) so small it’s swallowed up by a hot dog bun.
The cheeseburger ($8.75) and barbecue pork sandwich ($8) are average at best, but at least neither offends. Maybe they’re your best bet.
For now, though, its biggest attraction seems to the perky female bartender who frequently jumps up on a beer cooler to bend over and clear glasses off the bar, practically giving male patrons whiplash as their heads swivel.
It probably explains why the few customers I’ve seen at Tailgaters are sitting at the bar.
Where: 4604 S. Higley Road, Gilbert (northeast corner of Higley and Queen Creek roads)
Open: 11 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday, 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday, 7 a.m. to midnight Sunday.
Prices: Appetizers $5-$8, burgers/sandwiches $7.50-$11, entrees $11.25-$20.
Info: (480) 457-8949 or tggrill.com.