Wednesday, March 22, 2023 Mar 22, 2023
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Lunch Box

Sports Are on Hiatus, but Sports Bars Still Have Good Food Deals

There may not be much to watch on TV at a bar, but Hero still serves a cheeseburger with queso on it.
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Hero Burger
Brian Reinhart

A few weeks ago, we used Lunch Box to explore the idea of alternative uses for restaurants. If you think a certain place is for dinner or brunch, try rethinking that. My original suggestion was to make way more weekday trips to Deep Ellum, especially at lunchtime.

Here’s another one for you: go to sports bars when there aren’t any sports on.

We’ve reached the deadest time of year in sports. As baseball heads into its All-Star Break, we are looking at some of the only days in the American calendar where no major sport plays a game. There’s no baseball, no football, and no hockey. The NBA Summer League ends on Sunday. College athletes are taking the summer off. The World Cup is happening in winter this year. What a bummer.

Now, not every sports bar is worth visiting when there are no sports. You need a certain quality of food, beverage, and companionship before it’s worth tolerating the background noise of cartoonish personalities debating each other about whether Kevin Durant is a quitter who’s bad for his teams. You need great wings or great sandwiches or a heck of a drink special.

Which is where we get to the fact that Hero, a gigantic sports bar in the shadow of the American Airlines Center, is very serious about cheeseburgers. It’s part of the same restaurant group that owns Standard Service and ran the late, lamented Remedy, and which employs burger-obsessed chef Danyele McPherson. McPherson recently geeked out in the Dallas Morning News about burger construction, from the proper placement of each ingredient to a monologue about how to correctly toast a bun.

This is the kind of person you want designing your burger. The fact that she did so for a bar that sits half-empty whenever people stop passing/hitting balls/pucks borders on an act of charity.

On days when neither the Mavericks nor Stars are at home, on days when SportsCenter is the best way to watch athletic feats, the high-ceilinged bar area at Hero sits half-empty, like the sports version of a Gothic cathedral. (The whole place is 24,000 square feet.) A few people wander in and out for quick drinks, and groups of coworkers from nearby offices gather for lunch breaks.

But there is a whole lot of room in the house for anyone who wants to measure McPherson’s burger prowess for themselves. And there’s a Hero burger that called my name the moment I heard about it: the Ranchito, topped with avocado, pickled jalapeños, pico, melty queso, and an aioli made with Valentina’s hot sauce.

Big surprise: it’s good. The avocado and shredded lettuce tip the flavors toward creamy and refreshing, but then the pico, pickled peppers, and Valentina’s bring their heat. (Okay, there could be a little more Valentina’s.) The bun is toasted just as McPherson prescribes, and although she told the News that American is the only cheese for a burger, it turns out that a not-too-heavy drizzle of queso does the trick well. Only the patty itself—too thick to smash and too thin to be pink—isn’t up to specifications. Ah well. You can switch from fries to tots with no upcharge, so complaints are not allowed.

This is just one example. If you’ve got a favorite sports bar snack, maybe show them some support during this sport-free doldrum week by going and grabbing a bite. With help from fellow D staff members, we’re listing more good sports bar food options below.

The worst thing that could happen is that you might have to watch this guy:

Five more bars where you can eat good food, even when there are no sports on TV


Brian Reinhart

Brian Reinhart

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Brian Reinhart became D Magazine's dining critic in 2022 after six years of writing about restaurants for the Dallas Observer and the Dallas Morning News.

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