Knuckle sandwich, anyone?
Here’s another installment in my occasional series investigating food at Duke City sports bars. In particular, I’m interested in places that show televised mixed martial arts competitions, also known by the more sophisticated moniker “cage fighting.” To assist in this endeavor, I’ve recruited an assistant who goes by his fight name: the Pink Princess. As both an MMA expert and a bar snob, the Pink Princess doesn’t suffer fools gladly. At nearly every place I’ve taken him so far, he says something to the effect of “I can’t believe we came to this f-ing sh!t hole.”
He seemed to keep pretty quiet when we visited Knuckleheads, a sports bar on Coors just north of I-40, to watch a UFC match. You’d think we were flying to Montreal to see the fights live, judging by the TSA-style pat down we got by the doorman. Security has been extra tight since a fatal shooting there in June, 2008.
Along with the pat-down, we each paid a $10 cover charge to get in (fight night cover charges vary with the event). Unfortunately, once inside we were disappointed to discover that all of the seats by the large-screen TV were taken—many by people who had arrived early, before they started collecting the cover charge at 6 p.m., according to the doorman.
After wandering the bar like teenagers crashing a keg party by pretending to look for our friends, we found a table in the pool area that had some decent-size televisions. A waitress attempted to take our drink order, but since she didn’t know which beers were on tap, we had to head to the bar and look for ourselves. We were given a single menu to share as we decided on our meals.
The folks in the kitchen, luckily, appear to take their jobs a little more seriously than our server (she’s since found other employment, according to management). When our rack of basted barbecue ribs finally arrived, they were juicy, tender and fatty. Even the Princess didn’t complain. A mesquite chicken sandwich, served on a ciabatta bun, was tasty as well. And the “Brazilian-style” sandwich, despite making me think of hair removal, was considerably better than hot wax. It was built around pieces of marinated flank steak topped with salsa mayo and standard garnish veggies. (While tasty, it’s worth noting that the Pink Princess and I have taken about 10 trips to Brazil between us, and there was nothing Brazilian about that sandwich.)
The folks in the kitchen, luckily, seem to take their jobs a little more seriously than our server. When our rack of basted barbecue ribs finally arrived, they were juicy, tender and fatty.
One of the more annoying things that can happen while watching fights in bars is lack of sufficient volume to hear the announcers—their voices are all too often drowned out by heavy metal music or the football game on a neighboring TV. This wasn’t a problem at Knuckleheads. All of the TVs were tuned to the fight, and the sound was loud and crisp enough to hear local favorite Joe Stevenson, who trains at Jackson’s MMA in Albuquerque, hit the mat after getting knocked out by Mac Danzig. The main event went better for the hometown crowd, as another Jackson’s fighter, Georges St-Pierre, defended his title against everyone’s favorite heel, Josh Koscheck.
On other visits I’ve tried the green chile cheeseburger, which was devoid of both green chile and feeling. But the oven-roasted turkey club was a winner. Served on whole wheat toast with poblano pepper and grilled onions, it came together beautifully. It was probably the best sandwich I encountered at Knuckleheads.
My one ruff-and-tumble experience at Knuckleheads was perfectly harmonious with the pursuit of spectating televised violence. And surprisingly, the food is a cut above average for bars. The place even has a punching machine that you pay money to hit. Just hope it isn’t broken when you show up.
• Turkey club
• Barbecue rib rack
• Reservations on fight nights
3230 Coors NW, 839-8660
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday; 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday
Price range: $3.50 (salad) to $14 (rack of ribs)
Vibe: That gangster mix of rough and sophisticated, minus the sophisticated part
Vegetarian options: Well, the guy who knocked out Stevenson is vegan.
Booze: That would be yes
Other: Tables can be reserved for $15 a person, which includes a pitcher of beer and an appetizer—not a bad deal since you get dinged $10 just for showing up, and this way you’re guaranteed a table.