At a glance Courts and Sports is yet another sports bar: light wood finishes, ample seating and nearly a score of high-definition televisions. But they take sports one step further: Their numerous volleyball courts welcome leagues and teams to play regularly, while onlookers cheer them on and nosh on pub grub. And I have to give credit where credit is due: Courts and Sports boasts a more daring menu than most simple sports bars. While not everything is an absolute gem, there’s more than enough to substantiate my recommendation.
Predictably, the kitchen moves to a very limited menu at 1 a.m., but part of writing reviews is taking things as they come. Their late-night options comprise chicken wings, mozzarella sticks, cheese fries, and chicken fingers.
The fries themselves are pedestrian: tasty but nothing special. Covered in a mild, shredded-cheddar blend, they are served with enough bacon to exude a salty, smoky flavor. But it’s a dish I’ve seen before and better executed. Still, for a 1 a.m. craving, it was more than good enough.
The wings are another story. The fruity sauce, smothered in ginger and garlic, gives the poultry a pleasant kick. Beware of the diced jalapeño garnish: It provides spice which may be unwelcome to those wishing for a less piquant mouthful. The bright, lively sauce tantalizes taste buds with far more interesting pizzazz than the average Buffalo-style offerings (which also are available). The chicken itself perfectly combines crispiness and juiciness. The wings warrant a return trip to try their daytime menu.
The Angry Yard Byrd—with house-smoked jerk chicken, Granny Smith coleslaw, and “dirty” fried onions—poses a lot of questions: Why was “bird” misspelled? What made the coleslaw Granny Smith based when there were no apples in it? What made the fried onions dirty? I have no answers to any of those questions, but the sandwich is still delicious.
Don’t be put off by the strange, gray color of the meat. It’s caused by the combination of jerk spices and smoked preparation. The seasoning is tasty but not as spicy as many Caribbean dishes. The smokiness comes through nicely and doesn’t overpower the palate. The crispy fried-onion straws, heavily coated in black pepper, are especially delectable. Their proximity to the slaw doesn’t leave them crispy for long, but the seasonings burst. They’re far better than the rather bland onion rings. It’s one of the better, more-interesting sandwiches I’ve ordered in quite some time.
The menu boasts a Kobe beef hot dog. (I inquired as to the veracity of that claim and was assured that the hot dogs were in fact made of Kobe beef.) Personally, I think that’s a waste of Kobe beef, but one bite of the hot dog validates its merit. Unequivocally, Courts and Sports has the best hot dog in Wilmington. The savory meat is brandished with a light char from the grill. It creates a taste that’s rich beyond what one normally expects of a hot dog. It’s a high-quality sausage, masquerading as a meager hot dog.
They offer all the usual fixins’, including a beef, bean and corn chili. The cheese and onions (which I opted for) also complement the ballpark fare. The raw, chopped onions fill the mouth with potency. With a dog that tasty, caramelized onions or even the fried-onion straws also would accentuate the beef. But I can’t complain about a dog that good. Though, I’m not convinced I’d use Kobe beef to make a hot dog, but if these are the results—I can’t argue with them.
Courts and Sports recently added milkshakes in both family-friendly and adult varieties. Due to time restrictions, the alcoholic shake will have to wait. (I’m told the Nutty Irishman is worth a look though.) The vanilla shake is richer than any frozen treat I can recall. It’s delicious, but it’s so sweet and the vanilla is so strong that finishing half of it is a task. I loved it, but I would love a half-sized version more.
Courts and Sports carries some of the best pub fare in town. If they have an empty seat during football season, I’ll be shocked. Their menu is more interesting and generally better executed than most bars. I guarantee I’ll go back, but I may have to join a volleyball league to work off all the hot dogs.
Courts and Sports
3525 Lancelot Lane