Sports bar finds new home in Olde Village
The "franchise" of Thomas Dowling and Brian Mahoney continues to grow with the transformation of the former Zocalo cantina into DIG in the Park last fall. In less than a week, Park Circle got a new player in the eaters' league of Madra Rua, Cork Neighborhood Bistro, EVO, Sesame Burgers and Beer, Park Pizza Company and the Barbeque Joint.
Its name comes from the successful Daniel Island Grille. In a few short years, Dowling and Mahoney have launched DIG (2008), followed by Daniel Island Catering, Dublin Down Irish pub (2011), the DIG Rig food truck (2011) and DIG in the Park (November).
The footprint of the restaurant remains the same. They have enhanced the outdoor patio area, opening up a side of the restaurant with garage door-style windows that allow diners to be inside or outside along a narrow bar rail and adding tables in the space that was (and is) the awkward entry into the restaurant.
Colorful pennants play up the sports motif, and 17 high-def TVs make sure you are "hard wired" to your favorite team. Ten satellite programs feed the fan appetite for all sports, all the time.
The menu mirrors that of the Daniel Island Grille with appetizers, sandwiches, salads and wraps named for athletes, stadiums, coaches and clubs. Clever descriptions, including the prophetic "Tom Brady no ring this year" onion rings ($5.99) and Dick Vitale's "yeah baby" back ribs ($7.99), make for entertaining reading.
Prices are well-positioned for a good point spread from appetizers to entrees and will not break your betting bank.
The sports bar ethos is expressed in wings, dips, chips, nachos and poppers. Stadium cravings for fried, salty, gooey and crunchy can be found in the Mugsy Bogues shrimp ($10.99), College of Charleston Cougar chips ($5.99), Sammy Sosa mozzarella sticks ($6.99) and Bases Loaded nachos ($7.99). Chicken, beef ($2.99), tuna, shrimp or salmon ($3.99) can be added to salads and nachos.
DIG in the Park also has a Drink Exchange Program 4-7 p.m. This little gimmick is a software system designed to change the prices of drinks based on supply and demand (and 100 percent under the control of the owners). A ticker tape runs under the screen that lists the prices, along with highs and lows for a designated beverage menu. What wonderful lessons on the economy can be learned here: supply and demand, trends, market manipulation and transaction analysis. Econ 101, anyone? Enterprising drinkers could have fun with this one.
Daily specials allow the kitchen staff to express their creativity and trick out basics such as meatloaf, grilled chicken and pasta.
The hot dog menu ($6.99-$7.99) featuring Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs caught our attention with its toppings. The Bronx Bomber ($7.99), layered with grilled onions, sauerkraut and spicy mustard, captures a ballpark taste memory.
A Ricky Henderson quesadilla came up short ($6.99, plus $2 or $3 for protein). The tomato-basil-seasoned tortilla developed off- flavors, the flat wrapper was cold and the added pork filling and cheeses never melded together. The whole dish then was cooled down with the toppings of sour cream and salsa. That was common with all the dishes: condiments or toppings creating cold or cool dishes that should have been warm.
Philadelphia's Chase Utley would be doing more than choking up on his bat with the Philly chicken cheese steak ($8.99), made with grilled chicken bits, Swiss cheese, peppers, onions and mushrooms. So not a Philly chicken! The sandwich itself was dry, a still life of ingredients. The roll was doughy and dried out, and the addition of diced tomatoes (diced rather than sliced) did nothing to moisten the sandwich with the essences of flavors that define its iconic stature. After each bite, we questioned if anyone tastes the food. The menu reads better than it tastes, and that is a shame.
But what DIG in the Park did not deliver in food flavors it made up for in its carefree atmosphere and friendly vibe. It holds on to the scrappiness that defines bars with "sport" in their name. It beats with the heart of a neighborhood watering hole and embraces its neighborhood competitors with respect and support.
Now it should barter a trade for some items on its menu and put the fried foods on the disabled list.