In the hours before the big game, it made sense to head to a sports bar.
There wasn’t a line at Sports Time Family Pub & Grill as there were outside Chicago bars. Those coming to watch the sixth game of the National League Championship Series would arrive after those coming for an early dinner.
A few Cubs fans were evident during the dinner hour. Owner Cristy Eldridge was adorned in Cubbie blue. One guy at the bar had a Schwarber jersey.
The playoffs have been good for Sports Time, Eldridge said. The bar has been full of fans cheering on the Chicago team even as the games wound into the night or wee hours.
And now, Elkhart Dining Days is underway. The Sports Time lineup includes three entrees that can be combined into a two-for-$30 special or one big steak for $30.
The tomahawk ribeye is 24 ounces of beef and bone. The bone it’s attached to is almost as big enough for a child to use as a tee-ball bat.
The steak is fatty. This is the nature of the ribeye. That’s what gives it flavor. It’s why it’s my favorite steak.
The filet would be the yoga instructor of steaks: lean and understated. The sirloin would be the high school football player: eager but not yet refined. The ribeye, particularly the tomahawk, is like the throwback baseball player. The grizzled, even slightly flabby star who is both beloved and can hit the game-winning home run.
So in the hours before Game Six, I ordered this gigantic steak. The steak wasn’t as perfect as Kyle Hendricks’ pitching performance for the Cubs Saturday night. It was a little underdone, but still good.
Eldridge and I talked about how the Dining Days specials aren’t predictable sports bar fare. They’re more refined with sun-dried tomatoes and saffron risotto. This year, the four dishes are being offered only at dinner from 5 to 9 p.m. through Saturday.
Sports Time formed when Brett and Cristy Eldridge broke away from Beef O’Brady’s a year after they bought the franchise location in 2008. It has become that comfortable restaurant and bar with good food on the east side of Elkhart.
Much of the staff has been with them for a number of years, she said. Juan Rodriguez leads the kitchen and was enjoying Dining Days at Artisan Saturday night, she added.
The kitchen can make burgers and wings, but also do a lot more, she said. Sports Time makes its own pulled pork and corned beef. He’s creating $4.99 daily features, but they’re not just cheap specials, she said. “I like what he’s thinking,” she said.
The 2014 Dining Days menu included excellent fish tacos. They appear about twice a month at the restaurant and will be available again on Tuesday.
In order for a restaurant to succeed, it must execute good food and service consistently over time. Unlike the Cubs, it can’t be a lovable loser and stay open.
Sports Time, like the Cubs, has fans and people who love what it offers. Sports Time, like the 2016 Cubs, is a winner.