#52 Sports Bar and Kitchen
Two blog posts in a row in Big Rapids? That’s nuts. Especially because they are from two different days. I think I can count on two hands the number of times I’ve been to Big Rapids in the past nine years and I had two reasons to visit in one week late last month.
The way my day usually goes when I do this outside work is that we work for about three hours, take an hour lunch, then come back for another six or so depending on the night and how quickly we work. I got to Big Rapids at 2:30 for this job and by 5:00, we were headed out to lunch.
Despite the fact Big Rapids is a college town, restaurants are pretty slim pickens. I’ve eaten at a couple in the past, but there are no good sandwich shops and very few non-chain restaurants that come with any sort of recommendation from students. While I was in the arena, I happened to see advertisements for what sounded like a local sports bar, so I looked it up. The menu looked good, so I broke with my colleagues (who were going to Crankers…and what’s the point if you can’t drink, right?) and headed back towards US-131.
#52 Sports Bar and Kitchen is inside the Holiday Inn on Perry Street in Big Rapids just off the US-131 exit. I wasn’t entirely aware of that when I started driving that way, but the closer I got to the address, I figured it out. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but I wasn’t expecting a hotel bar. Had I know that, I probably would have passed and tried something else, but I was already there and my lunch break was slowly ticking away.
The restaurant is between the actual hotel part of the property and the conference center. It has it’s own entrance, but that just takes you into a lobby that takes you to the entrance of the restaurant.
#52 Sports Bar and Kitchen seems to be a pretty recent name, but I can find nothing about it in either of the local newspapers. The sign on the outside of the restaurant is a banner that’s hung up by rope like it’s temporary. I know in the past it was part of the Sporting News Grill chain of restaurants and very little seems to have changed. In fact, I heard a server tell someone they just dropped the name and kept most of the things the same. Looking at other SNG’s, the decor and layout all seem to be the same as $52. Unsure if this is actually true or not since I never visited this Sporting News Grill and have never been to any in the chain.
I walked in to the restaurant to find a large hostess station right at the entrance. There were three ladies standing there and none of them were looking at the door. I looked towards the bar to see if there were any open seats thinking I would just sit there, but didn’t see any. After a few minutes, one of the ladies turned around and asked if they could help me. Um? Yeah…how about a table? I guess they figured it out from my blank stare because I didn’t know how to answer the questions. One of them grabbed a menu and took me to a table along the partition that separates the upper dining room from the lower level bar.
The layout of the place is set up so there is no possible way you can’t watch a TV while eating dinner. There’s TV’s on every wall in every direction and a tower in another dining area with four TV’s set up in a 360 degree pattern. The decor of the place feels very much like you’re in a hotel. It’s very clean lines, very kind of sterile. It feels like a lot of other hotel bars I’ve been in despite the fact this one is clearly more of the type of restaurant that could stand on it’s own without the built in clientele.
The menu at #52 is quite large and about what you’d expect from a sports bar. The dinner menu has a section called “It’s On A Bun, Son” which is a pretty fancy way of labeling for burgers. I chose the Breakfast Burger. This sandwich is a 1/2 lb char broiled Angus beef with fried egg, bacon, and American cheese. The menu says it comes with a pretzel bun, but I did not get that. The waitress said the pretzel bun was extra. Whatever, it still came on a soft, flaky roll that soaked up all the juices from the burger and egg.
The burger was actually really tasty. It had sort of a loose pack to it and a very well defined char-broil. It’s not all that often I get a burger that I would be fine eating on it’s own, but this was one of those burgers. It had some nice caramelized bits around the edges, but still very juicy in the middle. The egg on top was a perfect over-medium so it was just slightly runny when I bit in to it. The American cheese acted as a bonding agent between the egg and the meat holding everything together.
The sandwich came with french fries. They were thin cut with a batter and a slight Cajun seasoning. Very crispy, very flavorful on their own without the use of ketchup or BBQ sauce.
My bill at #52 Sports Bar and Kitchen was a little over $12. I was pretty hesitant at first when I walked in and sat down at #52, but the place was packed so I stuck around knowing not everyone in the restaurant was staying at the hotel. There were clearly locals that came here for dinner and that’s a good sign at any hotel restaurant. As I mentioned earlier, this is the kind of place that could survive on it’s own. While it has some of the sterilization you’re used to seeing with hotel bars, the food is anything but sterile. I was pleasantly surprised with my meal and would make the trip back to this sports bar if I ever find myself in Big Rapids again.