Wild Game Sports Grill Brings Smoked Wings and Happy Hour Deals to Central Phoenix

When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).

Restaurant: Wild Game Sports Grill Location: 2445 East Thomas Road Open: About six weeks Eats: Elevated bar fare Price: About $15 a person

When it comes to sports bars, I think it's fair to say that general expectations are pretty low. Or maybe "low" isn't exactly the right word, but basically you want to know if you'll: 1) Be able to see your game, 2) Get a cold (preferably cheap) beer, and, 3) Eat food that doesn't suck. Being close to home is usually also a plus, in case the game goes south and you have to drown your sorrows.

The good news is that in all of these three things, Wild Game Sports Bar meets at least the minimum expectation. In some categories, it even achieves top marks.

See also: 7 Best Sports Bars for Food and Drink in Metro Phoenix

You'll find this new sports bar and restaurant near 24th Street and Thomas Road but don't get confused when looking for the entrance; it's located off the parking lot on the back of the building. On the upside, there seems to be plenty of parking. On the downside, the sign-less doorway feels a little . . . strange.

Inside, the space is well-appointed with plenty of large TVs and design touches such as exposed wood and chalkboards -- though let's be honest, your eyes are going to be on the televisions and not the décor.

The Wild Game website promises "a chef-driven menu" and, in case you didn't get the reference in the name, the restaurant differentiates itself from other sports bars by offering a selection of dishes made with wild game. Think, bison burgers, venison and elk chili, and wild boar bacon. Don't worry though, traditionalists, you can still get classic sports grill fare such as wings, a classic burger, and nachos.

To start, we tried the Smothered Fries ($8), a plate of fries covered in Wild Game Chili. The chili -- made with venison, elk, and black beans -- sounds far more interesting than it tastes, which isn't to say it tastes bad. The bigger chunks of meat were a little on the dry side and probably too large for being eaten as a fry topping. Still, overall the appetizer makes a fine complement to a cold beer.

For an even better starter or a light meal, don't skip the Smoked Wings ($9). We opted to get the Honey, Hot, and Hoppy sauce, which is supposed to be made with IPA syrup, honey, and Tobasco. We didn't pick up any hoppiness at all, but the sweet-spicy combo of honey and hot sauce was well-balanced and still left room for the smoky flavor of the meat to come through.

A Wild Game Brat ($11) also is a crowd-pleasing dish. You'll get a simple but satisfying brat served in a thick pretzel bun topped with sauerkraut. (The menu also lists housemade beer mustard, though we didn't seem to have any on our dish.) The brat isn't the kind of snappy sausage you might expect; it's something more like a really, really good hot dog. And we're okay with that.

For those looking to keep things healthy, the Pesto Caesar ($7) isn't half bad. The housemade dressing tastes exactly like it sounds: a tangy mashup of pesto and classic Ceasar. Served over a bed of romaine lettuce and large croutons, this salad won't fill you up but is light and flavorful at least.

Football fans will be happy to hear that Wild Game offers happy hour deals from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. That means you can get drink specials (as in, a pint of "premium" beer will cost you under $4) and $2 off appetizers and wings almost all day. We're pretty sure you've never had a better excuse to cheer on your team at the bar.

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