When it comes to sports bars, I'm fairly picky.
I've been burned many times by bars proclaiming to be sports bars, but in reality just have a couple of big TV's hanging around the bar and a bunch of sports memorabilia hanging on the walls.
Meanwhile, the bar is otherwise just that -- any other bar, with loud music, overpriced drinks and a generic menu.
I kept an open mind, though, on a few initial visit to Replay Sports Bar, which opened last week in the former Twisted Fork space at 2238 N. Farwell Ave.
The East Side location raised an eyebrow with me at first. I was concerned that it would turn into either a hipster hot spot or some sort of "upscale take on the sports bar concept," neither of which would really do a sports bar justice.
My early worries were quickly dispelled, as Replay seems to legitimately be interested in being a sports bar.
On first glance, the interior is very impressive. A wall was knocked out creating an open and inviting space with an exposed cream city brick wall on the south end. There are plenty of TVs -- most are in good sightlines -- and enough, but not an overwhelming amount of sports "flair" on the walls; just enough to let you know you're in a place where fantasy football is welcome.
Music was blaring over the sound system, but I was assured by the bar manager that on a regular night, customers would be able to hear games and on Packers game days, all televisions and the sound will be tuned to the game.
The bar staff seemed attentive. There were a few local vets behind the bar -- people I've seen slinging drinks before -- which also also allowed me to breathe a sigh of relief. It was a crazy night and people were trying to work whatever angle they could to get an additional complimentary beverage ... yet, the staff took it all in stride and while the area behind the bar seemed on the surface to be chaotic, all the bartenders found a way to work their area efficiently.
Because of the grand opening celebration, Replay was jam packed, which made things uncomfortable. Again, it was a special occasion, so I brushed that off and chose to relocate to the patio until our table was called. When our party finally did get a table, there was some disappointment after ordering both our entree and appetizers at the same time, we were told the kitchen was closed and would be unable to get our entrees.
This by no means was a deal-breaker. Rather, just an unfortunate quirk for an opening night. And to their credit, Replay contacted us quickly thereafter and offered a make-good. The contact was impressive and appreciated.
The verdict: Replay is good, but not great ... yet. And I think it can and hope it will be. It's early, so there are still kinks to work out but plenty of time to do so.
Replay is off to a respectable start and shows a lot of promise. I'll be back.