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Just about a month into its run, Satchemo's Bar and Grill is figuring out what it wants to be. An early decision seems a good one — to open for lunch seven days a week and not try to attract an evening crowd other than Thursday, Friday and Saturday. (The website still reflects the original hours.)
It still bills itself as a sports bar, and the four TVs were turned to NFL games upon request one Sunday afternoon, but if it takes sports fans coming specifically to actively watch sports to qualify as a sports bar, we're not sure Satchemo's will get there.
But what Satchemo's is doing right is serving up homemade, atypical bar food. And with scads of state workers toiling in mammoth buildings not far across Third Street, trying to build a lunch crowd makes more sense than every-night dinner.
Satchemo's is housed in a rather odd space just west of the viaduct in a building it shares with Warehouse Liquor. It most recently was Twelve Modern Lounge, which rarely appeared open, and its black faux marble bathrooms with shower door-like stall doors still scream "club!"
The main dining room features a mishmash of tables with comfortable chairs that must have come from a fire sale of hotel banquet room furniture. It's worth taking a close look at the smaller tables with decoupages of old Razorback football tickets, program covers, photos and newspaper clippings on the wood tops. That and a few other items on the wall — like a Troy Trojans poster and a picture of not-famous quarterback Jim Everett during his days with the St. Louis Rams in the late 1980s — provide the "sports bar" theme.
But whether or not you like sports, do or don't want to jam to Friday night karaoke, care about the bands that occasionally play or give a hoot about shooting a game of pool on one of the two $1-a-game tables, go eat at Satchemo's.
We started with four appetizers: pulled pork egg rolls, chicken fries, Sassy's salsa and Capitol City Wings. The fried egg rolls ($8) are stuffed with pulled pork, baked beans and bits of onion and jalapeno, cut on the bias and served with homemade slaw and barbecue sauce. The flavors work well together, and the proportions are perfect. The fries ($8) are tender, thin strips of breast filet battered in corn flakes and fried to a crunchy wonderfulness. They are crisp but tender and served with ranch (though we're sure the nice wait staff would bring barbecue sauce if asked). The zingy salsa ($5), also homemade, comes in a good-sized bowl with high-quality tortilla chips. (We enjoyed the salsa, but a regular said the person who normally makes it does it even better.) The wings ($8) continue the not-run-of-the-mill theme, grilled whole to a crispy goodness. We chose the original sweet and spicy sauce, and it was both. Wings also come Buffalo style or with that tangy homemade barbecue sauce. We enjoyed them, leaving only bones, but we do think $8 is a bit much for three wings.
Through Facebook and word-of-mouth chatter, we've heard raves about the pulled pork nachos ($8), but we didn't get around to them. The meatloaf cupcakes ($6) feature "GutBuster's Famous Meatloaf recipe," the menu touts, but we learned this was a new menu, and GutBuster hadn't gotten all the ingredients together yet to serve them. But maybe by the time you're reading this you can get some.
We also were favorably impressed with several of the sandwiches: The huge 3 Little Pigs ($9), a pork lover's dream with pulled pork, grilled ham and bacon piled high on a bun with fried onions, fried jalapenos, slaw and barbecue sauce; Satchemo's Butter Burger ($6; add $1 for cheese), a juicy patty that came fully dressed (but we didn't detect the butter); the Downtown BLT ($5), made with six slices of decent, well-crisped bacon, L and T on Texas toast slathered with homemade mayonnaise (again, a nice touch); and the Rock Island Chicken ($9), a thin, marinated and grilled breast filet served with the sweet-spicy combo of pineapple and pepper jack cheese. Next time, we'll get the Southern Chicken ($8), which Satchemo's brines in house and then coats in "homemade crunchy breading," which might be the same corn flake treatment as the chicken fries.
Do note the menu advises that adding fries or chips (which, rather oddly, are fried wonton wrappers) will cost you $2. We also were advised that a few entree-size salads are coming soon, which should broaden the menu's appeal.
Satchemo's features a full bar. Signs touting its namesake drink convinced us, and the mason jar full of rum punch was refreshing. It looks a lot like the famed Play-D-Doh at Cajun's Wharf but didn't deliver the same kick. For $12 it should. There are two enticing drink specials: $1 Bloody Marys from noon until 2 p.m. on Sunday (also tasty but not much kick) and 75-cent Pabst Blue Ribbons after 4 p.m. on Thursday.
We applaud Satchemo's for ratcheting up the standards for its bar food. We just hope the word spreads.
Satchemo's Bar and Grill
1900 W. Third St.
11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.
Full bar, credit cards accepted.