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Cheap eats: Game On Sports Grille

Citizen Staff Writer



What: Game On Sports Grille

Address and phone: 6453 N. Oracle Road, 797-1233

Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily

What was ordered: Pastrami Hoagie ($4.99), Chicken Pesto Panini ($7.29) and one lemonade ($2.29) for a total of $15.75 including tax, well within our Cheap Eats goal of a meal for two for less than $20.

Comments: This is how the little guys can beat the big chains.

Game On has a quality of fare that sails way over the bar of standard sports-bar grub, enough so that even those who couldn’t care less about sports will want to make this Northwest Side newbie a destination for lunch and dinner.

Housed in what was formerly a Chuy’s and open since November, Game On has a clean, sleek look, and comfortable booths and tables. They’re not doing things on the cheap and quick here, and it shows in the dining room, and more importantly, in the food that comes out of the kitchen.

There is an impressive dedication to quality ingredients and made-to-order foods that was evident from the first bite to the last.

We went with the regular-size Pastrami Hoagie ($4.99) rather than the large size. The hoagie served to us was cut in half and was generously piled with some of the better pastrami we’ve tasted in these parts. The pastrami was vibrantly peppered and supple in texture, and was nicely complemented by mustard, mayo and a good match of melted Provolone. The potato-flour hoagie was fresh and soft, delivering that just-right pull of East Coast quality bread rather than the overly inflated dough balloons the chains normally serve. The side of cole slaw was equally impressive as the strands of cabbage were shredded to a fine dining-style precision. The slaw here is obviously dressed and seasoned to order, as the cabbage was fresh and crunchy, not limp and soggy.

The Chicken Pesto Panini ($7.29) featured chicken breast that was pounded thin and nicely seasoned and sautéed rather than the going-through-the-motions chicken sandwiches of other purveyors, where the chicken breast is a big, neglected blob that’s dry, unseasoned and largely flavorless. The panini also featured melted Provolone, tomato slices and just the right amount of thin-slice pancetta to add a salty edge to the sandwich.

The fries served with the panini were hand-cut and fried to an ideal texture and flavor. For my money, hand-cut fries are at their best when they’re ever so slightly limp, as this yields a subtle sweetness that’s lost if they’re fried too crispy.

Though Game On has free Wi-Fi and a nice layout of TVs – including 19-inch flat-screens at each booth – my companion and I found ourselves ignoring the sports coverage because we were so focused on savoring the food. Try saying that about your normal sports bar.

This is a well-conceived, well-run locally-owned eatery that should be able to carve out a healthy niche of loyal customers, regardless of the economic climate and the full-court press of competition from chain joints.

Service: Tableside service was friendly and attentive.

Bar: Full

Children’s menu: Yes

Web site: No

Most recent health inspection: Passed opening inspection in December. Has yet to undergo its first unannounced inspection.

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