Most of us never have to worry about how to put more calories into our bodies; there’s always another carnitas taco or crème brûlée right around the corner. But if you’re a professional athlete who measures more than seven feet tall — like, say, Yao Ming — your frame still looks lanky even when you’re packing 310 pounds, and you’ve got to keep up appearances.
The need for copious nourishment — along with the fact that brutal travel schedules give NBA players like LeBron James and Kevin Garnett the chance to sample lots of restaurant meals on the road — has turned many of these sports stars into amateur food experts… of a sort, at least.
What do NBA players like Gilbert Arenas, Kobe Bryant, and Tony Parker look for in a restaurant? These dudes aren’t Yelp-ing locavores sniffing out some hot new under-the-radar Indian-Vietnamese-barbecue fusion joint serving five-dollar shrimp tikka-smoked pork skin summer rolls. Of course, if a local restaurant is trendy or newsy enough, a food-interested NBA player has likely heard of it.
A player’s age also dictates what he likes: Veterans are likely to be the more adventuresome bunch as opposed to rookies, the majority of whom still opt for fast food. Some of the league favourites right now are: Sotto Sotto in Toronto; 220 in Detroit; Prime 112 in Miami Beach; Katana in West Hollywood (Tony Battie loves the chicken meatball yakitori); Crustacean in Beverly Hills; Phillippe Chow in New York; 10 Arts in the Philadelphia Ritz Carlton; and Murray’s in Minneapolis.
In general, though, NBAers tend to stick to the tried-and-true upscale chains, the places where they already know what they like (hint: it’s usually steak) and where they can rely on the food to be, if not exactly inspired, then consistently tasty. Why chains? We asked Henry Abbott, founder and editor of TrueHoop.com, ESPN’s NBA blog. “One,” he says, “the portions are huge; two, these places have alcohol and this is the first stop in a night out clubbing. Also, places like this count socially as going out to a nice restaurant without making anyone in a player’s entourage uncomfortable, unlike, say, the French restaurant du jour… and there’s plenty of room for their long legs.”
Just in time for the NBA playoffs, here are the places where some of your favourite hoops stars eat.
Yao Ming is said to regularly polish off, single-handedly, entire Pappadeaux Platters consisting of fried shrimp, fried catfish fillet, blue crabcake, stuffed shrimp, stuffed crab, crawfish, extra shrimp and catfish, and French fries.
This Cajun-inspired chain proudly boasts that each location bakes its own bread, turns out fresh-cut French fries, and makes its own mayo for tartar sauce and salad dressings; we're not sure if that has anything to do with the fact that it also draws such notables as Othella Harrington, O.J. Mayo, Tony Allen, Tracy McGrady, and veterans Nick Van Exel and Sam Cassell
The Chicago-based chain, with locations in 28 states and five countries, was founded by the co-founder and the onetime food and beverage director of the 1970s-era Playboy Clubs, so you know that showmanship and a masculine ambience are key to the Morton's experience.
NBAers also like the fact that they relax their dress code for players who show up in tracksuits. Everything is big here, especially the double filet mignon that many players are said to favour.
Besides James, Look For: Dwyane Wade, Gerald Wallace, Kenyon Martin, Derrick Rose, Omri Caspi, and veteran Dale Davis.
Garnett's usual order is Caesar salad, New York strip, lobster, and a Coke at the Boston outpost of Ruth's Chris. The restaurant started in New Orleans in 1965 by a single mother who mortgaged her house to buy a favourite old local steakhouse.
Today, with more than 120 locations across the U.S. and internationally, it provides about as corporate a dining experience as you can find -- which is to say that everything goes off without a hitch. The butter-drenched steaks are first-rate, service is impeccable, and the staff sees to it that the players are left alone while dining.
Other Ruth's Chris Lovers Include: Eddie House and Steve Francis
Continue reading at The Daily Meal >
To read more, check out:
- The Best Places to Watch Baseball
- The Most Extravagant Athlete Birthday Cakes
- 10 Best Athlete-Owned Restaurants
- From Pau to Yao: 10 Athlete Foodies
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