Eat like a champ: Sports inspire food, drinks

G.A. Benton, Columbus Alive

Feeling happy that the Blue Jackets are finally bringing Big Time hockey back to Nationwide Arena got us thinking how Big Time cities have both Big Time sports and Big Time food. Rather than questioning how Big Time Columbus really has become, Alive thought it'd be fun to nibble on the intersection between our food and sports scenes. By this we mean consuming dishes and drinks named for local gaming heroes. If you think this traces out a flimsy Venn Diagram, then consider in Columbus, even sushi rolls get named after Buckeyes.

Anyway, this dead-of-winter exercise has the added attraction of lending weight to, apart from a just resuscitated hockey season (or including it - depending how the CBJs play), a fairly light load of Big Time sporting events. In other words, since March Madness is months away, Memorial Tournament/Clippers/Crew weather is only a frozen afternoon's daydream now and the Urban Meyer-led, previously undefeated/bowl-deprived football Buckeyes won't begin their legit National Championship march until next fall, we can still honor our Big Time sporting heroes by eating and drinking from this roster.

The Urbanator (12-0, I mean $12)

The Bogey Bar and Grill, 6013 Glick Rd. Powell, 614-766-1900

Co-created by the great coach himself (Meyer's a Bogey burger fan who regularly eats this sandwich here), the Urbanator is made from steak. Like its namesake, it's lean and mean, cut from a higher quality of meat and rare at its core. It's delightfully salty too, but you'd expect that, wouldn't you? The deeply beefy-tasting patty also sports flair from cilantro sour cream, good guacamole (a Meyer mandate) and jack cheese; comes with crispy, hand-cut fries.

Bourbon Meyer ($5 at HH)

Hubbard Grille, 793 N. High St., Short North, 614-291-5000

Stronger and spicier than it looks, this short-fused cocktail is armed with Bulleit bourbon, hardened by walnut bitters and slightly mellowed by a touch of plum simple syrup. It tastes like ... victory.

Oh, Canada ($7)

Knead, 505 N. High St., Short North, 614-228-6323

The title of this insanely delicious plate of poutine painfully reminds me of a song Columbus didn't get to sing - or at least pretend to sing - in near-to-Knead Nationwide Arena before the cancelled NHL All-Star Game (yes, I'm still pissy about that). Oh, well, its blend of rich gravy, melted curds and great shoestring-y fries at least provides some comforting consolation for missing that showpiece game.

Blue Jacket Roll ($12)

Kooma, 37 Vine St., Arena District, 614-224-3239

Attractively plated like three pucks sliding between the pipes, this is a skillfully sliced sorta time-lapse diorama of a hat trick and goal from Kooma - a popular sushi outlet only a slapper from Nationwide Arena. It's crisp and refreshing - a rice/carb-free collection of fresh tuna, tamago, crabstick, avocado and spicy mayo that won't weigh down Molson-swilling hosers prior to a long night of drinking and hockey-watching ... and more drinking.

C.B.J. Pizza ($12) and Stinger Bomb ($6)

R Bar, 413 N. Front St., Arena District, 614-221-4950

Just a short skate from Nationwide's center ice, the no-doubt having a celebration now R Bar is a dark and fully equipped sports tavern rife with hockey accoutrements. If the spicy, crackery and doubly entendred C.B.J. pie (cheddar, bacon, jalapeno) is far from artisanal, its incendiary chilies and crispy bacon and crust keep it safe from penalty time. Facing-off with the handsome but goonish Stinger - a tequila and (shudder) blue curacao shot dropped in (double shudder) Smirnoff Ice - I expected a slapshot to the brain bucket; while undeniably strong, it harmlessly drank like orange-kissed Sprite.

