It's more than just a sports bar. And I'm more than just a fan.
Sure, at first glance the new Recovery Sports Grill at Charleston's downtown Ramada hotel couldn't be any more sports bar-like.
There are 43 televisions (exactly) and 37,000 pieces (approximately) of sports-related paraphernalia covering, nailed to or hanging from every possible surface throughout a large, newly constructed dining area. The menu plays right along with all of the obligatory hot wings, nachos, burgers and fried whatever you would expect.
As bar and grills go, Recovery is a fine one in its own right. But it also raises its game by offering a lot more.
It's super-clean, for starters - not a given in this culinary genre. Service has been great on the three visits in three days (yep, a little obsessed) I enjoyed last weekend. The food is good quality and prepared fresh in an open kitchen.
It serves 100 percent premium-grade beef. Turkey breast is roasted in-house every day. Artisan rolls are baked just for the restaurant. Ribs are slow-roasted for hours.
And your food options go far beyond typical bar-and-grill fare.
Options like a spring mix salad with fresh Romaine, grilled chicken, cranberries, bleu cheese, pecans and diced apples in pomegranate acai dressing. Lightly salted Bavarian pretzels (baked fresh daily) with Boston cheddar fondue. Smoky BBQ eggrolls. Asian-grilled salmon with rice and zucchini. Calamari fries with marinara. Linguini with grilled chicken, portabella mushrooms, sweet red peppers, roasted garlic and Parmesan cheese.
Being skeptical of a place called Recovery from the get-go, I decided to really put its food to the test on my first visit. It's hard to mess up fried cheese or nachos, but could they really pull of the gorgeous fresh-seared Ahi tuna salad pictured on the menu?
I should have ordered a side of crow, too, because this salad was every bit as good as advertised with fresh greens, cabbage, carrots and scallions in a housemade sesame-soy dressing. (It didn't look quite as good as its photo, but they never do.)
I was so pleased I returned the following day, inviting the wife along to share her thoughts. We liked the Buffalo Chicken Wontons stuffed with spicy chicken and bleu cheese, but really loved our Cajun-inspired Grilled Bayou Wings.
Neither of us generally care for wings, but these babies were fantastic - their spice-rubbed flavors complemented by char-grilling instead of drowning in deep-fat frying. Try them, you must!
That day we also sampled the Empire Steak Salad, featuring fine medium-rare medallions served alongside fresh Romaine, red onion, pecans, crumbled bleu cheese and housemade croutons with Vidalia dressing.
And I liked The Gleason, a deli-style sandwich stuffed with Black Forest ham, turkey, lettuce, tomato and mayo, which I had with sweet potato fries served with a nice tangy dip instead of the sweet sauce you usually see.
We were impressed enough to return again the third day, this time with all three boys in tow. With five of us around the table, we took advantage of our numbers to try a slew of new and different items.