December 18th, 2009
Sawyer Park: Beer Chandeliers and Turf Tables
In 6 Words: Chandeliers, Garlic, Chimichuri, Open-Air, Benched, Beer
Very few things get me motivated to leave my bed before noon on the weekend like the promise of football. Not that I would be willing to play football during my free time, but I gladly sit in front of the television for several hours watching and pretending that I could do as good a job (if not better) running, juking, catching and throwing on the gridiron. On any given Saturday or Sunday, I’m a master tactician, coach, motivator and clock manager, whether I’m in my overstuffed armchair at home or sitting at the bar with my buddies.
With the Conference USA Championship scheduled for 11:00AM on Saturday, my friends and I decided that we needed to venture out into public to cheer on our Alma Mater, the University of Houston. With Sawyer Park offering “Good Food. Good Sports,” we figured that this will be a suitable choice to meet up, drink beer, wear our scarlet red and scream at ESPN2.
It’s well before noon as I am waking myself up with cold water from the sink. We had decided yesterday, after a volley of texts, to abandon Bubba’s (the place our group has been watching away games) for Sawyer Park. Maybe this was due to the fact that the Cougars proved quite inept the last time we were at the burger and beer joint or maybe we just wanted something more than burgers and beer. No matter where we go, what I wear doesn’t change: UH hat, bright red hoodie with too much Cougar embroidery, jeans, red pumas and a winter vest. I look like Dr. Bott picked out my primary wardrobe and a 70’s ski-bunny slapped me on the ass on the way out the door.
I pick up my friend that lives a couple blocks away from me (my nemesis from Taste of Texas) and we’re off to the races, heading East on Washington, toward our destination. The difference between Washington Avenue at 10:30AM and twelve hours prior is drastic. Sun-drenched, the clubs vacant, it is the taco stands and restaurants that are teeming with people. The absence of the boom-boom bass is another welcome change at this early morning hour.
We pull into a spot in the parking lot, which is usually reserved for valet service, and exit the car. The valet is too late to collect my five dollars. I’ve caught him on his heels as he has yet to set up his stand to snag the hard earned money of the public to drive their car for ten seconds. He says nothing to me as I walk by to the door and pull out my ID to show the bouncer. Whom he might need to bounce before the party-going public finally wakes this morning, I have no idea.
A slew of our friends are already here and seated. They’ve pushed two tall tables together and are staring at the large projection of pre-game nonsense on the far wall. We head over, passing by the length of bar and underneath the very unique chandeliers, made of upside-down beer bottles; primarily varieties of St. Arnold brews. The height of the ceiling allows for two concentric rings of glass and are still too high to reach. The ceiling looks as if it’s been made of old benches, worn out from their days of seating generations of sporting-types.
With only one stool left at the compound table my friends have assembled, I decide to give my car-mate the seat and take one at a vacant, shorter table next door. It’s a sacrifice I’m more than willing to make, given the ability to lean and stretch out in a chair with an actual back. They say sloth is one of seven deadly sins. I’ve never seen a dead sloth so I’m not willing to accept this as an inherent truth and will continue my lazy ways here in the middle of the bar. Gazing up from this position I see the chalk boards dictating the specials for each day of the week – nothing for Saturday or Sunday. The promise of football games being shown in every direction tends to be a lure all its own.
As the game starts, more people begin to file into the bar. Some are Cougar fans. Most are not. For some reason, the Conference USA Championship is not a big draw. It seems that fans of other teams involved in bigger games later today are willing to sit through a game of a mid-major conference in order to keep a seat for the SEC and Big XII brawls. Is this a sacrifice?
Along with the random people setting up shop, some more friends of our group come in. Finally, my table is not just for one. There are two menus on the table: one, much larger than the other, contains lunch and dinner fare, the other has a scant collection of breakfast dishes. It’s just past noon and lunch is calling me. I grab the waitress’ attention and the newcomers to the table and I start our slew of requests.
“Hummus with goat cheese, chips and guacamole, and garlic ranch wings.”
“Don’t forget we want beer… What kind of beer do you want?”
“The Christmas Ale is really good. We should get that.”
“Is it light?”
“No, it’s dark. See?” I hold up my glass.
“Ok, we’ll take a pitcher of Michelob Ultra.”
“If you wanted water you just had to say so…”
The waitress comes back to our table bearing the good news. “We don’t have pitchers of Michelob Ultra. I’m sorry.”
“I’m not,” is quick to come out of my mouth. “Let’s take a pitcher of Coors Light,” I tell the waitress. “Is that light enough for you?” I ask my calorie conscious friend.
Along with our beer, our first round of food also makes the trip to the table. The feast is on and it’s every man for himself. The wings, covered with a dry-rub garlic ranch concoction, are delicious. I can’t think of another time I’ve really had wings that haven’t been tossed in red, overpowering sauce. These are a delightful change from the standard issue wings served at places that pride themselves on their buffalo wings.
As we finish up our table full of appetizers, I get our waitresses attention so we can order our full fledged entrees. I’ve heard good things about the burgers here and one, in particular, piques my interest: the South American Chimichuri Burger with grilled onions. Along with my order, I ask for another pitcher of beer, partially because we haven’t quenched our thirst, but mostly because the outcome of the game isn’t shaping up to be a desirable one.
My burger reaches the table with under two minutes left in the game. Our Cougars are making their final drive, a final attempt to wrest victory away from the East Carolina Pirates. They cross midfield looking strong and, since they’ve done it so many times this year, we’re confident that they’ll be able to pull out a win in this atrocity of a championship game. As Case Keenum throws an interception in the endzone to seal the Coogs’ fate, I look down from the TV and concentrate on my burger.
At least my adventure to Sawyer Park will end on sweet note. This burger may be one of the best I’ve tried since my trip out to Petrol Station to try the Rancor Burger, which Aaron suggested. I grab the waitress’ attention one more time. We’re going to need another pitcher and hopefully a lapse in short-term memory.Once again, the Coogs will not be traveling to the Liberty Bowl this year.
Where – 2412 Washington Avenue, Houston, TX 77007 (View Map)
What – Good Food, Good Sports
Wear – Your team’s jersey to what you wore to work
How Much – Burgers under $10, Drinks the same
When – Mon-Fri: 4PM – 2AM, Sat-Sun: 12PM – 2AM
Web – Website; Facebook; Twitter