Steak Nicklaus ($41/18-ounce)

Hyde Park, Multiple locations

Arguably one of the best steaks in Columbus ever is named after arguably the best golfer in the world ever. Still, prior to teeing off on this mammoth, feeds-two charred New York Strip, my caddie and I were intimidated by its par five geography and imposing, high-as-a-Muirfield-rough thickness. But Holy Nicklaus was this fat-trimmed stunner delicious, its cuts-like-butter beef drenched in hoochy, silky and rich Bordelaise sauce ignited by fiery cracked peppercorns.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Jacket ($7.75), Crew Spicy Buffalo Chicken ($7.50) and Clippers Ciabatta Bread ($6)

Patrick J's, 2711 N. High St., Clintonville, 614-784-0660

What the standard if sturdy and reliable pub grub at this long-embraced neighborhood fave might lack in imagination, it makes up for in its naming choices. See, every menu item - like the Cordon Bleu Jacket's griddled deli ham, melted cheese and huge, juicy grill-marked chicken breast - borrows its title from a local team or landmark. How is cheesy ciabatta related to the Clippers or what's Buffalo chicken got to do with the Crew? I recommend you order another brew and tell me if you figure that out.

Oughton 8 ($6.50)

Fado Irish Pub, 4022 Townsfair Way, Easton, 614-418-0066

Feel snakebit because the otherwise successful 2012 Columbus Crew have officially been dubbed "The Best Team in MLS History to Ever Miss the Playoffs?" Well bite back then, and swallow this appropriately yellow and black cider and Guinness variation on a "Snakebite" named after - and regularly enjoyed at Fado by - Duncan Oughton, the Crew's colorful Kiwi radio announcer (and ex-Crew player).

Columbus Crew Dog ($3.50)

Dirty Frank's, 248 S. 4th St., Downtown, 614-824-4673

Wiz Khalifa's famous theme song might dribble across your brain as you nibble this black (olives) and yellow (banana peppers) dressed hotdog, but you'll only hear Columbus-band tunes in Dirty Franks (besides, Pittsburgh doesn't even have an MLS team) as you munch through this steamed celery-seeded bun loaded with a salty, pickly and spicy (sriracha cream cheese) ensemble that works surprisingly well together. Protips: order it "charred"; sub in a Polish sausage for a 75-cent surcharge.

Tatum Burger ($9) and Big Daddy Burger ($13.50)

Buckeye Hall of Fame Grill, 900 Goodale Blvd., Grandview, 614-29-WOODY

If you don't know about Jack Tatum and "Big Daddy" Dan Wilkinson - two of the greatest defensive players to ever administer punishment in the 'Shoe - then you probably ought to visit this museum-like Buckeye funhouse. Vicious-hitting Tatum was nicknamed "The Assassin," and his namesake sandwich should slay your appetite with its spicy onslaught of Cajun seasoning, green chilied-guac and pepper jack cheese. The double-pattied Big Daddy - with fittingly "all-American" toppings - likewise lives up to its enormous name.

Crunching Buckeye Roll ($8.50)

Haiku, 800 N. High St., Short North, 614-294-8168

Initially I thought this might be named after "grown-ass-man" John Simon's jarring tackles. After munching it, I realized these eel, masago and crabstickers - which are sweetly dark sauced and sorta recall Buckeye candies - are named after their high toasted pecan content, meaning just like Buckeye fans, they're unapologetically nutty.

Urban Meyer ($5.75), Clipper Time ($4.25) and Black and Gold ($5.75) cocktails

Tip Top, 23 E. Gay St., Downtown, 614-221-8300

Maybe you'd like to explore Coach Meyer's expertly disguised sweet and soft side with this hipster haven's, umm, Pinnacle whipped cream vodka and RumChata shake-up. Or how about toasting the boys of summer with a hometown hero season-appropriate elixir of lemonade and blueberry vodka? Or would you rather get your kicks with a Crew-honoring, color-correct, Van Gogh espresso vodka and Goldschlager concoction. Hell, why not overachieve with a three-ball, testosterone-challenged flavored-vodka trifecta and slurp 'em all - each one is stupid cheap.