4 stars out of 5
Week zero is now nothing but a memory. “It’s the second day bro, and I need a drink already,” someone muttered as they passed by the humanities building. I think we can relate to this random stranger — to some degree at least. Getaway Cafe might be the automatic go-to decision. But maybe the brewsky and pizza are a bit tired, or you want to venture out (at least that’s how I felt). So when I heard about the new spot in the University Village, The Spot, I made my way down the street without any hesitation.
The Spot Sports Bar and Grill opened its doors mid-August and awaited the R’side heat. Cool air seeped out of the double doors and we quickly made our way inside. Loud chatter and glasses clanking against each other filled the room. Tartan blue and gold covered the walls of the restaurant with a faint glow cast by the numerous plasma screens along every wall and corner. UCR jerseys and Greek life T-shirts hung from the exterior pipes overhead. Two pool tables sat along the wall-length window next to a jukebox. (Not some 50’s diner jukebox, however — this touch screen computer had whole albums of various artists from 5 Seconds of Summer to 2 Chainz. As guests browse for the right tune, they can also snap some pictures with the built-in photo booth.)
We waited at the door to be seated as the one waitress stood at one of the busy tables. She finally peered up to tell us to sit wherever. Since only four tables were occupied, choosing a seat was not an issue. Getting a glass of water in 100-degree heat was though: We watched the waitress for about 15 minutes pace to each table until she finally brought menus. Starters range from Cali Chicken Rolls (chicken and cheese wrapped in egg roll wrappers fried to a crisp served with sweet jalapeno syrup) to PitZ-aaH (pita crust, pizza sauce and mozzarella). All starters are $6, with additional cost for meat.
We went straight for the drinks (newly turned 21-year-olds in a sports bar, drinks were a given). Cocktails range from $8-$10 from the Blue Lemon Drop Martini to the Kilt Tilter. Flip the menu over and beer fans rejoice: There’s a list of domestic beers ranging from Hangar 24 Chocolate Porter to Fat Tire Ale.
Now, if you think a pitcher is how you get the party going, The Spot thinks differently. How about a 3-foot tall tower filled with the drink of choice in the center of the table for $30? Almost resembling a bong (calm down, it isn’t that kind of place), ice fills a center tube to keep your drink chilled, as neon lights flash from the bottom. But a glass and pitcher are also available for the weaklings. I didn’t think I could polish off a tower of Angry Orchard Apple Cider by my lonesome, so I went with a cocktail, Caribbean Sunset ($8). The table ordered the Loaded Pita Fries: seasoned pita fries topped with cheddar and jack cheese, grilled onions, garlic and herbs with chicken and beef shawarma available as additional toppings.
Cool and refreshing, Caribbean Sunset combines vodka and citrus to put you on the beach — a great mindset to wait another 15 minutes for the appetizer. The door soon stretched as hordes of people piled in. However, some parties trickled out as the wait time for menus was too long. When the appetizer greeted our table, I asked the waitress if she was the only one working the floor. She sighed and revealed that it has never been this packed all at once before.
Each fry was toasted with a rich texture. Buttery and crisp, the bed of fries rested under cheese that looked like confetti tossed in every nook and cranny. Pico de gallo, grilled onions and parsley with garlic scattered across the plate, we decided the Loaded Pita Fries were something worth a plate-licking.
The Spot offers their own lineup of burgers, sandwiches and specials. Scotty’s favorites are highlighted to offer the guest to try the best and the Poblano burger ($9.95), Meatball sandwich ($10.95) and East “Meats” Best (12.95) are just some of the popular items. The table ordered Barbecue Rib Quesadilla ($8.95), Ricky’s Cheese Steak (9.95) and Chick N’ Mac N’ Cheese ($9.95). By this time, our original waitress cashed out and was replaced by third-year economic student, Edward Jancaitis.
I noticed the prices resembled run-of-the-mill restaurant chains. These dishes, though, were far from ordinary. The cheese steak oozed cheese from every corner with a steak sizzling underneath, piled high on a French roll. Hand-sized quesadilla triangles filled the basket with the barbecue rib poking out of each end with a chipotle aioli for dipping (or scooping, because that was finger-licking delicious).
And no words can describe the mac n’ cheese, with macaroni floating in warm alfredo bechamel sauce, grilled chicken with juices bursting with every bite and crisp bacon found in each spoonful. You know everyone at the table enjoys their food when the conversation completely ceases and it’s silent. When I finally picked my head up from eating my mac n’ cheese as if it was in a pig’s trough, I noticed half-devoured food and half-dead people, slouching over to regain consciousness from the food coma. “Don’t finish it then, we need dessert!” I said, and despite the faint groans, there were no objections.
There are people who ask for the drink menu or dive straight into the entrees. I, however, skip to the back and seek out the desserts like they’re donations from sponsors in the Hunger Games. Booze-inspired sweets complete their “photo finish desserts,” with Special Brownies (I told you, it’s not that kind of place!) of dark chocolate made with Hangar 24 Chocolate Porter, amaretto caramel and chocolate drizzle, as well as the Apricot Date Kneefe, sweet ricotta cheese wrapped in phyllo dough slathered with a glaze of dates and rum apricots, to add to the list.
The Special Brownie Sundae was the winner. Their special brownie buried under vanilla and mocha ice cream, amaretto caramel and chocolate sauce, whipped cream and walnuts, was almost too much to handle (keyword: almost). Even though we were practically busting at the seams, we still dragged our spoons across the table for every drop and crumb.
I have to admit, I was a bit worried when we walked in at how the experience was going to be. But the food, portions, prices and service (for the most part) made up for it. “It’s been fun,” Edward said as he caught his breath from the rush. “We hope it gets even better.” The Spot is definitely the spot for a night on the town, even if it’s just a couple steps away from home.