Sitting at the Sports Center is primal. Culinarily speaking, it’s primeval.
In back, there are pool tables. Up front is a long bar, where seats near the door afford a breathtaking view as well as a good whiff of a well-seasoned flat-top crowded with piles of onions, sizzling hamburgers, and hot dogs.
It can be a noisy place, especially at the height of lunch hour and on weekend evenings as 18-ounce draughts are going down the hatch and bar-room chatter bounces around the capacious space like a hard break shot. When a freight train rumbles across Broad Street just outside, the clackety-clack of the rails and the blast of its horn drown out all other sound within 100 yards.
Need I say that this is not the place you want to take your significant other for a romantic supper?
But if you are looking for a juice-dripping, half-pound hamburger, piled with sweet grilled onions and sided by utterly lascivious, hand-breaded onion rings, all presented in a setting that flips the bird to fashionable lifestyle nostrums, the Sports Center can’t be beat.
There are other items on the menu – hot dogs, corn dogs, wings, and a few square meal dinners during the week — but for most people, hamburgers are the main attraction (not counting adult beverages). The burger chef disobeys the rule that you shouldn’t press a hamburger patty while it’s cooking, but these half-pounders are fatty enough that that they remain succulent. Degree of doneness is not an issue: they’re all cooked medium. With beef this unctuous, that’s alright.
For people-watching, the Sports Center is a treasure. A large number of customers are regulars, greeted by name; some have been coming for decades. The family who work the grill and draw beers are enthusiastic pros who can be cooking eight things at once while carrying on a half-dozen conversations. One time, a few years back, when I asked the cook if anyone ever ordered anything other than hamburgers or hot dogs, she replied, “We serve more bullshit and lies than anything else.”