Food & Drink

Sports pubs offer something extra

It should come as no surprise that the local dining scene is not immune to the effects of the current recession. Mythos Bistro, a romantic gem of a Mediterranean fusion restaurant that closed recently in Cary, is just one of the most notable victims. Even a location on trendy Glenwood South didn't help European Espresso & Wine Café, which closed after barely a month of operation. Just up the street, the times have indeed proved hard for Hard Times Café, which was shuttered just shy of its 10th anniversary.

But there are a few glimmers of light at the end of the tunnel. Those who have been suffering sweet tooth withdrawal since the February closing of Hereghty (2603-123 Glenwood Ave.; 510-9161; www.hereghty.com) will be happy to know that the pâtisserie and café has reopened with an expanded menu that now includes flatbreads, a larger sandwich selection and beer. Then downtown, management at Fayetteville Street Tavern is planning to resurrect the restaurant in a different form in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for details.

And when it comes to one relatively new restaurant category -- the sports pub that's more than just a sports pub -- the glimmer of hope is burning as bright as a commercial stove with all burners fired.

At Spirits Pub & Grub (701 E. Chatham St.; 462-7001), which opened two weeks ago in Cary, you'll find all the usual suspects: 19 TV screens (including three on the patio), 21 beers on tap, and a menu that covers all the pub grub basics, from loaded nachos to burgers. Less common are the smoke-free dining room and bar and an offering that's liberally sprinkled with offbeat treats such as German style currywurst, 3-C fritters (conch, clam and corn), Scotch egg and short rib burger. Owners Daniel and Janet Perry, who also own Daniel's Italian restaurants in Apex and Fuquay-Varina, plan to add flatbreads to the menu in the coming weeks.

On the southern outskirts of Cary, another restaurateur who built his reputation in pizza and pasta has opened Tony C's Pizzeria & Sports Pub (3460 Ten Ten Road; 267-5210). Gianni Cinelli named the restaurant for his son, an avid fan of sports and Italian food. In gratitude to the many doctors who have treated Tony C's multiple diagnoses, Dad is donating 5 percent of net proceeds to children's health charities. The restaurant's walls are covered in sports memorabilia, and a large part of the menu is devoted to the likes of chicken parmigiana, homemade lasagna and the pizzas familiar to fans of area Cinelli's pizzerias. There's even an Italian accent to the pub fare, which includes house-made deep-fried mozzarella, fried calamari and nachos Italiano. The offering also includes a selection of certified Angus steaks and burgers.

Meanwhile in Apex, Kyle Stembridge has completed repairs and renovations to Sparks, a sports pub that was closed last November by an electrical fire -- a sadly notable reason for closing, to be sure, given the restaurant's name. Still, Stembridge is sticking with the name, though he has tweaked it to reflect the menu's new focus: Sparks Wings & Ribs (5490 Apex Peakway; 303-0074; www.sparkswingsandribs.com).

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