I’ve passed Sportsman’s Park many times while driving along Clayton Road. There’s no neon signs or flashy colored exterior to lure you off the road. The white building with undersized windows and an unpretentious sign is easily overlooked. But don’t let the ho-hum exterior fool you. Ignore the outside; the charm lies within.
A Cozy Vibe
The quaint watering hole in Ladue is as friendly as Cheers and nearly as old. (Cheers in Boston opened in 1969; Sportsman in 1974.) Old timers will remember that the restaurant was originally started by Norman Probstein and NFL football legend Jackie Smith. It was known then as “Jackie’s Place.” But Jackie moved on 4 years later and the place was renamed after the ball park, that for 33 years was homefield for the Cards and Browns..
It’s Not Just the Memories , , ,
I stopped by for lunch last week along with a couple of friends. It was past the lunch hour, so I was expecting a quiet, relaxed setting. Was I ever surprised! The dark, cramped space buzzed with energy. I thought of Yogi Berra’s classic comment on crowded restaurants: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” You might describe Sportsman’s Park as “delightfully overcrowded,” because everyone seemed to be enjoying the ambiance.
Speaking over the din, the hostess said not to worry about seating; the lunch crowd was beginning to thin out. We spent the time visiting with friends at a nearby table.
Minutes later, we weaved our way among the departing diners and headed toward a vacant table. Seating was snug, but not overly invasive. Despite the busy scene our food arrived promptly. Kudos to the kitchen and servers for their splendid handling of the lunch time surge. As people left, the noise level subsided, giving us the chance to visit pleasantly over a very fine meal.
. . . It’s the Menu
Sportsman’s offers top of the line pub grub, starting with their signature turkey chili topped with Monterey Jack and cheddar. Half pound burgers, chicken wings and strips, thin crust pizzas, wraps, and an array of sandwiches and salads highlight the menu.
While the BBQ rib special looked soul soothing, in the end I went with the turkey burger. Too often they can be dry, but this one was perfect. My friends got their favorite: a Philly Cheese Steak they had eaten there many times before.
I admired the curly fries and the Chinese chicken salad at an adjoining table. But those will have to wait for another day. The sooner the better. But next time, I’ll go after the lunch bunch has departed.
Sportsman’s Restaurant and Bar. 9901 Clayton Road in Ladue. Dining Hours: Mon-Wed 11a-10p; Thu-Sat 11-11p; Sun 11a-10p. Bar Open: Mon-Wed; Thu-Sat 11a-12a; Sunday 11a-11p. Happy Hour: Mon-Fri 3-6p. Menu, including children’s menu. Owner: Jim Probstein.