A smattering of folks might still miss the late Roaring Fork with its Big Ass Burger, green chile mac ‘n’ cheese and spit-roasted half chicken. Once it was announced in early January that Cover 3 would be taking its place, sad fans seemed to trickle out of the woodwork.
But the Austin-based sports bar hasn’t met any resistance if mid-week dinner crowds are to be trusted—off-season, mid-week crowds, mind you. (There is rarely a wait time, but come football and basketball season, it’ll be interesting to see how they handle the crowds.)
For starters, labeling Cover 3 as a sports bar is arguably selling them short. Yes, there are dozens of giant flat screen TVs lining the walls, and sure, you can find a solid list of beers including big brands and local brews, and yeah, they offer more than a fair share of dude-friendly food, but there’s more to Cover 3 than meets the eye. Sport bars don’t usually serve high-end steaks or scallops.
Owners Doug Young, Matt Dodson and newcomer Dave Ramirez all have experience in some of Austin’s legendary eateries including Z’Tejas, and other bar-and-grill chains, so the ease behind Cover 3’s launch in SA isn’t necessarily shocking–they were able to fix any kinks at the first location (which was named one of the 101 best sports bars in the U.S. by CNN Travel) and slide into an early groove with their sophomore attempt.
Back to the bro-friendly fare: The menu is broken down into starters, sliders, wings, flatbreads, soups and salads, burgers and sandwiches, entrees or plates. Whew! For just about every loaded El Rey Burger, a half-pound patty with Matt’s chili, Longhorn cheddar, pickled jalapeños and grilled onions, there’s a less extreme option of Hong Kong salmon, cooked to order, with sautéed shiitake mushrooms over a bed of spinach in a light soy-ginger broth.
A rather noisy patron was the only hiccup during an early visit, but you can’t blame her for taking advantage of the happy hour (4-7 p.m. daily; all night Mondays and Tuesdays) that offers discounts on starters, cocktails, beer and wine (from a sizeable, for a sports bar, wine list); though we missed it, we did partake in starters such as the ginger-laced Mongolian pork lettuce wraps and a Margherita flatbread, heavy on the basil, but nicely balanced with roasted tomatoes.
In a rare (wo)“Man vs. Food” moment, I gave into one of the most outlandish sounding menu items–The Homewrecker. Part dick-joke, part gastro-nightmare, the Homewrecker is an embarrassingly good foot-long hot dog piled with chuck beef chili, pickled jalapeños, cheddar and grilled onions. It is the quintessential bar food. It comes with either crispy Parmesan shoestring fries or Cover 3 coleslaw (Post-Homewrecker flagellation was lessened by substituting fries for seasonal veggies cooked until just tender enough).
For those looking to satiate without the massive guilt-trip, the restaurant offers bite-sized guilty pleasures in several sliders; the brick chicken variety was a bit tough, but flavorful when paired a classic Sicilian sauce. Although the popular iceberg wedge salad looked appetizing, we noshed on the Cover 3 house salad of mixed greens, candied walnuts, sliced Fuji apples and crumbled goat cheese—the only misstep was the heavy-handed deluge of oregano vinaigrette. The Pacific Ahi tuna burger with avocado, tomato, mixed greens, teriyaki sauce and wasabi mayo was a fun highlight in the burgers and sandwiches department–spicy and different enough to warrant deviating from either beef or chicken.
It’s easy to see why Cover 3 is already a hit with the Stone Oak community and Austin transplants who miss the original location. It offers an über-attentive and professional wait staff, extreme or dainty bites for any appetite and a bar selection that rivals just about any local establishment, all wrapped in a mellow, relaxed ambiance. You’ll come for a chill place to watch the game, but stay for the elevated bar eats.
1806 NW Loop 1604,
Best Bet The Homewrecker or the El Rey, both topped with Matt’s chili for a spicy bite.
The Skinny Sports bar features extensive wine, beer and drink list, with elevated eats
Hours 11am-11pm Sun-Thu, 11am-midnight Fri-Sat,