July means any number of things. It means fireworks, cookouts, and sweltering heat for many of us. It also means that the college football season is a mere month away. And because the season is just around the corner, July means that it is time for college football media days. Be prepared for complaints about coach speak and complaints about controversial statements from coaches. I know. Coaches can’t win.
But that’s not what I want to talk about. What I want to talk about is food. If you’re traveling to a Power 5 media day, you need to know where to eat. The one and only rule is this – Eat local.
SEC Media Days; Hoover, Alabama
Whether you’re staying in Hoover or Birmingham which is a short 10 miles away, there are plenty of local eateries to choose from.
If you’re staying in Birmingham and are looking to spend a few bucks on dinner, look no further than Galley & Garden. I’ve eaten at Chef James Boyce’s American-French inspired restaurant and it’s excellent. If you sit on the patio, you may have interesting dining experience if the ambulance stationed next door is called into service, but fine dining doesn’t have to be without a certain quirky charm.
For starters, I highly recommend the spinach, bacon, and fried egg salad. Yes, I did say fried egg. The salad is topped with a lightly fried egg that is soupy enough that it acts as the finishing touch to the buttermilk blue cheese dressing.
As your entree, I believe that you can never go wrong with a steak. It’s my go to when dining out and the certified angus filet of beef is perfectly seasoned at Galley & Garden. If you prefer something a bit different, the seared gulf red snapper was a table favorite.
ACC Media Days; Charlotte, North Carolina
I haven’t had the opportunity to visit Charlotte, so I’ll rely on Trip Advisor for this recommendation. The meal that is always tried-and-true for me is breakfast. Bacon and eggs, sausage and eggs, eggs and eggs…you get the picture. The Midnight Diner looks like a place that I could fill my stomach at. And best of all is that it’s opened 24-hours a day.
Big Ten Media Days; Chicago, Illinois
As was the case with Charlotte, I haven’t truly been to Chicago. I know! This has to change and I promise that I’m working on fixing this. In the meantime, let me suggest a family of restaurants that have a bit of a sports connection.
We all know about Skip Bayless. Bloviating talking head and pot stirrer. His brother happens to be Chef Rick Bayless. If you’ve ever watched his PBS show One Plate At A Time, you know that Rick is just as passionate about what he does as his brother is about what he does The difference? Chances are that you’ll leave Chef Bayless’ restaurant feeling more satisfied than you do after listening to a rant by Skip.
Big 12 Media Days; Frisco, Texas
Frisco is part of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, so let’s just call it Dallas. Once again i’m recommending a restaurant that I’ve dined at. Town Hearth is the recommendation. It’s pricey but worth it for the ambiance alone. American steakhouses have developed the reputation of being stuck in the 1970s but Town Hearth owner/chef Nick Badovinus has brought the concept into the 21st-century.
The decor includes the rich mahogany wood that you would expect in an American steakhouse, but the 64 glittering chandeliers combined with a Ducatis, and minesweeping submersible in the fish tank really set this restaurant apart from the rest. Chef Badovinus described his restaurant perfectly, as he should, when he said that it’s like combining an old-school steakhouse with a beach party.
As for the food? It’s a steakhouse, so get the steak. Badovinus does offer a unique culinary offering as he features his Tot Du Jour. It’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s a tater tot of the day. When I was there it was an oscar style tater tot appetizer. Simple yet wonderful!
Pac-12 Media Days; Los Angeles, California
This restaurant is also a tourist destination, because, we are talking about Los Angeles. Head over to The Polo Lounge housed in The Beverly Hills Hotel. Were my blueberry-ricotta pancakes with bacon worth $34? Nooooo! But part of the experience is the chance that you’ll see a movie star.
Did I see anyone interesting? Well….
I was there with two coworkers. As we finished up with breakfast, we were feeling a bit disappointed that we had only seen other amateur paparazzo. As one of my coworkers made her way back from the restroom, she said that she thought she saw a celebrity sitting at one of the large, crescent-shaped booths in the adjoining dining room. She couldn’t figure out who it was though. We decided we’d figure out who the celebrity was as we walked out.
As we slowly, and oh so conspicuously, walked past the booth, it dawned on me who we were gawking at. It was Matthew Fox and I told my coworkers this as we entered the lobby. My other coworker wasn’t sure, but I was. Wearing shorts, a t-shirt, and zip up hoody, he stepped back into the dining area. He made awkward eye contact from the star from Lost and the two exchanged perplexing glances at each other.
So be warned. You’ll spend entirely too much money on blueberry pancakes and you may have a restraining order placed on you by Matthew Fox but it will be worth it.
E-mail Seth at seth [dot] merenbloom [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.
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