If you’re a sports fan, you know the trials of finding an open seat at a place serving decent food in Wichita when a big game is on television. Now that Brooklyn’s at 6200 W. 21st St. is closed, that problem is not likely to get any better. But a new player in town, Fat Tony’s Grill & Sports Bar at 417 E. Douglas, will no doubt draw its share of hungry football fans this fall.
The restaurant opened last February in the former Marple Theatre and Loco Joe’s location. Owned by Bryan Shapiro, who also has Doc Howard’s in Old Town, the restaurant has decent bar food and makes good use of the old theater by turning it into a sports bar with a very, very big screen.
ON THE MENU: Fat Tony’s offers a full range of sports-bar-friendly appetizers, including fried pickles, nachos, mozzarella cheese sticks, jalapeno poppers and chicken wings coated in sauces ranging from mild to “nuclear.” It also has several sandwiches, burgers, pizzas and entrees that include rib eye, fried shrimp and chicken fingers.
Fat Tony’s is also one of those restaurants that offers crazy food challenges. This one invites diners to try to qualify for free food and Fat Tony’s Fame by devouring a nine-pound burger and a pound of fries in 45 minutes, eating 12 wings coated in “nuclear” sauce with nothing to drink in 10 minutes, or eating a 5-pound Philly cheese steak sandwich with a pound of fries in 30 minutes.
DON’T-MISS DISHES: Fat Tony’s might not become a dining destination based on its cuisine alone, but for those who want to snack on bar fare while they’re watching the game, it’s a good option.
Among our favorite dishes was a Philly cheese steak pizza ($15.99 for a large, $12.99 for medium). It was topped with shredded beef, onions, bell peppers, mozzarella and a Cheez-Whiz sauce lurking under the surface that stuck delightfully to our teeth. Several other interesting pizza choices include a Buffalo chicken pizza topped with wing sauce. Diners also can design their own pizzas.
We also were impressed with the Italian sub, which was stuffed with a decadent pile of Capicola, salami and pepperoni plus provolone cheese, lettuce, onion, olives and Italian dressing on a nice, crusty hoagie. It was $7.99, and we added a side of disappointingly soggy onion rings for 99 cents. (Fries, chips or potato salad come on the side for no extra charge.)
The Philly cheese steak sandwich ($7.99) was less exciting than its pizza cousin. The bread was good, but the beef inside was dry, and there wasn’t enough Cheez-Whiz to accommodate. The tasty sweet potato fries on the side were topped attractively with shredded Parmesan.
We also sampled a basket of jalapeno poppers ($6.99), which were clearly from the bag but were nonetheless bursting with oozing, cheesy-popper goodness. It’s hard to flub those up.
And a serving of mild chicken wings ($7.49) featured lots of crispy breading and a nice sauce but were a bit dry and overdone.
AMBIENCE: A recently repaired air conditioner will help customers better appreciate Fat Tony’s unique setup, which includes tall bar tables in the front and a collection of shorter tables and booths in the back underneath the giant screen airing sporting events. Several other smaller screens posted around the bar show other games. It’s easy to see the building’s origins as a movie theater, and its amazingly high ceilings make for a dramatic appearance.
Fat Tony’s allows customers to write on the walls, so diners can pass the time waiting for their food by reading the scrawlings, many of which likely made more sense to their authors after midnight.
PRICE RANGE: Burgers are $7.99 to $12.99. Sandwiches are $6.99 to $7.99. Entrees are $8.99 to $14.99. Pizzas are $12.99 and $15.99.
SERVICE: Our waitress was a tad spacey with essential items such as silverware, plates and napkins, but service was overall OK. Ratings reflect the critic’s judgment of the food, service and atmosphere in relation to the price. If you would like to nominate a restaurant to be reviewed, call 316-268-6327.
Fat Tony’s Grill & Sports Bar
Two and a half forks out of four
Where: 417 E. Douglas, 316-303-9316
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily
Type of food: Bar fare including sandwiches, burgers, salads, appetizers
Alcohol: Full bar
Reservations: Not accepted
Web site: www.fattonysgrill.com