It’s hard to go wrong with bar and grill fare when dining out with kids, and Sidelines Sports Eatery & Pub has all the crowd pleasers you would expect — plus some delightfully creative comfort foods on the menu for grown-ups.
Odds are good you live near a Sidelines if you reside in the greater Toledo area. Chris Etts, Eric Sitter and Jerry Edmunson founded the business just over the Michigan border in Lambertville in 2000, and it has since grown to include six additional locations in northwest Ohio.
Despite this rapid expansion, director of operations Thomas Morris said each location runs more like a small, family-owned business than a chain. He attributes the success of Sidelines to its dedicated employees, many of whom have worked for the group for a long time and know their regular customers. He notes Sidelines also gives back to schools and other nonprofit organizations through its fundraising programs.
The menu, refreshed several times a year, is rooted in the usual sports bar favorites — build-your-own-burgers, pizza, chicken wings and a variety of sandwiches and salads.
“Our most popular [menu item] is our fowl balls,” Morris said. “[They are made with] fresh chicken tenderloins that are delivered daily that we cut up into small pieces, and we flash fry those to order. That’s our bread and butter; people really enjoy those.” Customers can choose from a variety of sauces, seasonings and toppings for the chicken chunks.
Pub favorites and comfort foods
We visited the Maumee Sidelines location on a Thursday evening. There were plenty of tables available when we arrived and we seated ourselves at a roomy booth that comfortably fit our family of five. The vibe at Sidelines is that of a typical sports bar, with plenty of flatscreen televisions lining the walls and a moderate noise level.
After we were seated it took about five minutes for a server to greet us and take our drink order.
Once we received our drinks, there was an additional delay of 10 minutes or so before our server reappeared and we were able to put in our food order. That wait did slightly extend the time for our dining experience from the time we walked in to the time we got our food. While this is not an issue for our family with older children, it could be more challenging with a squirmy baby or toddler in tow.
We ordered an appetizer of pickle chips ($9.99), which had a tangy dill flavor and a light, battered coating. They were a hit that disappeared quickly at our table.
The menu features most of the entrees you would expect at a sports bar, with a few standout surprises such as the white cheddar parmesan mac and cheese ($12.99 + extra for add-ins).The mac and cheese is offered with the ability to select from a long list of proteins and veggies that can be added to customize the dish. I ordered it with grilled chicken, and was pleasantly surprised at the generous quantity of tender chicken that was baked into the creamy pasta. The portion size was enough to provide leftovers to enjoy for lunch the next day.
My husband ordered the meatball pizza ($12.99) and appreciated the neatly sliced meatballs and the light, thin crust. One of our sons also sampled the meatballs on an oven-baked grinder ($14.99), which came topped with a red sauce and a five-cheese blend. His only critique was that the sauce was a bit heavy.
My oldest ordered his stand-by, an American cheeseburger, which is a 1/2 pound patty of premium fresh-ground steak served on a Kaiser roll. Sidelines offers a wide assortment of toppings to choose from to customize each burger.
There is a sizable kids menu with entrees for $5.49 that include two sides and a drink, and kids eat free on Wednesdays. Our daughter usually likes to do her own review of chicken tenders at most places where we eat out, and she said the ones at Sidelines were among the best she has sampled.
We were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food at Sidelines, which sets it apart from the typical sports bar. Service at the location we visited was a little slow but the restaurant offers easy carryout and delivery ordering on its website, which our family will add to our rotation of favorite spots for quick dinners in the future.