It’s a rare occurrence when it happens, but once in a while I do actually get an opportunity to go out and have an evening with my buds.
Last Saturday was just such an occasion, as I took the drive up US Highway 206 to Bordentown to go to Alstarz Sports Pub and hang out with the guys in my fantasy baseball league. Ever since we started this league 1989, we have always tried to get together after the season to toast the winner, swap theories as to why our own teams didn’t win, and for some good clean male bonding.
Listen, I know what you’re thinking: John, you’ve been in a fantasy baseball league for 20 years??? Yes, and for full disclosure, I’ve been involved in fantasy baseball since 1986…so yeah, I’m pretty much a geek.
I have to admit: I’ve never been a regular sports bar customer. Lisa doesn’t enjoy them very much (too much testosterone), and I usually watch any game I’m interested in at home or at a friend’s house if they’re throwing a little shindig. So if you’re looking for an expert opinion on what makes a good sports bar, I’m not your guy. If the place has a good beer selection, appetizers that appeal to my baser emotions with being too junky, and comfy seats, I would be content.
So there I was at Alstarz, which is considered an upscale sports bar. From afar, I always found this concept oxymoron-ish, like having a luxury Yugo or something. I thought not being upscale was kind of the point of a sports bar, but there I go again spouting out stuff about things I don’t know very well. Anyway, I went inside looking to experience the upscal-i-ness of it all.
First off, Alstarz is a big space: high, industrial ceilings and a big bar with TVs all over the place. Open for about a year, Alstarz is owned by the same people who own Mastori’s (aka the Machu Picchu of Jersey diners), and they know a thing or two about big operations. If upscale means that people aren’t on top of one another, then Alstarz has that going for it; you certainly don’t feel cramped.
After walking through the main dining area, I found my friends sitting at a table in a smaller room. All in all, there were seven of us there ready for some food and enjoyment. And with a nice big flatscreen on the wall, we had a great view of the college football action of the day.
So while I’m chatting with the fellas, I take a look at the menu. Yeah, this is not your father’s sports bar. You could order an appetizer of edamame with Chinese five spice and sesame oil essence, or maybe some grilled brie with papaya chutney. Feeling like a pizza? (Funny, you don’t look like a pizza.) You have a number of interesting choices like the piadina, which has broccoli, chicken, mozzarella, romano and lemon pepper cream, all topped with greens tossed in balsamic. You even has a nice selection of salad options. Salad? At a sports bar? Oh yes.
Of course, you have your sandwiches and burgers, as well as a number of different chicken, beef, pasta and seafood entrees. The range in price is from $10 for a sandwich or burger to about $30 if you want a filet mignon. And honestly, I thought the appetizers were a lot more interesting than the entrees, which is something I find more and more lately in restaurants.
Well, I was feeling like a burger (funny, John, you don’t look like a burger…OK, you got me back), so I went with the All-American double burger with garlic aioli, Thousand Island dressing and cheddar and monterey jack cheese. I also ordered a Negra Modela (which was one of the few beer selections on the menu that I found interesting) to go with it. So with burger and beer in hand, and good company around, we chowed down and watched Oklahoma run up 35 points before Nebraska knew what had hit them.
So…how was my burger?
It was a good burger. Cooked pretty much how I had asked (medium-rare), it was very beefy and not overloaded with bun. The garlic aioli was a very tasty touch.
It was also an $11 burger. If it was a $7 burger, it would have been an awesome burger. Maybe it’s just me, but $11 for a burger still seems a little pricey, not to mention that fact that the accompanying fries were lukewarm. Lukewarm would also be the way I would describe the service: fine, but nothing special.
My overall impression of the Alstarz is positive, but not overwhelmingly so. The menu certainly does offer some intriguing choices, but is it worth the expense? Do people want to drop $11 on a burger while watching the game? On that night, the answer was clearly yes because the parking lot outside was pretty darn full. In the days to come, with the economy heading into tough times, will that answer remain yes? We shall see.
Alstarz Sports Pub – 140 Route 130 South, Bordentown. 609.291.0200.
Elections give you the munchies? Well, Downtown Dinner Club in Toms River is having an Election Night Buffet special for only $25. Enjoy the cooking of Greg Manning while you watch the numbers getting crunched and discussed in a million billion ways.