While enjoying our meal, we watched a local magician working the dining room, making balloon animals for the kids, turning two one dollar bills into a two dollar bill, and doing card tricks at tables. He’s a great entertainment for the kid in all of us, but call ahead to see what night’s he’s working Duffy’s Sports Grill. They have other on-site activities weekly.
To some people, any ol’ sports bar will do, but to foodies, every sports bar better be delivering its “A Game” when it comes to food. For those people, we visited Duffy’s Sports Grill on University Parkway.
Ok . . . we had a gift certificate, but that wasn’t the inspiration to go. I’ve visited Duffy’s several times and every visit, in fact every time I’ve driven by, I couldn’t help but notice that Duffy’s Sports Grill is always packed. ALWAYS!
Case in point, our most recent visit was a Wednesday evening in early July. There weren’t any major games or tournaments airing on any of the 87 televisions, and there wasn’t any sports celebrities doing a cameo. What was filling the seat is essentially the same darn thing going on every night of the week . . . a wide variety of delicious, not-too-fussy food served in a family atmosphere in the dining room, with a group of regulars (Norm!) holding court in the bar. And isn’t that what you want in a sports bar?
In all honesty, I’m a sports nut. I enjoy all the autographed jerseys, rows of NFL helmets and sports memorabilia found in a sports bar. It’s in my blood, I tell ya! The very first restaurant I ever owned was Hurricane’s Roadhouse, a Florida inspired sports bar on Bloor Street in Toronto. I was only 26 and my partner and I expanded Hurricanes to 5 locations before I moved to Florida. I’m honored to share that the original location is still listed as one of the top sports bars in Toronto over 35 years later.
Thank goodness my little bar didn’t have to compete with Duffy’s Sports Grill.
Once seated, our server suggested we try some of the newest items on Duffy’s menu. “You’ve GOT to try the Giant Pretzel appetizer,” he said. “It will totally change what you think a bar pretzel should taste like.”
Challenge accepted. Duffy’s Giant Pretzel arrived hanging from a hook over a side of house-made beer cheese. The texture of Duffy’s pretzel is much lighter than a standard hot pretzel . . . more like a freshly baked loaf of sourdough that is crisp and chewy on the outside, warm and fluffy on the inside. There was just enough course sea salt to appease my taste buds, and the pretzel tore apart easily. “This could be dangerous,” Jill said. “If I eat much more of this pretzel, I won’t have room for anything else!” They call it a Giant Pretzel for a reason! While certainly delicious, I’m thinking the Giant Pretzel may be a better choice for those hanging out at the bar. Seems like a great way to make friends and influence people!
Looking for something on the lighter side, Jill opted for Duffy’s new Coconut Shrimp appetizer, always a favorite summertime choice. Being that the word GIANT wasn’t in the name, she felt the coconut shrimp were a more appropriate sized appetizer, offering four butterflied shrimp dipped in fresh sweet coconut batter and flash fried. Pretty classic preparation here, and the orange ginger sauce was another classic. I’m seriously surprised that Duffy’s didn’t offer coconut shrimp on their menu before now. It’s one of those “can’t go wrong” flavor profiles.
I was tempted to order one of Duffy’s new sandwich offerings, but after that GIANT pretzel I ordered the Lobster Cobb Salad instead, taking advice from assistant manager, and long term friend, Erika Hartley. “It’s light and colorful,” Erika suggested, “and there is a lot of lobster on this dish.” As for my choice of salad dressings, I went with the lemon vinaigrette. While other dressing may be your go-to salad topping, let me suggest that the lemon vinaigrette is ideally suited for the Lobster Cobb. The light touch of lemon allowed the fragrant flavors of the lobster to shine. Other dressings would have masked the tender lobster flavor, and if you’re going to pay for lobster, shouldn’t that flavor stand out? Can I get an “Amen?”
Jill was excited to try Duffy’s new fajitas. Duffy’s offers a beef, chicken, or shrimp fajitas, or you can order a mix of two proteins. Jill went with the citrus-chili marinated chicken, and was pretty stoked with the sear on the chicken and the juicy bites of the grilled onions, cilantro, and bell peppers topped with Guajillo butter. A side dish of cilantro-lime rice were topped with seasoned black beans, while a side dish of guacamole, salsa, sour cream, and shredded cheese were provided to top off the fajitas after she scooped the meat into handheld size flour tortillas. Jill filled one or two tortillas with toppings before just digging into the fajitas on their own.
And what is dinner out without a little excitement? On Jill’s plate was a grilled jalapeno. Believing the heat of the pepper would be knocked back a bit because it was grilled, Jill took a big ol’ bite. “Wow!” The jalapeno bit back, big time. When she challenged me to a bite, she was kind enough to scrape away the seeds, thinking that would take some of the heat with it. Nope! Did.Not.Happen! Thankfully there was enough sour cream on the side plate for me to cool off my palate. But the heat still remained, so I went ahead and scooped a forkful of the chicken, onions and green peppers onto a fork . . . and followed that bite off with a bite or two of plain flour tortilla. Trust me on this! If you can’t handle the heat, step back from the jalapeno! The fajitas were brilliant, but watch out for that jalapeno!
The highlight of our visit was our shared dessert. The Chocolate Mint Pie hit a home run/touch down/slam dunk as far as we were concerned. Made with mint chocolate chip ice cream (Where were you when I ate that jalapeno?!!) on top of an Oreo crust, and laced with chocolate fudge, cold whip cream and topped with fresh mint, I cannot remember the last time I had ice cream cake, and certainly don’t recall seeing it on many menus. Thank goodness I didn’t eat all that GIANT pretzel! I could have eaten two of the Chocolate Mint Pies! (Hint to Duffy’s Sports Grill . . . make this full sized pie available for take out!)
Like any honest to goodness sports bar, Duffy’s Sports Grill has any number of events taking place throughout the week. Check out their website and Facebook page for upcoming events and specials that take place during televised sporting events, and don’t forget to order a GIANT pretzel at the bar! Trust me . . . you’ll make friends quickly.
As we walked out the door I saw Jill’s head turn. “Did I just see Red Velvet Donuts?” Yep! You sure did!