When Josh Henderson (of Skillet and Westward) announced in February that his next project would be a sports bar, it quickly became one of the most anticipated openings of the year. Well, it’s finally here—Sort of, it’s had a few unofficial starts with a day of service last week for the Seahawks season opener and a soft launch for the last two days—but it doesn’t count until it’s official, right?
The Snapshot: Right off the bat, with Quality Athletics here, the game done changed. Henderson turns the sports bar formula on its head. There are massive flat screens all around—15, to be precise—but they’re recessed, just part of the background, with the volume turned low; the shelves are stacked with trophies and there's an entire wall of lockers, but it's an ironic take on sports memorabilia; the staff all wear baseball jerseys but they'll talk about shiso and vadouvan without batting an eyelid. And most of all, because greens and spice blends like that are on the menu, alongside prosciutto, Andouille sausage, and feta emulsion. Which is not to say it won’t get raucous and impassioned here when games are on and the volume's turned up.
Eat: No burgers, pizzas, or nachos (Gasp!) Wings do show up on the menu, but they're served with African harissa and preserved lemon or they're made of duck and tossed in Jamaican jerk spice. And potato chips stand in for fries. Grilled cheese gets dressed with shishito peppers and pesto, tacos are of the fish variety and grilled squid finds its way into a salad. "We're elevating sports bar food," says executive chef Seth Richardson (formerly chef de cuisine at Skillet Diner). "Meaty items" like slow roasted duck and a 24-ounce grillled tri-tip are also available as shareable platters. There's plenty for vegetarians, too. Dessert highlight: cotton candy.
Drink: The Seattle Freeze, hopefully while making friends and disproving the concept. It's a rotating seasonal frozen cocktail—currently, that means a frozen bourbon peach Arnold Palmer—which comes out of a slushy machine. Or pick from bar manager Josh Batway's list of cheekily named cocktails, like Pimm's No. 1-based Gorgeous George, named for the boxer in Guy Ritchie's crime caper Snatch; or Title IX which celebrates women's rights in school athletics. Beer comes in pints, pitchers and the occasional 24-ounce monster can, but there's also seasonal infused vodka (strawberry rhubarb currently) and a house-infused take on Fireball, known here as Hot Shot.
Sit: Just about anywhere. The 3,500-square-foot joint is split between a 21-above only bar area, a more restaurant-ish space with tables, booths and artifical-turf flooring, and a massive outdoor split-patio with large flat screens and two (forthcoming) fire pits.
Bonus Intel: Quality Athletics has its own rooftop farm, five floors above—sorry, access is limited—growing things like kale, chard, pineapple sage, shiso, and root vegetables, under the care of Seattle Urban Farm Company. Henderson helped select the crop list; it includes lots of herbs that show up in dishes and drinks at the sports bar, as well as beans, cucumbers and other produce that will pickle well. The QA kitchen is in charge of harvesting and snipping what's needed for that day, maybe lovage for some pesto or coriander for chermoula.