The Wing in Review: Champions
Champions is a brand new sports bar in the Copley mall in Boston’s Back Bay. Brand new may be slightly misleading…it is actually a re-opening of the original Champions in the same location but one floor up. To anyone (like me and Sasso) who used to frequent the old Champions, it may as well be an entirely different bar. Better or worse? Depends on what you’re looking for.
The old Champions was definitely showing its age. It was dark, cramped and the floors looked older than the parquet at the old Boston Garden. If memory serves, they still had those old tube TVs that you see in homeless shelters . It wasn’t much to look at and you wouldn’t have brought a date there but it was a great place for a game and some good, fried bar food.
The new Champions is completely overhauled and now targets the young urban professional as much as the diehard Boston sports fanatic. The beer and liquor selection has been expanded and is now very impressive with a little something for everyone. Champions boasts 36 beers on tap, and a dozen or so others on the menu complete with their country of origin and a brief description. Rows of high end liquor bottles line back wall, including enough single malt scotch to make Dizzle forget about all of his troubles. They kept none of the decor from the old Champions. It is now very open and very spacious with high ceilings and an incredibly modern look except for a cool Red Sox mosaic on one of the dining room walls. And TVs, 44 of them to be exact - all flat screen except for one. Hung 30-feet above the bar is a TV projector that shoots games onto a 12 by 24 foot screen opposite the bar. Although we were sold at the first sight of a swimming pool sized TV, we figured since we were there we may as well rate some wings.
We first smelled Buffalo wings from a group two tables away, which was a good sign of things to come. $8.95 for a dozen is right on track as long as they are medium-to-large in size. Champions offers mild, medium and hot Buffalo wings with cutesy names that frankly elude me. Thankfully the waiter didn’t even try to correct me when I ordered ”medium wings with a side of hot sauce” unlike the elitists at Starbucks who are still trying to convince me that Tall means small and Venti means medium. But I digress.
My first impression of the wings was…where are they? All I see is whole stalks of celery and giant carrots. Don’t get me wrong, I like vegetables – but if it is Buffalo wing night, I am foregoing any hope of nutrition and therefore have no use for such garnishes. After depositing the produce on Sasso’s plate, I hit paydirt. A dozen wings sized large to extra large, slightly dry but sitting atop a good puddle of sauce and presented very impressively. I was further impressed with my first bite. I always start with forearm since the sauce to meat ratio is nice and high, and this forearm was crunchy, meaty and spicy all in one. In the interest of full-disclosure, I was nursing a pretty nasty hangover from the Sox game the night before and this was the first real food I had eaten all day. But Sasso agreed with my assessment so it was more than just the hangover talking.
We always try to describe sauces using the holy trinity of Buffalo wing sauce – vinegar, butter and Cayenne pepper – Amen! Champions “medium” wings have a high level of Cayenne pepper and vinegar without much butter. Although they kicked up the pepper a bit for the “hot” sauce, I still tasted about as much vinegar as pepper. By the end of the night, I was dipping my fries in the “hot” sauce without even breaking a sweat. Although tasty and crispy, they were not as hot as I would have liked.
Pros: Large wings, cooked perfectly with delicious sauce. The other apps that we sampled were amazing, especially the soft pretzels with cheese sauce. Our waiter seemed to know all of the beers off the top of his head and recommended a great one that we had never heard of - Sam Adams Brick House Red. The size and openness of the bar itself means you aren’t going to be cramped and it is never too noisy. Finally, 44 televisions showing baseball, hockey, soccer, golf, pickup truck racing, etc. (We didn’t know people actually raced pickup trucks but apparently so.)
Cons: Our biggest complaint was that the bathroom was outside the bar, 100 or so feet down the hall. What is that about? Also, we couldn’t figure out what the side-sauce was. It seemed like Ranch with herbs in it, but we weren’t sure. Blue cheese dressing, please. Finally, although Sasso disagrees, I think that the “hot” sauce could have been hotter. If I am dipping my fries in it, it should be labeled medium. Note from Sasso: Avoid the chicken tenders at all costs,”They were really gross.“ Sasso was all excited for the Kung Pao style “Dragon Tenders,” but they were over fried and almost inedible.
We recommend Champions’ wings to wing lovers who want to watch the game in a nicer, upscale bar. The vibe during big games is lively to say the least, but even after work on a Thursday it was still bustling. Though technically the hotel bar for the Boston Marriott Copley Place, Champions is worth checking out whether you’re a local Bostonian looking for a place to catch a game or an out of towner killing some time before your convention.