Champions Sports Bar
700 S. Florida Ave.
Tampa, FL 33602
When you are on vacation, you sometimes have to go with the flow. We were in Tampa to depart for a seven day Caribbean cruise. We had gotten to Tampa a few days earlier, and were all set to get on the ship this Sunday afternoon, but Mother Nature had other plans for us. The Port of Tampa had been closed because of fog, so the ship was out circling in the ocean. How airplanes can fly in fog with no problem, but a big cruise ship can not enter a port still amazes me, but I am sure there are reasons for this.
Anyways, we found ourselves stuck on dry land on a Sunday afternoon, so we did what we would normally do at home when this is the case, we looked for a place to watch football. We had already turned our rental car in, so we had to find a place within walking distance. The first sports bar we had come to was packed, so we returned to our phones and found Champions Sports Bar at the Marriott Waterside.
The Champions Sports Bar is located right across the street from the Tampa Bay Times Forum. I imagine that when there used to be hockey this bar could get packed. This Sunday there was no problem finding a seat. This bar was pretty good sized. It is broken up into three separate rooms, with plenty of seating on high table tops and booths. There were easily about fifty people in here, but because of the size of this place it did not seem too cramped.
Hotel bars can sometimes be very dreary places. This was not the case at Champions. The folks over at Marriott really have taken some time to turn this into a well themed sports bar. They have the requisite sports plaques and pennants hanging on every wall. They have even gone so far as to construct an ice hockey penalty box in the front room of the bar. Sabrina had a great time cross checking me into the fiberglass of the penalty box. TVs are a plenty at Champions. Whichever seat you choose, there will be at least three TVs in your line of sight. We were getting hungry, so let's see what came out of the kitchen for us.
We had just had breakfast a couple of hours ago, so we just opted for some appetizers at Champions. The first one was the Nachos ($14). Nothing says sports bar more than nachos. This large portion came with tortilla chips, BBQ pork, cheddar cheese sauce, melted cheddar cheese, tomatoes, jalapenos, green onions, and olives. Served on the side was sour cream, red and green salsa, and guacamole. First the positives about this plate of nachos. The portion size was pretty large, the BBQ pork was a nice change of pace for a plate of nachos, and the chips refrained from getting too soggy. Now on to the negatives. Why did they have to include cheese sauce with these? Melted cheese would have been just fine here. I have a big gripe against cheese sauces anyways, but I was not the only one that did not like this cheese sauce. Also the salsas and guacamole did not add any flavor here. The salsas were very watered down, and the guacamole was more like the guacamole that you get out of the bag in the supermarket aisle. If they were going for the ballpark experience nachos they nailed it. I just don't like ballpark nachos.
I will give Champions some credit for having some very colorful food. The Cheese Fries ($10) were no exception in the color department. These waffle fries were topped with cheddar cheese sauce (again!), melted cheddar cheese, bacon bits, tomato, and green onions. The fries were okay, but only served lukewarm. You already know how I feel about cheese sauce, so I won't get into that again. I could be wrong, but I think these bacon bits were actually real bacon. They added a good smoky flavor to these fries, and were one of the few good things this dish had going for it.
Katie and Sabrina shared the Classic Chicken Quesadilla ($13). This quesadilla was stuffed with chicken, pepper jack cheese, cilantro, and green onion, then served with pico de gallo, sour cream, and guacamole. Besides being way overpriced, this quesadilla had many things going wrong with it. The cheese inside had a weird texture, almost like it was half cheese and half sauce. Weird. The tortilla was pretty hard. Not that it was stale, but it also had texture issues. The condiments here added nothing but moisture to the quesadilla. The only thing this quesadilla had going for it was that the chicken was not dried out. There could have been more chicken on this, but at least it wasn't dry.
When we are at home we judge places where we watch football on three things. Service, atmosphere, and food. Champions Sports Bar had two of these things going for it, but failed miserably on the food portion of these categories. The food here was not our favorite at all. The appetizers we got were all below average, with no big flavors involved in them. Not only were they all pretty bland, but they were all over priced as well. We should have expected that from a hotel bar though. The atmosphere here was pretty laid back for a sports bar. Not too many fans screaming at the TVs, but some cheering was going on. Definitely a place you could bring the kids if you wanted to watch the games. The service we had on this afternoon was pretty good. Our server really took very good care of us. Always made sure our glasses were full, cleared plates quickly, and had a good personality. Wish the food would have matched the atmosphere and service.
Out of five storms, (because the arena football team, the Tampa Storm have won five championships, more than any other arena football league team), five being best to zero being worst, Champions Sports Bar gets 2 storms.
For more information on Champions Sports Bar, click here: http://www.marriottmodules.com/restaurant/hotels/hotel-information/travel/tpamc-tampa-marriott-waterside-hotel-&-marina/champions/