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ESPN Zone: Warning: Minimum Purchase Policy!
I recommend skipping this glorified sports bar unless you just have money to throw away.
While visiting Baltimore's Inner Harbor for a conference, we found that our favorite (out-of-state) NCAA football team's noon kickoff game would not be televised locally. We wanted to find a sports bar where we could watch the game and grab lunch. ESPN Zone came up in a google search and it seemed like the perfect solution, but we'd never been to one before.
After walking thirty minutes and arriving just in time for kickoff, we were informed that if we wanted to watch the game we must spend a minimum of $10 PER person PER hour. Since there were two of us, that would be $20 per hour and we expected the game to last three hours so that would mean that we would have to spend $60 to watch the entire game. Not having seen the menu previously, that sum of money seemed ridiculous for lunch.
Upon being seated, I realized that the food was pricey for a sports bar. Two of us purchased one appetizer, two entrees, soft drinks and one 25-oz. draft beer with a tab of over $40. We left a generous 25% tip, which I don't believe our server earned.
We finished eating after being there only one hour, which was only midway through the 2nd quarter of our game. We had decided that we could not stay for the entire game because we could not afford to spend $60+tip to stay three hours but our $40 tab should have allowed us to stay two hours, which should have been about midway through the third quarter. Instead, we left soon after eating because our server continued to harass us about ordering additional items and alcoholic beverages. Needless to say, we missed the rest of our game and I am not a happy camper since I have always been able to either watch the game on tv or listen via radio.
Since I have worked in the foodservice industry previously, I find it plausible that there is some concern that patrons will come in to watch the game, take up tables without ordering for an extended period of time and therefore limit the servers' tips for that time period. But this is not a typical restaurant - it is a sports bar and that is the way it goes so they should have considered that when planning the market niche.
On the other hand, if you go to any restaurant or bar AS a PATRON and you are taking up tables without ordering, you should tip the server a sum equal to 15-20% of a typical guest bill, which is what they lost in tips/income because you were at their table instead of an ordering guest/group. We have always had this personal policy.
As far as the layout, etc., it is definitely a sports fan's haven. There was one huge screen in the middle of the wall playing the feature game with six smaller screens on each side with other games on. The main sound system plays the feature game but there is a speaker box at each table and you can change the "channel" to listen to the sound feed from your chosen game. Of course, there is a volume limit so if the crowd is especially boisterous, you can't hear your game unless it is the feature anyway. There are also recliners up front that appeared quite comfy and round half-circle booths with individual tv's set up on the table in the booth. Unfortunately, we were told that we couldn't sit in a booth (there were 4-5 empty) because we said we couldn't afford to stay for the whole game.
All in all, I just can't get over the minimum purchase policy. I have seen split plate charges and minimum purchase policies before but only in high class dining establishments. I find it utterly ludicrous and it will keep me as well as my family and colleagues from returning or recommending it to others.
Favorite Dish: Food wasn't spectacular.
ESPN Zone: Sport bar
For a foreigner, this is a good example of North American fun: large bar with giant screens broadcasting NBA, base ball and foot ball, large seats for people to watch television while drinking beer and eating fat food
This is fun for a short time, because if I need to watch TV, I stay at home. However I am sure it is very funny when there are big sport events, if you are their with friends or fellow supporters.
Favorite Dish: Spicy buffalo wings.
of course, just chicken wings,
ESPN Zone: Great Sports Bar/Restaurant
I watched the Ravens play the Steelers and was amazed by the high definition big screen tv's. I had the apple and walnut salad which was good and my friends liked their burgers and ribs. One of my friends got to watch some of the game in a padded lounger in the "Screening Room"!! After the game we went upstairs and played everything from air hockey to a stimulation baseball game. I could spend all day there, a great place to hang out with friends and family.
ESPN Game Zone: Sports Fan Heaven
If you're into sports- then you'd love ESPNZone... they have more TV's than I've EVER seen, all focused on every sport imaginable, and every team imaginable. If you're not into sports, you might not be into this spot, but if you are, WOW!
Favorite Dish: I had a beer and some appetizers, which were very good, but very pricey as well. If you are traveling on a budget, you can check out the menu and the prices outside of the door.
ESPN Game Zone: Don't miss the Game
The festive feeling hits you at the door of ESPN game zone. Everybody is there just to have fun! The food is great, the drinks are great - all out fun all night long. You really should try the recliner in the center - a sports fans dream!
Favorite Dish: My favorite food at ESPN game zone was the buffalo wings. I try buffalo wings at every eatery I visit that serves them. Some are good, some are really bad imitaions. ESPN serves good wings - good game food all around.
ESPN Game Zone: Fun for all
Go to the ESPN Zone website and sign up for their email club (MVP Club) before you go so you can get free stuff when you get there
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