Shula and steaks team up for sports bar heaven

May 28, 1998|By Kathryn Higham | Kathryn Higham,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Shula's Steak 2 is Shangri-la for red-blooded sports fans who have a hankering for red meat. It's served here straight up as steaks and burgers, tossed with fettuccine, wrapped in fajitas, tucked into salads and simmered in soups.

With the music heart-thumpingly loud, and the television display as vast as the electronics department of Circuit City, Shula's Steak 2 sets a new standard for sports bars. Maybe that's because owner Don Shula knows the sports business inside and out. For the uninitiated, he played for the Baltimore Colts and later had a long career as a football head coach, beginning right here.

Capitalizing on his fame (and what we assume is his remarkable ability to procure signed jerseys and photos), he launched a chain of sports bars and restaurants, with locations in Miami, Cleveland and now Baltimore. Shula's Steak 2 and the more upscale Shula's Steakhouse are both in the Omni Inner Harbor Hotel.

Open the pigskin-encased menu in Shula's Steak 2, and you'll find a team of sports-bar heavy hitters. Among them, wings, skins and chicken fingers. We liked them all on a combination platter called the "Big Deal."

You'll also find some Hungarian oddities, like the gogabvanka pizza filled with meat, goulash-style fettuccine and paprika and steak soup served in an herbed sourdough bowl, a delicious Hungarian alternative to chili. We can't vouch for the gogabvanka. Our upbeat, skilled waiter did everything in his power to steer us away from it.

The menu's highlight, as you might have guessed, is steak: sirloins, rib-eyes, New York strips, T-bones - even a 22-ounce prime rib. We tried the 12-ounce sirloin, "the 325," named for the game that made Shula "the winningest coach in NFL history." Thick, juicy and unadulterated by marinades or smoky overtones, it was all that a steak should be.

It was served with creamy "smashed" potatoes, spiked with a little too much nutmeg, and floured, pan-fried onions that were so unappealing they deserved to be kicked off the plate and back into the end zone of the kitchen. A side of sour-tasting creamed spinach was even worse.

At under $10, the steak fajitas are a good deal, but our meat was too heavily sauced and salty. The grilled dolphin was a better pick, cooked perfectly and served on a soft roll. We also liked the sweet-sour tang of the fresh cole slaw, and the thick steak fries that came on the plate. The half-pound burger was terrific, too. It had the distinct flavor and texture of a burger that's never been frozen. Over-cooked "yacko yammers" (or sweet potato fries, for the uninitiated) weren't worth tackling.

But a few desserts were: warm apple cobbler, rich with butter and cinnamon; and the light, seven-layer chocolate cake crowned with a chocolate football. Score.

Shula's Steak 2

101 W. Fayette St., Omni Inner Harbor Hotel 410-385-6630

Hours: Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner

Credit cards: All major cards

Prices: Appetizers, $3.70-$9.80; entrees, $6.90-$20.90

Food: ** 1/2

Service: ***

Atmosphere: ***

Ratings system: Outstanding: ****; Good ***; Fair or uneven **; Poor *

Pub Date: 5/28/98

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