Two American icons greet patrons as they arrive at Cheerleaders Sports Bar and Grill. In the entryway to the right is a 1965 black and white photo of Muhammad Ali looming over a downed Sonny Liston, and to the left in a glass-walled garage is "Eleanor." Ali knocked out Liston in the first round of their rematch, but wanted more fight out of the former champion. Worried that people would think the bout was fixed, the photo captures Ali screaming at his fallen foe, arms at his sides, taunting Liston to get back up. "Eleanor" is one of the finest examples of what is now, sadly, an oxymoronAmerican automotive ingenuity. The Shelby GT 500E was one in a great series of Carroll Shelby-designed race-ready Mustangs built for Ford. "Eleanor" and Ali both represent subsequent iterations of the modern American sports godimpossibly strong, improbably beautiful and implacably arrogant. And our place to worship their progeny such as NASCAR and Mike Tyson is, of course, the sports bar.
Cheerleaders' interior is Eagle chiclots of dark-stained wood and earth-toned carpet. Flat panel televisions are everywhere, including tiny ones in each booth. The staff is disarmingly polite, and yes, dressed as cheerleaders and referees. Cheerleaders has an elegant full bar and outdoor seating as well. The menu options matched the restaurant's upscale environs, offering prime rib, filet mignon, trout, salmon and the usual hamburgers and chicken wings.
On my first visit I ordered a bacon cheeseburger and French fries. The fries were thin cut and crispy, which immediately qualified them as some of my favorite in town. The bacon cheeseburger possessed a delightfully smoky flavor, and the bun was toastedan uncommon, nice touch. Impressed, I returned for a more complex meal, but alasand here comes the one requisite sports analogyCheerleaders could not bat a thousand. The dinner salad was all I could ask for of a sports bar, and the basil vinaigrette dressing was unexpectedly lively. But my main course of fried halibut was dense and bland, and the accompanying medley of vegetables was predictably overcooked. After finishing my meal, I wandered over to a table of guys and asked them how they liked their lunch. They nodded and sniffed in approval of their food.
My last impression of Cheerleaders as I left was that photo of Ali in the entryway. It was snapped moments before legendary photographer Neil Leifer took his renowned photo of the triumphant champ. In Leifer's color image, Ali's right arm has come fully across his body from the side, as he exhorted the vanquished challenger to resume fighting. Muscular striations of Ali's forearm crookedly lead to the red glove that felled the once unbeatable "Bear." White spectators behind and below, Ali appears small, awestruck and even afraid. It is a far more inspiring and complete photo than the one hanging in Cheerleaders.
Waj Nasser de-seeds strawberries before eating them.
Cheerleaders Sports Bar & Grill, 287 E. Shore Dr., Eagle; Mon.-Thu.: 7 a.m.-11 p.m., Fri.: 7 a.m.-12 a.m., Sat.: 8 a.m.-12 a.m., Sun.: 8 a.m.-11 p.m.