By Ron Donoho
Thank goodness nobody in the cash-charred business of sport has figured out how to trade or release an iconic bar/restaurant. The searing fact is Chargers management recently chose to unceremoniously show the door to Junior Seau. He’ll play for another team next year. Though it’s small solace, Mr. San Diego Football’s preeminent Mission Valley eat-and-drinkery isn’t going anywhere. Yes, it’s the end to an All-Pro era of local linebacking. But to those who’d rather cheer the man instead of his former win-starved team, there’s still a place to follow his exploits during the 16-plus weeks that make up the NFL season: Seau’s The Restaurant.
“We’re rooted here in San Diego,” says restaurant manager Robert Asimovic. “Junior is a loved figure here. Ever since the press conference [announcing his imminent departure], more people than ever have been wearing his number 55 jersey. When he goes to another team, it shouldn’t affect our business. We’re such a premier destination.”
Like Seau The Player, Seau’s The Restaurant is large and in charge. The restaurant is 14,500 square feet, with 30-foot ceilings. At capacity, the bar and restaurant can hold 700 cheering diners/drinkers/sports fans (the bar-and-patio portion alone packs in 160).
Seau’s features 65 TV sets. One of those happens to be 11 feet tall and 141¼2 feet wide. On a fall Sunday, the place fills with a cornucopia of colorful team jerseys. Because the restaurant has the NFL Ticket satellite service, every league game can be seen here.
Here’s the NFL Sunday setup: A featured game goes up on the big screen. The vast building accommodates four different audio feeds, so concurrent games can be viewed and heard. Transplanted Chicago Bears backers might be huddled in adjacent booths on the second floor. Fans of their opponent du jour may have a table or two nearby. Eight tables away, the TV might be carrying the San Francisco 49ers. Yet another screen may hold the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ask the hostess when you enter, and she’ll seat you where your team is playing.
But don’t even think about taking up a table and staying to watch the morning and afternoon Sunday games—unless you fork over cash for both breakfast and lunch. You gotta eat to get off your feet.
That’s not the case in the bar area. On a big sporting event night—like the April 7 NCAA men’s basketball final—the bar is elbow-to-elbow. Imbibe as much or as little as you want. But be prepared to cheer or be jeered. For the close of March Madness, the Syracuse and Kansas faithful came out of the woodwork to vigorously support their hoops teams. Seau’s can be like a home-away-from-home-court.
Of course, now that the owner of the place is no longer a Charger, it remains to be seen if Junior’s former teammates will still frequent Seau’s The Restaurant. Quarterbacks Drew Brees and Doug Flutie, for example, have been spotted here on more than one occasion.
More questions we can’t answer right now: Will Chargers get their first round of drinks free? Will Miami Dolphins get porterhouse dinners comped? And finally, should Chargers owners Dean or Alex Spanos think twice about ordering a burger with the works?
(Seau’s is in Mission Valley Center at 1640 Camino del Rio North, Suite 1376, 619-291-7328.)
More Great SPORTS BarsDave & Buster’s
There are the interactive games—shoot baskets, race video snowmobiles or win tickets playing Skeeball. For sports watching, two bars offer 30 televisions. Game preference/channel-switching requests are generally honored. 2931 Camino del Rio North, 619-280-7115.
No, really, it’s a sports bar. The downtown location has 16 screens. The hot wings are pretty good—though the nearly-all-male crowds seem equally interested in the infamous and scantily clad female wait staff. 410 Market Street, 619-235-4668; also in Mission Valley and Pacific Beach.
Horton’s Sports Bar & Grille
One of the most underrated sports bars in town is in the Westin Horton Plaza. You can’t look away from the three big screens, or the smaller televisions located in cozy booths. 910 Broadway Circle, 619-239-2200.
With 17 televisions circling the bar, the claim here is of being Del Mar’s “ultimate sports bar.” The kitchen in this local hangout is open until midnight. 225 West 15th Street, 858-350-3735.
One of the more popular Mission Valley after-game destinations following Padres or Chargers games—it’s less than half a mile from Qualcomm Stadium. Catch game highlights, or cue up for some pool. 10475 San Diego Mission Road, 619-282-9797.
Can you go wrong with a name like this? Located in the Mission Valley Hilton—about a mile from Qualcomm Stadium—this is a place to watch our boys of summer give it their all. 901 Camino del Rio South, 619-543-9000.
If the downstairs at this downtown bar is filled, take your TV-watching needs upstairs. There’s a big screen at floor level, with two cushioned sofas parked right in front. 401 G Street, 619-231-7000; another location in La Jolla.
San Diego Sports Club
It’s off the beaten track in Hillcrest, but worth looking for. There’s are four pool tables, lots of room and the obligatory cable-imbued televisions—16 at last count. 1271 University Avenue, 619-299-7372.
Sports City Café & Brewery
The big screens number 10, there are 10 more sets scattered around this University Town Centre location, and even the booths have mini-televisions. There are two pool tables. On Saturday, gear up for the day’s athletic fare with breakfast. 8657 Via La Jolla Drive, 858-450-4668.
Trophy’s Sports Grill
At the first of the new-generation sports bars, the emphasis is on the food, but the theme is definitely sports. A satellite dish plays all the games of interest. 7510 Hazard Center Drive, 619-296-9600; also in La Jolla and La Mesa.