Inside the pocket

It was a quiet night at the Champps Americana sports bar the Monday night after the NFC Championship game. After all, Dallas had just proved to the world that we weren't champs. And that's almost a quote from Troy Almighty's mouth.

Mudville had nothing on us.
But the big screens took no notice, of course, moving right along to the next big event (on the small screen, there always has to be a big event). The huge monitors looming all over the restaurant were showing a basketball game. As if we cared.

Big Brother is a jock in the '90s. You don't play sports in a sports bar, you watch them. And sports bars are the coming thing, replacing "corner" and "singles" and "fern" as passe bar concepts.

Today's version of the corner bar is "fun for the whole family." Homer Simpson flees to Moe's as a refuge from Marge, but these '90s dads don't go to their sports bar alone--they bring the wife and (step)kids. And they all sit there silently in family togetherness, eating burgers and watching TV. This would be their quality time--it was for us. A very homelike ambience, I would say.

Of course, to be fair, there are a lot of tables where convivial groups are sitting around eating potato skins with their beers taking no notice of the TVs at all. I guess that bluish monitor cast just adds to the comfortable atmosphere for all of us.

I think I sound grumpy, and I'm probably coming at this whole sports bar idea with several handicaps. First of all, I'm a girl, and watching sports on TV (unless it's ice skating or Troy Aikman, it's still very much a male bonding activity--about the only one they have left, poor guys, unless they're the type who huddle in sweat lodges or beat drums in the woods, or gather in sub-groups in mixed company and tell off-color jokes) doesn't do it for me. Worse, I'm a mom--and all moms hate the combination of eating with television.

Maybe I don't appreciate the sports bar phenomenon as much as I might; maybe, as I usually say about white males in power, I just don't get it. I'm out of my league here.

So--just let it be noted that Champps is a sports bar, maybe the ultimate sports bar, with tons of huge TVs, a sound supervisor, a full bar, a smooth wait staff, lots of munchies and things to drink, and all the other things that go with being a sports bar. And I won't worry my pretty little head about why people like sports bars; I'll just tell you about the food I ate there.

Champps' menu is long, and it covers the territory from traditional '70s bar snacks like fried potato skins, spinach artichoke dip (remember that?), and fancy burger variations to latter-day necessities like Caesar salad, pasta, rotisserie chicken, brick oven pizza, and grilled chicken sandwiches. You can even get real dinners here, like swordfish, steak, and ribs.

We ate selections from several decades, starting with a half-order of fried potato skins--plain ones, not the Mexican version topped with beef, cheese, olives and jalapenos. Ours were simply deep-fried, coated with melted cheddar cheese, and sprinkled with pieces of bacon. Practically light by comparison with the others, but in case you needed a little more, you could dip them in a mayonnaise-based dip.

Our waitress could not have been nicer, more helpful, more (seemingly) genuinely concerned that we were happy, satisfied, and well taken care of. She brought us balloons and to-go boxes, refilled drinks, and kept the food coming at a winning pace. Our appetites could not keep up.

Caesar salad was an enormous pyramid of romaine, thickly dressed with a heavy dressing and adorned with large croutons, and the Hawaiian chicken sandwich was enormous, a big tasteless chicken breast steeped in soy and pineapple juice, topped with a slice of withered pineapple and some provolone, pillowed on a bun with a pile of incredibly salty waffle chips. The rotisserie special of the night was a platter holding half a smoky brown chicken, a head's worth of steamed broccoli, and half a stuffed potato wrapped in foil. Dessert--bread pudding, pecan pie, sundaes or something called "Enough to Die For" was out of the question this sad Monday evening.

Maybe I'll feel more like checking out the sweets some night in the future. Like when there's ice skating on.

--Mary Brown Malouf

Champps Americana, 4951 Belt Line Rd., Addison. 991-3335. Open Monday-Thursday 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.- 2 p.m. Sunday 10 a.m.-12 midnight

Champp's Americana:
Potato Skins $6.95
Caesar Salad $5.95
Rotisserie Special Chicken $9.95
Hawaiian Chicken $6.75
Cookies and Cream $2.95


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