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Let's eat.

From Big Sur's killer cliff-clinging eateries to Salinas' unparalleled produce, this blog aims to sniff out all things Monterey County can stomach, via picture and prose, curiosity and appetite, hand and mouth.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sports Bar Nirvana: The New Knuckles

I have seen the future of sportsbar. It arrived with the Knuckles (647-2039) makeover at the Hyatt Monterey, which is now complete.

And it has conveniently shown up in time for the S.F. Giants' first shot at breaking their half-century championship drought.

The fanciest bell/whistle of the future: the Table Tender, which will appear at one table and provide two taps for patrons to self-dispense; beer will be metered out by automated ounce. (Ironically, the Knuckles staff has always been pretty darn attentive. You don't have many servers with this much seniority, which tells you they are doing something right.) Hyatt's hype machine calls the Table Tender the first of its kind in the Golden State.

The place looks a lot slicker and sleeker and silvery—note the year 2075 bar—but might have lost a little of its local character with the exodus of the area memorabilia. The 24 flat-screen HD TVs will help people cope, including an 84-incher.

Among the important notes:

Sierra Nevada will remain available in many flavors, more (10) than anywhere outside the S.N. brewery. So will the free popcorn and peanuts.

• There are a league of new menu items…

Anticipate appetizers like locally harvested clam steamers cooked with Gilroy garlic, lemon, white wine and butter and served with sourdough bread ($11); sea salt calamari with peppadew pepper aioli ($9); warm Castroville artichoke dip with toasted ciabatta bread ($7); Buffalo spiced cheese sticks and jack and blue cheese sticks with green onions and spicy ranch dipping sauce ($8); and wild boar ribs dry rubbed and slow roasted with honey chipotle barbecue sauce and pineapple slaw ($10). Yes, wild boar. That's good game.

The new signature sandwich ("The Knuckler") brings some gargantuan game of its own: shaved beef rib eye, slow roasted pork, a fried egg, avocado, fried onions, portobello mushroom, shredded lettuce and a three-cheese sauce luxuriously slapped on a sourdough bun and sided with Gilroy garlic fries ($16.50). They're also promising new salads, build-your-own burgers and pizzas.

Then there's a new carnitas quesadilla with roasted tomatoes, green onions, Monterey jack, smoked cheddar cheese and chipotle salsa ($11), and fish tacos with locally caught cod, cabbage slaw, pico de gallo and Oaxaqueño cheese ($11).

New closers include a Guinness and vanilla ice cream float ($8) and a Snickers pie with brownies, caramel, peanuts and a tart cream cheese filling ($6).

• A new pool table and a "kids gaming area" are coming soon. I hope that might means a little boxing ring, maybe a putt-putt arena and Ski-ball. But I think it means shotgun shooting range video games. That part's not quite done yet, though.

• The most daring food deal in town continues on Tuesdays. For Toss Up Tuesdays, a coin flip decides if you win your dinner (food only). Even a loss nets a $5 food certificate to use another time.

Yes, the future is fun. Game on.