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Other main dishes are generally well-crafted. "Mega Death Meatloaf" is accurately named. It's a hefty, heavy and filling slab, perched on a wedge of Texas toast, topped with a mound of garlic mashed spuds and a sprinkle of onion strings, all drizzled with thick gravy. About the only thing you can do once you finish this platter is nap. I'm also partial to the tuna casserole--Alice's mom's recipe, the menu says--buried under a layer of potato chips. Salmon is trendily broiled on a cedar plank, and the kitchen is up to the task. It also shows some skill with the kicky chipotle chicken pasta, which features lots of grilled chicken, sliced hot links, a rich cream sauce and an unmistakable hot chile bite.
The one clear entree loser: "New England" crab cakes, two lackluster patties with only the faintest trace of crab. Save your $10.95.
You're better off putting $7.95 toward the first-rate Reuben sandwich, lots of decent corned beef, cheese and sauerkraut heaped on grilled bread. The veggie focaccia is also tempting, stacked with grilled eggplant, mushrooms, squash, red peppers and herbed cheese. The Ty Cobb salad, meanwhile, is exactly as advertised: lettuce, cheddar cheese, tomato, hard-boiled egg, crumbled blue cheese, turkey and bacon. The hamburger, however, is punchless and came frighteningly undercooked.
101 E. Jackson St.
Phoenix, AZ 85004
Region: Central Phoenix
If you've acclimated yourself to the noise and sensory overload, stick around for dessert. Check out the huge, fudgy homemade brownie, shaped like a baseball glove and teamed with cinnamon ice cream and whipped cream. The hot apple crisp is also appealing, aided by an energetic vanilla bourbon sauce.
Cooper'stown doesn't claim to be a shrine to the culinary arts, or a Saturday-night dining destination. But it's going to be a fun spot to fill up in before or after the game.
Leinenkugel's Ballyard Brewery, 201 South Fourth Street, Phoenix, 462-3800. Hours: Lunch and Dinner, Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, three hours before event; Event Fridays and Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Hours vary according to event schedules.)
What are three reasons I wish I had been an investor in Leinenkugel's? Location, location, location.
Set just across the plaza from BOB, Leinenkugel's can count on 48,000 high-spirited people with disposable incomes to walk by 81 times a year.
For Leinenkugel's sake, though, I hope the 48,000 are a different set of fans every time. That's because I don't think the food and beer here are good enough to warrant a second visit.
Leinenkugel's has amazingly little baseball feel. Except for the beer tap handles affixed with baseballs, you'd hardly know the place was owned by baseball people and pitched to folks coming to the ballpark. On the other hand, with BOB looming out the big windows, maybe Leinenkugel's doesn't need to beat customers over the head with a baseball theme.
It does, however, need to rough up the cooks and brewer. Much of the food and beer here simply isn't major-league caliber.
Nachos are one appetizer nibble that's Double-A quality. Multicolored chips, blandly coated with Jack cheese, sour cream, black beans and snoozy salsa, are strictly for fans who've moved here from Milwaukee. If it weren't for a couple of slivers of jalapeno, these nachos would have had no character at all. Baby-back ribs are a better starter option, meaty bones smothered in a sauce designed not to offend anybody.
Hot entrees don't have much going for them. At $10, roasted rosemary chicken is the most expensive item on the menu, and perhaps the least remarkable. I defy anyone to remember anything about this bird two minutes after eating it. Eggplant parmigiana won't remind anyone of the eggplant parmigiana in the old neighborhood, unless the old neighborhood had no Italians. It's overbreaded and breathtakingly dull. To his credit, the waiter tried to steer me away from it, but my professional obligations triumphed over my better instincts.
The Oriental chicken salad should be sent to the minors to work on fundamentals. It's an undistinguished mix of greens, crisp noodles, almonds, mandarin orange segments and white meat chicken, heavy-handedly drenched in a too-sweet dressing.
Sandwiches are your best bet. The Oriental chicken wrap brings chicken, greens and veggies together in a spinach tortilla. The Reuben's mix of pastrami, coleslaw and cheese is a satisfying way to tamp down hunger pangs. The meatball hero is a two-hander and was about the only thing I had here that sported some seasoning oomph. And don't overlook the hickoryburger--it's probably what Leinenkugel's does best. It's a messy affair, a half-pound of beefy ground sirloin gilded with bacon, lettuce, tomato and cheese.
The home-brewed beers are a letdown. (Leinenkugel's is affiliated with Wisconsin's 131-year-old Leinenkugel Brewing Co., which is now part of the vast Miller beer empire.) The Bleacher Blonde ale is so light you can't taste anything. The brewer says he adds a touch of honey to the Honey Weiss, but I couldn't detect it, or much of any other flavor. The Rally Red ale is intriguing, but not intriguing enough--call it two-dimensional. The Hefeweizen, I hear, has won awards. While it's got the requisite fruity, clove aroma, it's not as good as other locally brewed models. The best brew is the spunky Get Down Brown, with its engaging fruity, hoppy and nutty overtones. And stout fans should appreciate the full-flavored Splitfinger Stout, which hits you head on without running you over.
You can take me out to the ball game any time. But I believe I'll be doing my game-day eating and drinking elsewhere.
Cheese and crab dip
St. Louis ribs (rack)
Leinenkugel's Ballyard Brewery
Oriental chicken wrap
Beer (18 ounce)