In the locker room at Break Away Sports Center in Fitchburg, I overheard two women talking about heading out to nearby Namio’s after a recent soccer game.
One woman looked quizzically at the other. “I think it’s called Funk’s now,” she said.
Yes, it’s been Funk’s Pub since Jeff and Jenny Funk bought the business late last summer, revamped the menu, and started bringing in live music.
It’s not surprising, though, that there is confusion about the bar and restaurant located in a commercial center off McKee Road. It was originally Byrd’s Pub & Grill, then Namio’s Sports Pub.
There are entrances on two sides, and the airbrushed Funk’s signs look tacky or cool depending on your relationship to the 1980s.
Funk’s was crowded early on New Year’s Eve when we stopped in. The main room has a long bar and is all tall tables, while the back area has wooden booths and more comfortable low tables and chairs. The stars suspended from the ceiling in the back area are a playful touch.
The beer list, written colorfully on a round chalkboard, is good enough with a number of local favorites.
Meanwhile, the broad food menu features all the usual suspects with a long list of burgers that can all be made with chicken instead of beef (the chef, John Mlodzik, tells me the steak patties are a mix of black Angus and ground chuck).
Start with Funk’s signature roasted red pepper soup ($3.50 for a cup), which was smooth and creamy, but not overly so. It had small carrot and celery chunks and was topped with basil strips (if you want to be fancy, the menu describes this as a basil chiffonade). My 8-year-old daughter, who normally won’t eat soup — or red peppers — scarfed it down.
Another must-have is the deep-fried green beans ($4.99), a nice twist on the usual deep-fried fare and perfectly prepared. The chipotle ranch sauce on the side complemented them well.
The nachos, on the other hand, were nothing special. Fortunately we got just a half order ($4.99). Tri-colored tortilla chips were covered with a runny, cream-based cheese sauce instead of the expected melted jack or cheddar cheeses. They were topped by a restrained amount of black olives, tomato chunks and jalapeno slices. Sour cream and salsa came on the side.
My vegetarian friend’s grilled veggie wrap ($8.99) was also a bit lackluster. It had grill marks on the tortilla and a great mix of moist vegetables, but the promised basil pesto wasn’t pronounced if it was even there, and we couldn’t tell that the tortilla was the touted “garlic herb.” But that’s often the case with flavored tortillas, I’ve found.
“I’m not loving it, but I’m not hating it,” my friend said, adding, “I probably wouldn’t order it again.”
He thought about getting the walnut burger until he learned that the patty was not homemade.
Better was the Mexicali Jack chicken sandwich ($9.99) prepared with a flattened and juicy chicken breast, pepper jack cheese, jalapenos and avocado. It was served with leaf lettuce, tomato and sliced onion, but the bun was crying for condiments. That chipotle ranch sauce would’ve done the trick here.
The child’s cheeseburger ($4.99) was made with the same high-quality beef Chef Mlodzik told me about on the phone.
All sandwiches come with either pub chips, sweet-potato fries or regular fries. The hand-cut pub chips — paper-thin potato chips — were outstanding. Also worthwhile were the sweet potato fries, which were medium-thick, but flat. The regular fries were perfectly fine, but seemed rather ordinary in contrast to the other two types of potatoes.
When I talked to Jeff Funk in August, just before Funk’s opened, he promised to install a gigabit Ethernet connection a la Google Fiber that would be the fastest Wi-Fi in the area. To test it out, I had my daughter bring her iPod Touch, but she didn’t think it was downloading apps any quicker than it does at home.
In a phone conversation later, Funk said he still intends to get the fast connection, but has to wait until the ground thaws. What he has now is a 100-megabit connection, or one-tenth of what it will be.
Between the roasted red pepper soup, the hand-cut pub chips and the chance to test out lightning quick Wi-Fi, we’ll be back after the thaw.