Norwalk's new restaurant 'just feels like home'

Zoe Greszler • Updated Jul 5, 2018 at 11:42 PM

It might be called Sidelines Sports Eatery and Pub, but Norwalk’s newest restaurant has come here to be an active player. 

The family-owned business at 230 Milan Ave. opened its doors Monday in a highly-anticipated soft opening after the building had sat empty for more than a year and a half following the closing of Bar 145 in January 2017. The location also formerly housed Bob Evans.

Duncan Oglesby, a waiter, said the restaurant was well-received on its opening day. 

“Everyone says it looks real nice in here,” he said. “We’ve had great reaction so far to all the food and the atmosphere.”  

According to regional kitchen manager Chris Hinds, the restaurant is known for its service as well as its ribs, burgers and “fowl balls.”

“Fowl balls are our version of boneless chicken wings,” Hinds said.

“It’s fresh chicken, hand breaded in a light flour dusting then fried and tossed one of our 11 sauces. You can top it with cheese, bacon — all that good stuff. That’s definitely our most popular (item). That’s a three-quarters of a pound per order. I’m a big guy myself and it fills me up.”

The restaurant’s ribs first gained recognition in 2000 when it began winning competitions.

“Essentially, you can pick them up and they fall right off the bone. We cook them with our house barbecue sauce — it’s a five-hour cooking process. We cook them over an open flame. People go crazy over those,” Hinds said. “And our burgers are great and we have a lot of gourmet sandwiches.”

Mike and Krista Moser, of Milan, ordered the Cowboy burger and perch dinner respectively on opening night.

“It’s wonderful and delicious,” Krista Moser said.

“We work in Toledo and there’s a Sidelines there and we stop there every now and again,” Mike Moser said. “It’s nice. It’ll be really nice to have them around here. They have really good food. I like the atmosphere. It’s a nice place.”

Homer and Michele Burger and George Scherz agreed, adding they canceled their other dinner plans when they found out Sidelines had opened.

“I saw them online before I came here. It’s a real good price,” Michele Burger said. “(The tacos) taste really good.”

“It’s a good amount of food for the price you got it for,” Scherz added.

Even 6-year-old Stella Howey, 6, of Monroeville, said her pepperoni pizza was “yummy.”

Howey’s mother, Crystal Osborn, said they were on a girls’ day out with family members Cindy Osborne and Kim Osborne when they saw the restaurant had opened and decided to “try something different.”

“It was a nice surprise,” Cindy Osborne said of the food and service. “It’s about the same ballpark with prices as other restaurants. ... It’s very good.”

Sidelines’ meat is a product patrons can feel good about, according to co-owner Eric Sitter.

“Probably about five or six years ago, we started to only buy responsibly-raised, hormone-free, natural beef, chicken and pork,” he said. “We don’t use anything but that. The quality of our ingredients is really high. We don’t like using the cheaper stuff.”

Whether its with food or service, quality is what shines through the most at the eatery, the owners said.

“We build relationships with customers — that’s what really sets all of our other locations apart. The quality of our food and our service is what makes us,” Hinds said. “If you ask a lot of people from Toledo area what they like about Sidelines, they say, ‘It just feels like home.’”

“When you come to Sidelines, you’re treated like family,” regional front house manager Tom Morris added.

Hinds said there’s something for everyone at Sidelines.

“No one’s ever seen the Sidelines way before,” he said.

“We cater to numerous age groups. We have kids’ night. College kids love our wing night. We have fish — that caters to older couples that maybe haven’t had a hot, home-cooked fish meal in awhile. Find me another sports bar that has a hot roast beef sandwich too.

“I always tell my cooks, when I interview them, I say, ‘We’re a step above bar food. We’re better than bar food.’ Yes, you can get mozzarella sticks and wings and stuff like that but at the same time we have street tacos and subs and pizza and sandwiches.”

Morris said the restaurant goes beyond its four walls, with a focus on giving back to the community. Sidelines invites different organizations to hold fundraisers, giving 10 and 20 percent of the night’s sales to the fundraiser. 

“We like to be involved in the community,” he said. “We also give away food to football teams, volleyball teams and high school sports. We know there’s a lot of high schools around the area. And we have the catering service as well, so we can bring it right to them.”

The kitchen is open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday and noon to 11 p.m. Sunday, with the bar open an extra hour after the kitchen closes. 

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