Onward Tastes: Downtown Champs
The newest addition to the downtown bar scene, Champs’ second location provides a much-needed true sports bar within walking distance of downtown. The local staple opened its doors for the Santa Crawl last month, so we sent four of our writers to check out what the new Allen Street location had to offer.
Champs feels like a breath of fresh air in a downtown bombarded with a lot of crowded bars. It’s clean, pristine, and there are roughly 7,000 TVs. I can now watch virtually any sporting event I want downtown. I had a rum and coke and although you can’t really mess that up, it was in a (gasp) actual glass cup. I had the chicken fingers because I’m a toddler, and I loved them. They were served with homemade ranch dressing. There’s a bar area with some sort of ambient lighting that really impacts the atmosphere, booths, and tables. I think I mentioned how spacious it is at least seven times to the people I went with. The Kanye Saquon 2020 poster really sealed the deal for me. It just seems like more of a refined place than the usual downtown scene. I’m impressed, and I can picture myself coming here quite often.
For fajita enthusiasts and cheddar bite aficionados, it was a sad and dark day on May 9, 2015 when Chili’s closed its doors for good in State College. Personally, not being able to color on their children’s menus was the final nail in the coffin, but now Penn State students can rejoice and regroup from the insufferable loss of Chili’s and direct their attention to Champs.
Upon entering the new establishment, Champs offers an open floor plan with TVs on all sides of the walls to give its patrons the ultimate sports experience. Any sports game or match that you want to watch, Champs has it. Want to watch the Ping Pong World Championship? They will find it. With multiple different sporting events playing simultaneously, it’s hard not get your whole sports intake for the amount of time that it takes you to eat.
Because Champs is still in its infancy as a restaurant downtown, the menu is limited to sandwiches and typical bar food. The full menu will be available in the upcoming weeks. However, from a chicken tender standpoint, the taste was pretty spot on, and Champs’ ranch could easily give your favorite ranch a run for its money.
Overall, it’s a good addition to the downtown restaurant scene. To help the depression we endured from Chili’s closing, Champs makes for a good successor and will easily become the go-to place for watching your favorite sporting event.
I headed out to Champs on a Wednesday night, and I was surprised that it lacked the hustle and bustle of a downtown State College bar. Not that the lack of customers was necessarily a bad thing, but the atmosphere was much quieter than I anticipated heading into the restaurant.
To be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of Champs. I think the menu options are pretty limited, and usually the food itself is merely average. That being said, I was impressed with the downtown Champs more than any other Champs I’ve been to before. I ordered a Clubhouse — turkey, bacon, and provolone hoagie with lettuce, mayo, oil, and spices — and really enjoyed the sandwich. Being that I consider myself a sandwich connoisseur, that’s saying something.
Overall, Champs is a solid place to grab a bite to eat. I may not be in a hurry to rush back, but it’s certainly a spot I wouldn’t hate checking out again in the future.
The new downtown version of Champs Sports Grill was extremely impressive, aside from my initial assumption. Coming into this task, I was pretty skeptical on the bar being any different than every other Champs I’ve had the “pleasure” to try out. To be honest, I never really liked any of them. The food was mediocre, and I could never order a drink because every other time I offered Champs my patronage, I’ve been underage.
Let me tell you, after ordering an amber glass of ale and taking my first sip, my opinion about the whole spot completely changed. I was in awe, not only because I was pouring beautiful, bronze liquid down my throat, but also because there had to be at least 100 televisions staring back at me. It’s a sports lover’s paradise. And don’t get me started about the chicken fingers.
Since it just opened, Champs is working on a limited menu until it gets all of its equipment in, so I was crunched for entrée options. However, the wonderfully battered, salacious tenders gave me the fuzziest feeling in my stomach. What’s even better is the house-made, buttery ranch sauce that’s served on the side. If it wasn’t hella weird, I’d drink it on its own through a straw. Seriously, order them, you’ll thank me later.
No one was more excited than me to see a Champs come to downtown State College. It can be impossible sometimes to find a bar with the game on at times. Aside from that, the Champs on Atherton Street is one of my favorite places in town — the beer menu rivals anywhere, and I’ve never had a bad meal there.
Suffice it to say, the TV issue is gone. The downtown Champs has 26 surrounding the spacey establishment. It even made me a bit nauseous with the NFL playoff game playing on every single screen.
It was impossible to really judge the place — my menu had Day 2 written at the top of it. There are only 5 beers on tap (none of them any good) and the food menu is confined to a one page printout (although the chicken tenders were top notch). Assuming this place develops into a closer iteration of the Atherton Street location — good beer, expansive food menu — it should be a downtown staple for watching the game.