Living up to their name: Real Sports Bar & Grill

I had the pleasure of eating at this establishment recently, run by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Raptors and Toronto FC) located just outside the Air Canada Centre (also MLSE-owned) in downtown Toronto.

From the moment you walk in, it’s clear they’re serious about living up to their “Real” moniker: this is Mecca for the sports fan. Thematic decorations include hockey stick chandeliers, a mock Stanley Cup and World Cup trophy – and the main attractions, the 199 flat-screen TVs. Including what is advertised as North America’s largest indoor HD screen, at maybe 50 feet across.

The place is gigantic at 25,000 square feet. It seats 1,000, has two mezzanine levels and on the main floor, has two long bars – of which one is a luminous version perhaps 75 feet long. A leather-couch-adorned VIP section is slightly raised at the centre of the main level, available for private parties but designed, as our server told us, specifically for members of MLSE’s sports teams to hang out, which they apparently do.

Amid the almost sensory overload of the place is food outstanding compared to any sports bar I’ve even been to: a wide-ranging upscale menu including huge, luscious wings, cheeseburger soup and a free 67-ounce steak (along with one pound of fries and one pound of coleslaw) as a challenge for anyone insane enough to finish eating it in under one hour. Which would earn you placement in the Real Sports Hall of Fame, and quite likely some serious gastric issues for the foreseeable future.

Is a mundane moniker like Real a great piece of brand naming? Yes – but only because the name’s promise is fully delivered upon.

PS: one shortcoming is their absolutely brutal website, which among other problems, can take 30 seconds to load (because of their improper use of Flash).

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