This restaurant is CLOSED
The former Gratzi location at the Town Center mall has been transformed from cozy Italian villa with virtual fireplace to sparsely decorated sports bar with 137 televisions and is now home to Half Time Sports Bar & Grill. Ok, it might not be exactly 137 because I did not count them, but I know there were a lot. The “fireplace room” now has a pool table in it. There was a cardboard stand-up of a NASCAR driver greeting people as they wait for the hostess to walk you to your seat. Despite all this, the decor was merely ‘okay’ in my opinion.
Guys may feel their website is more than merely’okay’, though, due to effective use of cleavage and fishnet on female “referees”. If you hit refresh, you can enjoy the intro all over again. Your beer won’t be delivered to your table by one of those ladies, however, and that’s not the uniform for the servers. Instead they wear different team shirts. If you’re looking for scantily clad waitstaff, go to Hooters.
The lighting is weird. In a bad-weird kind of way. We were seated in the large room to the right of the hostess desk and the entrance to the patio is through that area. There was so much bright light coming through the large window, it was hard to see inside. Severe lights and shadows were created by the natural light. At first, I thought if they turned a bunch of lights on inside, it would balance out the light from the window. But then I realized I might go blind if that happened. I think the best solution to the problem is: window coverings.
I had a difficult time deciding what to order. I thought I wanted a sandwich, but none of the choices appealed to me. So then I thought an appetizer would be good and there was a long list of those. Again, nothing was appealing. I think I could purchase most of the appetizer choices at Sam’s Club in the freezer cases. Salad? no way – I rarely order a salad as an entree. So I was left with a burger, pasta or an “entree”. Most everything is priced between $8 and $10, which made my decision easier, I guess, since I wouldn’t really save much by trying to go with the cheaper options. But I feel the prices seemed high at first glance. I would wait to get the food to make up my mind on that point.
While waiting on my $9.99 Fish basket to arrive, I noticed something bad: Hunt’s ketchup. Eeeeewwwwww. I have found that there are two kinds of people in this world: Hunt’s People and Heinz People. I am a “Heinz People” all the way. I would rather not eat ketchup at all than to have to choke down some Hunts. Phil takes an even stricter stance: he doesn’t even recognize the existence of any other ketchup brand. “There is only one ketchup!” he proudly declares on a regular basis.
Misty and I agreed that one of us would try the chips and one would get the “Fresh Cut Fries” for the $1 upcharge. I do not understand why there is an upcharge. You can buy a side order of chips for $2.99. You can buy a side order of fresh cut fries for $2.99. Did you notice that the prices are the same??? Yeah, me too. When I reviewed my receipt again to write this review, I realized I was not charged for the substitution. It must have been a mistake on their part because MANY of the menu items specify the fries-substitution upcharge. (It may seem irresponsible of me not to notice that error when I paid my bill. The total was so high without the upcharge, I didn’t question whether it was included. If it had been $1 more, I might have fallen off my chair.) I will gripe more about the fries later.
I received four small rectangular battered pieces of fish, described in the menu as “four 2-oz Breaded Ale House Fish Planks”. The count and size appeared accurate. As for “breaded ale house”, the jury’s still out. They were a lot like Gorton’s that you can get at Kroger. I like Gorton’s and I liked these, too. But for $9.99??? No. I think they Sandra Lee’d them a bit to make them look more homemade. See the little green flecks in the photo below? I think it may have been parsley. Anyway, they didn’t fool me. No way was that fish breaded in the back with any kind of Ale.
I don’t eat coleslaw so this didn’t matter to me, but the “signature coleslaw” was very small. Signature coleslaw is on the list of sides you can order a la carte for $2.99. I sure hope the a la carte portion is larger. (As you can see in the photo, it was barely larger than the tartar sauce cup. Tartar sauce is in the rear, left corner of the red plastic basket lined with red checkerboard paper and coleslaw is in the near, right corner.)
A side note about the menu: I really like that they indicate the number of pieces you will receive on each item. For example: 12 mini corn dogs, 15 pretzel bites, 8 jalapeno poppers. You get the idea.
Now back to griping about the fries:
They lied to me.
“Fresh Cut” means homemade, in my opinion. Homemade means someone is peeling and cutting real potatoes in the restaurant’s kitchen, also in my opinion. But I didn’t rely on my personal definitions and assumptions. The menu states many times that the fries are “homemade”. But I didn’t just rely on the menu, either. I even asked our server if the fries were homemade and she responded “yes”. When I first laid eyes on them I knew I had been taken. Bamboozled. Deceived. There is no way those fries were made in the kitchen beyond opening a bag of frozen seasoned fries and dumping them into hot oil. I guess next time I will have to ask the question differently. Perhaps something like: “are there actual raw potatoes in the kitchen that are then peeled and cut in same said kitchen??? Yes, or no????”
