Find uncommonly good bar food at Sporting Life

You won’t find pork belly like this in your average neighborhood bar.
Photo: Christopher DeVargas

The recently opened Sporting Life has all the trappings of a typical neighborhood gaming bar—video poker machines, TV screens, ashtrays, barflies … And then there are some deviations: a wickedly impressive beer list. A streaming odds board. Cured confit chicken wings. What the hell?

Behold, the confit chicken wings at Sporting Life Bar. They seem simple, but they taste amazing.

Those wings serve as a harbinger that this bar’s menu is anything but typical. While a bit pricey ($11 for four wings), they’re unlike any others in town because they’re cured and then cooked in their own fat, and finished simply with salt and pepper. Leave the sauce on the side to fully appreciate the crispy skin, opening into meat falling off the bone. For my money, they’re completely worth it, some of the best wings in the city.

After living in Vegas for 12 years, I’ve been waiting for this place, a locals’ bar with a focus on good food. How does Sporting Life roll out such an impressive, groundbreaking menu? Pretty easily, actually: It hired a chef with a Strip pedigree, former Bouchon sous chef Daniel Dalton, who’s sourcing high-quality ingredients and making as many items in-house as possible.

Other unlikely dishes include the beer mac ’n’ cheese ($7). In a word, it’s ridiculous. Prepared with Tenaya Creek Calico Brown ale, the cheddar-and-bacon-laden dish is finished with a crisp Cajun panko crust and delivers with each bite. Another surprise is head-on garlic shrimp ($10), awash in olive oil and garlic with a hint of heat from árbol chilies. Or how about the more filling pork belly ($9), an immaculate, well-balanced presentation of sweet and savory served over an outstandingly creamy house-made polenta? Can you even call this bar food?

Garlic shrimp get a bit of heat from chile de árbol.

Moving into more familiar fare, Sporting Life’s potato “skins” ($7) are a combination of traditional skins and not-so-traditional croquettes. The texture of the filling is a little unexpected, but the combination of smoked gouda, bacon, green onion and sour cream—think of a molten baked potato—puts such concerns to rest. The batter on the fried pickle chips ($5) lacks a bit of seasoning, but the accompanying roasted red pepper sauce delivers robust flavor without overwhelming. And pickle chips are vastly superior to spears.

Because they’re practically giving them away, you should delve into the deviled eggs (50 cents). When have you ever seen a menu item for less than a buck? Topped with fried capers and delivering a hint of pickle, they’re a worthwhile bite-size snack.

If Sporting Life doesn’t become your favorite neighborhood bar, I’m not sure we can be friends anymore. It’s that good.

Sporting Life Bar 7778 S. Jones Blvd., 331-4647. 24/7.

Tags: Dining
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Jim Begley

Jim Begley is an avid food lover who began writing about his Las Vegas dining adventures to defray his obscene ...

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