Overall impression: Wowies bills itself as "the world's sexiest sports bar," and while it's clear that the waitresses have been chosen for their physical attributes, it quickly becomes apparent that they're also friendly and efficient, and can sling a quality of chow that is a cut above the average in the genre.
The owner has printed a lengthy manifesto of his culinary philosophy on the back of the menu, and if a diner isn't too distracted by the scores of flat-screen TVs suspended around the room to read it, he will learn that the idea behind Wowies was to provide a gourmet experience in an environment that is known more for "bar food." There's plenty of that on offer in the extensive bill of fare (chili, chicken wings of all flavors, pizzas, etc.), but since our party was on an exploratory visit, we concentrated on what distinguishes Wowies from the pack. We learned that the cuisine is, indeed, gourmet by sports-bar standards, which is to say pretty good overall. Moreover, it's offered at a sports-bar price.
Starters: In keeping with our mission, we waded through the soup, salad and pizza categories to "Upscale Apps," from which we selected spicy mahi bites and asparagus fritters (both $9.95). The former arrived in the form of several long sticks of fish with a very tasty breading, and a white dipping sauce that looked deceptively mild but turned out, almost to our dismay, to be a potent habanero-pepper-ranch dressing. Be careful of that sauce if you order this dish. The asparagus was even better, with a different kind of crunchy breading and a honey-mustard sauce. Somehow, the chef had managed to keep the asparagus stalks perfectly cooked throughout the deep-frying process. Either appetizer was enough to share among four people.
We skipped past "Sandwiches, Grinders and Sliders" (if you've ever lived in New England, you know that a grinder — pronounced "gryn-dah" — is a regional term for "hero," or "sub") to the pasta selections, and tried the chicken bow tie ($12.95). The pasta actually tasted as if it had been freshly cooked, which is rare for a large-volume restaurant. It contained a generous amount of chicken, spinach, mushrooms and tomatoes, and was tossed in a sauce garlicky enough to make a Frenchman blush.
Entree excellence: We moved on to "The Main Event: Entrees (white linens please)." Yes, the menu actually says that. We sampled the 12-ounce rib-eye steak, which for $15.95 was a quite respectable chunk of meat, piled with a generous amount of Gorgonzola cheese. The accompaniments — addictive Red Bliss mashed potatoes with the skins included, and expertly steamed asparagus spears — made this a top-notch entree at a very reasonable price. Snapper over escarole ($14.95) with kidney beans and diced tomatoes in white-wine sauce was the hit of the evening. It was subtly spiced, the fish was tender, and the escarole had been prepared in a way that preserved its tangy flavor.
From the "South of the Border" category, one dish in particular revealed the chef's sense of humor: the southwest Tex-Mex egg rolls ($7.95), which outwardly resemble the authentic Asian item. The unsuspecting diner chomps down on the crackly exterior and fills his palate with that old, familiar borderlands flavor: pepperoncini, refried beans, field greens and tomatoes.
Sweet! Finally, we asked our waitress what she recommended from the dessert menu. "The Milky Way cake," she said, without hesitating. "It's —" here, she ran her tongue around her lips, "Oh, my God!"
She was right. At $6.95, it was the perfect dessert for four — a large, rich wedge of chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream on a plate drizzled with caramel, whose combined taste closely resembled the namesake candy bar.
The final score? Our entire party vowed to return, particularly to sample the various offerings in the intriguing "Martini Glass Shrimp" category. And none of us is a sports fan.
Wowies Sports Grill
7036 W. Palmetto Park Road, Boca Raton
Cuisine: Eclectic, bar food
Hours: Dinner daily
Reservations: Recommended on weekends for large groups
Credit cards: V, MC, AE
Bar: Full service
Sound level: Can be very noisy
Outside smoking: Yes
For kids: Children's menu, booster seats and highchairs
Bar offerings: A large selection of specialty cocktails. A variety of bottled and tap beers.
Deals: Happy Hour from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily during the summer
Special events: Trivia night on Wednesdays starting at 7 p.m.Copyright © 2015, South Florida