If you think "upscale sports bar" is an oxymoron, then check out the menu at The Grandstander in Geneva. This newer spot nixes nachos and chicken fingers in favor of lobster corn dogs, bacon-stuffed dates and chicken wings paired with pineapple saffron sauce. Sure, you can get a burger -- or a brat. But why not branch out with your beer and basketball?
Motif: Open since late August, The Grandstander, from the chef behind The Finery & Blacksmith Bar in St. Charles, occupies a streetfront location along Third Street. There's seating at the intriguingly lit bar, as well as throughout. Dark woods and white subway tile behind the bar create a clean look, with floating shelves showcasing bottles of liquor. One wall doubles as an upholstered bench, providing seating for a number of tables. Five TVs show sports, and historic sports photos drive home the subtle theme.
The Grandstander507 S. Third St., Geneva, (331) 248-0919
Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday, closed Monday
Food: On our waiter's recommendation, we first nibbled on crispy artichokes, a beautifully presented appetizer that lived up to its name. The crunchy coating was just the initial draw, though. The flavorful artichokes were paired with a rich tomato jam, house-smoked jalapeņo aioli and lemon vinaigrette.
We easily could have made a meal of the chicken wings. They're smoked for five hours, briefly fried and then charred and grilled for moist, flavor-packed wings made even better by the sauces. We passed on the usual Buffalo and barbecue sauces and instead went for half our wings drizzled with chimichurri and the other half with pineapple saffron. We thoroughly enjoyed the garlicky, fragrant chimichurri, but loved the sweet/savory pineapple saffron even more.
The Grandstander's burger is a top-seller, and my husband and I split one. We were both more impressed, however, with our starters. Also on the appetizer list were Peruvian lamb chops, stuffed dates, smoked trout tartine and the lobster corn dog, paired with a pickled vegetable slaw.
The short (and limited) sandwich list includes a banh mi made with beer-braised pork belly and a Cubano, while the entree side of the menu branches out with roasted salmon, gnocchi, a flat iron steak and root vegetable curry. There are three sausage picks, served with fries, and some salads. Selections are expected to shift with seasonal ingredients.
Liquid consumption: Beer lovers will find 18 on tap, with the options rotating and tracked on a chalkboard above the bar. You'll spot more common finds such as Allagash White, as well as lesser-known and local brews. The menu also features a selection of wines and cocktails.
Service: Our waiter was helpful and attentive without hovering. When I sought a beer recommendation, he had me list some I liked and then brought samples of craft beers that he thought might win me over -- and they did.
Crowd: On a recent Saturday, the restaurant featured a mix of couples, groups of friends and even families.
Parking: There's street parking in the area.
Overall: With a playbook that includes an inventive menu, strong service and contemporary decor, The Grandstander will appeal to more than sports fans.