Even though Half Time lies about the nature of these fries, I liked them. I like fries in general and the seasoning spiced them up a bit. I rarely meet a fry I don’t like. There is also a light batter coating them to increase crispiness. The chips were better though. And I think charging an extra dollar for faux homemade fries is ridiculous, especially when they are priced the same if purchased a la carte.
So let’s recap: I got 4 2-0z pre-made frozen fish pieces and a good-sized portion of pre-made frozen fries and a ramekin of coleslaw that I seriously doubt was made in the kitchen, either, even though the term “Signature” would lead one to believe it is indeed homemade, for $9.99 + the $1 substitution upcharge = $10.99. I could have had lunch at Tidewater for that. When you add the soda for $2.29, my total bill was $13.02 before tip, but should have been $14.08 had they not made a mistake. The Fresh Seafood Company at Capitol Market gives you a very large amount of fish and fries for $6.99 AND THEIR FISH IS BREADED IN THEIR KITCHEN.
Half Time is the kind of restaurant someone with no cooking skills could operate. You buy all the products already made and frozen. It’s all reheating and assembling. Half Time is not a dining destination. You might have a drink after work, meet some friends there, or watch a game – and happen to get hungry and order some food while you’re there. Oh, and pay too much for it.
TWO FORKS is all I can muster.
P.S. I called the restaurant two days after my meal there and asked to speak to a manager. I was on hold for 7 minutes and gave up. And yes, I made sure to call during midday, in between the lunch and dinner crowds. I called back and said I had some questions about the menu, could I speak to someone who could help me? Apparantly, that was the individual who answered the phone. So I asked if the french fries are homemade. He said they used to be, but they aren’t anymore. But they are seasoned and good. So then I asked about the fish and he said that it was not battered in the restaurant. Then I inquired about the shrimp – nope, that’s not hand-breaded like the menu claims, either. He went so far as to say that all the things are received in the store “already made”. ‘Nuf said, I rest my case.
When we walked into Half Time, I have to say, I was disappointed. I loved the décor at Gratzi and it is all gone. No fireplace, no linen table cloths, no curvy booth, no fancy light fixtures to make you think you were dining al fresco in Italy (not that you really felt that way…but you get my point). Half Time has completely redone the place including painting the walls bright blue and gold and putting up university flags. It went from Classy like a sophisticated Milan luxury shopping excursion to Classy like a trip to the school gym.
The place was packed when we arrived. The hostess was very pleasant and quickly cleaned off one of the only tables that were empty and then seated us. I scanned the menu and just like Susan, I had a hard time figuring out what I wanted. I did have a few laughs at the clever names that they called some of the dishes (like “Not in Our House Nachos”). I finally decided on the “Suck it up Shrimp Basket- 8 savory hand breaded butterflied shrimp with Saratoga chips”.
We only waited a short time before our food arrived. HUMMM…the shrimp looked like the SeaPak butterfly shrimp I buy at Walmart and make at home. I obviously like them, or I wouldn’t buy them at the store…but it is not what I expected from the description or from a restaurant. And certainly not for $9.99. I could buy a whole box of these for about the same price and have them for dinner 2 or 3 nights for my whole family.
They tasted about the same as the SeaPak shrimp, too. Just like fried shrimp from a box. They were pretty large, crispy and hot…but, I was not impressed.
(After typing this and then reading Susan’s review, the above two paragraphs are very similar in both. I decided to leave it alone because it adds emphasis to our point. Two people independantly having the same thought, Coincidence? I think not! )
However, I did like the Saratoga chips. They were very crunchy with some kind of light seasoning on them. In fact, I decided to eat all my chips and left 3 shrimp on my plate. And for those who know me…I NEVER leave shrimp or any type of seafood on my plate.
I tried Susan’s fries, too. They were not very hot and not very crispy. Kinda Blah. I can’t believe there was $1.00 up charge for them. The chips, in my opinion, were much better.
As for the coleslaw, I didn’t try it. I only like coleslaw on my hot dogs and bar-b-ques. But it looked just OK, too.
Two other items worth mentioning. There was a deduction for Hunts Ketchup… But an upgrade for the Pepsi Products!
If I ever go back, I will try one of the sandwiches. I saw several people eating them and they looked pretty good. Large soft sub bun loaded with meat, cheese, and toppings.
I give Half Time- TWO FORKS.
Click on the Thumbnails for a full-size version of each menu page.Half Time Sports Bar and Grill #1119 Charleston Town Center 304-341-0190