Sunday Funday Showdown: Pub Fiction vs. Blackfinn American Grille
After an entire season of Sunday Fundays enjoyed watching football (and cursing loudly as Sanchez throws yet another interception), I am ready to report back on my findings. Each Sunday, you can find me and a group of rowdy friends either occupying a large booth at Pub Fiction or huddled around the bar at Blackfinn American Grille.
Photo by Brooke Viggiano The Ultimate Sunday Funday Showdown
While I enjoy what both Midtown bars/restaurants have to offer, only one can win this game. Broken down by quarter, with points for game day atmosphere, drinks, food, and overall service, here's how the game went:
1st Quarter - Atmosphere
The Coin Toss is won by Pub Fiction for their accommodating seating area. Comfy booths, lots of tables and chairs, and a large, elongated booth facing the main screen makes for plenty of seating for the crowds of people that flock here to watch the games. Flat-screen TVs and giant projection screens flank the entire restaurant and bar area. And although during Texans games you'll find most screens flashing Arian Foster's fine ass (not complaining), the staff is always quick to accommodate us out-of-towners. Especially if you are a Bears fan - since the owner of Pub is from Chicago, there is an entire room, complete with a picture of Coach Ditka, devoted to his people during the games.
Touchdown with the extra point - 7 pts
Blackfinn has multiple dining areas, but their Saloon is the place to be for the games. With flat screens stacked on the walls and a large, screen-smothered bar smack in the room's center, it's hard not to feel the energy during the games. Even better? The bar is equipped with old-school bells that the bartenders will ring when your team scores. The staff is also quick to help with game selection. We once had five different employees trying to find us the Jets game on DIRECTV. In this always rowdy Saloon, the only issue may be finding seating for a large group, as many patrons start their brunch at the restaurant early (the restaurant opens at 10 a.m.) and stay seated for the games.
2 Field Goals - 6 pts
2nd Quarter - Drinks
Since we like to get to Pub Fiction by 11 a.m. to secure "our" booth, I like to start with a carafe of mimosas (only $10) - and yes, I usually order a carafe for myself. But no worries, you can also order a glass for $1.50
if you're a wimp. The restaurant also boasts a make-your-own Bloody Mary Bar (with all the fixin's and little cheeses and pepperoni), $3.50 25oz domestic drafts, and $4.50 25oz import drafts. The drinks here are certainly flowing...but they may be a little too flowing - the bar often runs out their 25 oz mugs, and I was once served mimosas in a dusty carafe (the server apologized and brought me a new one immediately on the house - but still).
Field goal - 3 pts
Blackfinn's Saloon offers what I believe every self-respecting sport's bar should - 100oz of the finest Miller Lite or Coors Light money can buy served in a giant beer tower with a football helmet ($16). For $2 more, you can upgrade to a delightful Blue Moon. And for the duration of your tower(s), the bartenders will continue to refresh your frosty mug. I can't lie, on Game Day I haven't given any of their other drinks a try - but I have been eying the wonderful-looking Bloody Mary Bar perched in the corner.
Touchdown with a blocked extra point for no Bud Light on tap - 6 pts
Halftime: Pub Fiction trails 10-12 due to dusty carafes.
3rd Quarter - Food
Blackfinn's menu is surprisingly awesome for a chain. The North Carolina-based restaurant even offers a special Game Day menu with football classics like wings (10 for $9.99, 20 for $16.99, or 50 for $33.99) in mild, hot, garlic, parmesan or teriyaki and sliders (3 for $7.99, 5 for $9.99, 10 for $16.99, or 20 for $31.99) with a choice of barbecue pulled pork, classic beef, or Southern fried chicken. They even have new twists on old favorites, like the must-have Southern Nachos ($10.99 regular, $13.99 large) with pulled pork, chipotle queso, jalapenos, tomatoes, sour cream and guacamole. Also fantastic? The Blackfinn Platter ($18.99) filled with crispy, sweet and spicy yin-yang shrimp, garlicky fried calamari, hand-dipped chicken tenders and a choice of wings. I've yet to try their Hangover Burger ($12.99), an Angus burger topped with ham, a fried egg, cheddar, lettuce, tomato and onion - but it's definitely on my list. Prices are a bit higher than at Pub, but the portions are huge and the food is damn good.
Touchdown with extra point - 7 pts
Pub Fiction delivers some solid food options as well. On weekends, they offer a brunch menu with delicious items like the Breakfast Club ($9) -- smoked bacon, turkey, American, lettuce, tomato and a fried egg stuffed inside a buttery croissant -- or the Quesadilla de Morning ($10 and also, this name kills me) -- two large tortillas crisped and loaded with scrambled eggs, a blend of cheeses, pico de gallo and your choice of bacon, turkey bacon, sausage or potatoes. But really, I like to wait 'til lunchtime and dive head-first into their Ultimate Nacho Platter ($14) - two types of cheeses, refried beans, sour cream, salsa picante, lettuce, diced tomatoes, guac, jalapenos and choice of chicken, beef, or chili. Their wings (10 for $7, 15 for $9, 20 for $15), also available in boneless, come crisp and smothered in mild, hot, kung pao, spicy garlic, barbecue, or spicy lemon pepper sauce. And the Giant Pile of Tater Tots (only $5.50) covered in chili and cheese is something everyone should try at least once in their lives. Food pricing is a bit lower than at Blackfinn, and the restaurant even offers a Foursquare special - a free appetizer for every 9th check-in.
Touchdown and a 2 pt. conversion for Pricing - 8 pts
Quarter 4: Overall Service
Since Blackfinn's a newly opened restaurant, their attention to detail is high. Let's hope it stays that way, because so far, the service has been excellent. The servers and management are attentive and accommodating (kudos for quickly calling up DIRECTV to get my Jets on), and the bartenders are fast, friendly, and fun, impressing the crowd by remembering names/favorite teams and ringing bells for touchdowns.
Touchdown with extra point - 7 pts
I've been to Pub Fiction plenty of times and continue to go back because I enjoy the atmosphere. Unfortunately, inconsistency is the restaurant's biggest problem. The bar is always packed, but for football that is to be expected, and some days, the restaurant just handles the crowd better than others. When the restaurant falls behind, management and staff have never failed to step up, apologizing and offering free mimosas for a dusty carafe, free meals for long waits, and one time, even free shots when the owner heard a friend of mine complaining (it probably helped that said friend was wearing a Bears jersey, but whatever, a shot's a shot). I love free shit and all, but most of the time I don't mind paying to get my order right the first time.
Field goal + a failed attempt at an on side kick - 3 pts
Blackfinn pulls out the win over Pub Fiction with high points for their beer towers and attention to detail. It was a great game and I wish both places the best in the post season, as I'll certainly be back to both for the Playoffs.
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