4Play Sports Bar

Neighbourhood: Downtown
Address:
323 Portage Ave
Phone: (204) 221-4583
Entrees: $15-$20

(Editor’s Note – This business is no longer open.)

(2011 review)

If you’re into swigging beer and chowing down five-alarm hot wings while watching the game on TV, your average neighbourhood sports bar will suffice. But why be average? Enter 4Play Sports Bar where ‘go big or go home’ is the rallying cry.

With its 24 ft. screen, theatre seating and reimagined pub fare, this downtown dining and sports-entertainment spectacle delivers a knock-out punch to the competition. An extensive renovation of the former “Blush” night club last April has transformed the sprawling 19,000 sq. ft., two-storey space into a glitzy, Las Vegas-style sports fanatics palace. Diners at this downtown hot spot can catch the hot ticket game on the gigantic screen from rows of cushy loungers, booths, two private lounges, high tables and bar stools, or long tables (perfect for group parties) on the upper level. Multi-sport simulators, billiards, table hockey, darts and 40 flat-screen TVs airing sporting events from around the globe are all part of the fun and games.

In the kitchen, Executive Chef Rich Mohammed’s commitment to scratch cooking sets 4Play apart from its challengers. Almost everything on the menu is house-made from the hand-cut fries to the fried tortilla chips to the salsa. While the menu doesn’t stray too far from typical sports bar and grill fare like burgers, ribs and nachos, 4Play scores with these favourites.

Nachos lead the pack. A colourful mountain of red, green and yellow tortilla chips dressed in roasted red peppers, tomatoes, grilled onion, melted cheddar and jack cheese, parsley, jalapeños and green onions is a perfect warm-up. A not-too spicy and not-too-chunky salsa will please the crowd. For a slam dunk, order a side of fantastically fresh house-made guacamole, replete with chunks of garlic and onion.

Meanwhile, the tempura vegetable starter with a Tex-Mex twist is a nod to the city’s current obsession with Japanese cuisine. Delicate, flaky batter coats an abundant mélange of chopped cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, mushrooms and zucchini. Chipotle ranch dipping sauce zings with subtle sweetness.

Signature house dishes are the menu’s star players. The margarita “pit stop” pizza fulfills a cheese-lover’s dream. Wafer-like crust is topped with bright tomato sauce and layers of gooey mozza and bocconcini. A sprinkle of pepper and fresh basil caps it off.

Slow-roasted rotisserie chicken and barbequed half ribs smothered in bold Jack Daniels sauce are both hits. Can’t decide? Get the quarter chicken and half rack of rib combo to solve that dilemma. The chicken’s crispy skin is well seasoned in a secret spice blend, while the ribs are succulent and tender. The platter comes with standard choices of Caesar or garden salad, fries or mashed potatoes.

4Play caters to its predominantly male clientele by grilling six types of burgers, each weighing in at a big and burly 6 oz. With its Kaiser bun, house-made ground-beef patty, lettuce, tomato and onion, the BBQ pepper burger may look standard at first glance. But a slice of decadent Gruyère cheese and creamy pepper sauce elevate the classic burger with gutsy, peppery finish.

The low scorer we sampled on the menu is baked cheese tortellini with jalapeño cheese sauce. The cream sauce contained only a few morsels of the pepper and added next to no heat.

For dessert, tuck into a gargantuan chocolate-iced brownie. Grab a few spoons and attack this crumbly chocolate brownie crowned with chocolate chips. Clouds of whipped cream and ice cream dot the brownie’s four corners. Chocolate sauce generously drizzled atop this indulgent creation wins in overtime.

4Play is open Sun-Thu 11 am-midnight; Fri & Sat 11 am-2 am.