Cafe Reviews

JOCK IN THE BOX

Page 2 of 3

Despite the lackluster fare, Max's is a great place to watch a game. It's almost like being at the stadium. And the $10 Sunday viewing charge shouldn't be too much of an obstacle--you can use it against food and drink. My suggestion? Get the pork tenderloin and a pitcher of Molson, take the Cardinals and give the points.

Sports Fever, 2031 West Peoria Avenue, Phoenix, 331-8033. Open Sunday at 11 a.m.

Sports Fever is a terrific place to watch football, as long as you like Miller beer on tap and don't go anywhere near the food. I love the Vegas-style touch of each booth having its own television, so you zap in any game you want. I love the interactive trivia game you can play on it. And I enjoy the memorabilia--Pete Rose's uniform, team pennants, old photos. But this food will leave a bad taste in your mouth even if your team is winning. Take, for example, the dish called Michael Chang's Oriental Chicken. Is this supposed to be cute? What's next, the Boris Becker Aryan Tuna Melt? Anyway, the menu says this entree consists of "tender pieces of chicken saut‚ed with carrots, bell peppers, celery and onions in our special Oriental sauce." I say it's a bit of dull chicken, a smidgen of veggies and a sauce with enough salt to take care of the daily sodium requirement of all the Changs in the Beijing phone book. It all sits on a small mountain of pasta. Can a dish be less appetizingly named than Michael Chang's Oriental Chicken? Yes, it can, if it's called Oliver Miller Meat Loaf. Even Mama Seftel never served up meat loaf this unappealing. From texture to taste, it aroused all my latent suspicions about what actually goes into this dish. And it came topped with what can only be charitably described as a very strange dark sauce. Whoever dreamed up the name for the Muhammad Ali Pork Chops should be boxed around the ears. This must be a great hit with Valley Muslims. Can the Mahatma Gandhi Prime Rib and the O.J. Simpson 100 Percent Innocent Ground Beef Patty be far behind? Munchies and sandwiches are somewhat better, but you shouldn't take this characterization as a ringing endorsement. At 10 cents a pop, Buffalo wings raised the fewest doubts. As for the Sports Fever mushrooms, there must have been a hundred of the battered critters in the serving basket, but numbers alone couldn't make up for the soggy interiors of these once-frozen fungi. Sandwiches don't signal a skilled chef back in the kitchen, just someone with a toaster and a jar of mayonnaise. The Outland (named for a football lineman award) is a coffee-shop triple decker, with ham, turkey, cheese, fatty bacon and a schmear of mayo. The Butkus features a battered and fried pork slab coated with mayo, nothing special. And the fries are awful, unpleasantly spicy curlicues that made me wish I were shortening my life with something a bit tastier. Sports Fever? If you like to eat while you watch football, it's not what the doctor ordered.

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Howard Seftel