The crowds regularly huddled beneath Newport Music Hall's luminous marquee make it easy to overlook the seemingly small sandwich shop next door. But those who venture inside Panini's Bar & Grill and scale a few steps will discover a world of skewed proportions: big sandwiches, tall drinks and plentiful gatherings.
The three-story Campus bar provides a wealth of nightly entertainment, but sports gazing is one of its main attractions and the Fiesta Bowl will be no exception. Giving it a trial run, I hopped on a stool inside Panini's and watched a larger-than-life Kobe Bryant sink some jumpers on a theater-size projection screen.
The view from the rounded main bar reveals long, tall brick walls speckled with TVs every couple feet. There are wooden booths off to one side, tables along the other and a giant "O" on the unfinished floor in between marking the spot for dancing.
Panini's features DJs most nights and, as morning approaches, many among the college-aged clientele seem to heed the call to dance. Mixing things up, the bar also offers free mechanical bull riding Wednesday nights and big-screen Xbox gaming on Mondays. Bar games like billiards and Golden Tee are always available.
The bar's Tour The World of Beer itinerary makes drinking an adventure, too, and completing the suds exploration earns a T-shirt; there are about 70 tour stops, including Asahi, Tecate and Great Lakes Burning River ($4).
I was pleased to discover Panini's drafts, like Guinness and Peroni ($4.75, 22-ounce), come tall and cold, especially Coors Light ($3), since the bar's specialty tap dispenses beer at below-freezing temperatures.
There are enough drink-special banners scattered around the bar to make a non-inebriated person's head spin. Attentive eyes will notice ultra-thrifty deals like $5 select pitchers on Tuesdays or $1.50 Washington Apples on Thursdays. The pub also features daily food specials like 35-cent wings on Mondays and, most kindly, serves a limited menu till 3 a.m.
Finger food provides the backbone of Panini's menu. Straightforward sandwiches, like Steak and Cheese or Corned Beef ($7.50), come overstuffed and topped with melted cheese, fries and coleslaw - a perfect late-night indulgence.
From the Turkey Reuben ($5.50) to the Buffalo Chicken Sandwich ($6), the menu offers plenty of wraps, melts and specialty sandwiches. Homemade pizzas, wings and salads, like the Cajun-spiced Blackened Chicken Salad ($7), provide some depth, although whatever you choose, you may want to eat it after riding the mechanical bull.
Panini's Bar & Grill
1714 N. High St., Campus
11 a.m.-3 a.m. daily
3-9 p.m. Monday-Friday: half-off appetizers and select drinks