The GazBar Sports Grill

Road trip to Leominster! My anticipation wasn’t exactly breathless, but dinner at GazBar was something I felt myself looking forward to as the workday afternoon wore on.

After all, summer’s here and the time is right for busting out of town and onto the open highway; even if it’s just a 10-mile stretch of 190.

Positioned forward-center in a shopping plaza parking lot, the GazBar’s easy to get to and was packed on the Wednesday evening I joined my friend for dinner. We were seated at one of the high tables, with several TVs and a Keno game in sight. The DJ played one of the more diverse sets of songs I’ve heard in a long time and, later in the evening, conducted a team trivia game.

At an adjacent table, a group of women meeting after work were enjoying Lemon Drops from the martini bar. With a quick study of the chalkboard’s draft specials, I selected a glass of Goose Island IPA. Goose Island is a Chicago brewery that I’ve found to be consistently first-rate in quality. The IPA isn’t over-hopped; its floral and resin notes are great with food courses.

Whilst nibbling from a bowl of popcorn, my companion and I journeyed through the GazBar’s standard menu and a sheet of specials. Without over-reaching, the kitchen offers a respectable breadth of appetizers, burgers, more than a dozen sandwiches (I was sorely tempted by the Pulled-Porker) and several beef and seafood entrees.

The GazBar Sports Bar & GrillBut it was the daily specials that attracted me, and we started with one of its appetizers, a bowl of Steamed Clams. For what would summer be without steamers and beer? These were ideally sized, with clean, white shells; each 2 to 3 inches in length. A bowl of steaming broth was mandatory for rinsing off grit once we’d pulled the meat out of the shells. These steamers were tender, mild and slightly sweet in flavor – and a perfect portion for sharing.

As if to echo my own thoughts, my friend declared, “It’s nice to have the first steamed clams of the season. It’s a harbinger of summer!” I continued that seasonal theme with my Lobster Roll entrée, another of GazBar’s daily specials.

Everyone seems to have their favorite place for lobster rolls – just bring up the subject, and people insist upon their opinions and a lively debate often ensues. But I suspect any of these experts would be delighted with the GazBar’s; it was elegantly presented in a buttery, toasted wiener bun and heaped deep and high with large chunks of claw and knuckle meat – much sweeter and more tender than meat from the lobster’s tail, right? – mixed with minimal mayonnaise and little bits of crunchy celery. Rather than fries, I ordered my meal with a bowl of creamy coleslaw.

The GazBar Sports Bar & GrillThe only improvement I might suggest? Perhaps the sound of pounding surf and a seagull squawking in the background.

We made our outing a seafood trifecta, with my friend’s entrée selection: classic Broiled Haddock. This is my personal favorite treatment for fish – lightly sprinkled with golden breadcrumbs in a lemony white wine butter sauce. Between bites, he declared it to be “Simple. Flaky white meat. Tender and fresh.” He ordered his fish with a baked potato, which, based upon its generous size, gave the meal some appetite-satisfying heft.

Every time I have a good meal at a sports bar, I regard it as some sort of revelation. As much as I’d anticipated it, dinner at the GazBar was an energizing surprise. For sheer fun, friendly service and quality fare, the GazBar writes its own playbook on hospitality that provides plenty of room for everyone – workmates, families with kids, seniors, a serious bar crowd and everyone in between.

1045 Central Street, Leominster, MA | | (978) 534-6600

By Bernie Whitmore