Benchwarmers, the midtown sports bar by Cesar Morales, the owner of Wynwood's Wood Tavern, is open.
The informal bar opened Saturday, just in time for World Cup fever, and I stopped in for a beer and some fries.
It's difficult to miss this casual spot, located across the street from midtown Miami's multiuse shopping and living space, in the building that formerly housed Soho Lounge. Just look for the gigantic blue "Benchwarmers" mural on the corner of NE 36th Street and First Court.
Inside, the laid-back bar is decorated with vintage sports posters (Miami Dolphins '89) and the requisite flat-screens. Old gym lockers have been repurposed into a bar, and a retro sign shows the Marlboro Man hawking cigarettes for a buck a pack.
I pulled up a crate at the bar (both barstools and chairs are made from simple lumber) and perused the menu as the Argentina/Bosnia match kicked off. The bartender gave me a friendly reminder that this was a "starting" menu, with more items to be added. But for World Cup viewing, there's more than enough to keep you sated.
Food items include chicken wings in your choice of heat (mild, medium, or hot) and flavors -- plain, barbecue, Kentucky bourbon, Asian, ginger, Caribbean, jerk, or sweet habanero (six for $6, ten for $9, 25 for $20); house-made Benchwarmers hummus ($5); chicken strips ($6); jalapeño poppers ($6); cowboy dip ($7); a house-made cauliflower-based veggie burger ($8.50); and an Angus cheeseburger ($9.50).
But the main draw is the large selection of fries. You can get your spuds regular, curly, or waffle-cut, as chips, or from sweet potatoes. Plain Jane fries cost $4, but opt for the seasoned fries, sprinkled with cayenne pepper ($4.25). You can also get them slathered with cheese sauce ($5.50), topped with blue cheese and balsamic ($6), with fried eggs and bacon ($8.25), loaded ($8.25), or topped with a cheeseburger ($9.25).
A dozen draft beers include Funky Buddha Crusher, Wynwood IPA, and New Belgium Fat Tire, and Benchwarmers offers about two dozen other varieties in cans and bottles, such as Michael's Genuine Home Brew, 90 Minute Dogfish, and Brooklyn Brewery Summer Ale.
Benchwarmers also offers "adult sodas," your favorite fizzy beverage spiked with booze, including Otto's Dream (Fanta with Absolut vanilla) and Hard in the Paint (Boylan's root beer laced with Wild Turkey).
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In short, Benchwarmers, like Wood Tavern before it, is a no-friils, no-pretense place to grab a few beers -- and lots of fries.