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Dupont Bar & Grill
** 1/2
Out of a possible five

Sports bar scores big with wings, tenderloin

Sometimes it is not the size of the bar or its popularity that make a good choice. Sometimes it is just the circumstance.

When a buddy informed me recently that our favorite NFL team was not going to be on local TV, we chose a place close to both of us to watch the game and have a little food and spirits.

Dupont Bar & Grill proved to be a good place to do it, too, as we had a good time and some good food.

Despite its name, the bar has a Leo Road address and is part of the Leo Crossing shopping complex. It may not be as big as some of the chain spots or as flashy as some of the newer places in town, but it had an NFL package and plenty of TVs – eight behind the bar, four more in the corners of the room and a theater-style one near the front tuned to the Colts (not my team). Booths line the wall adjacent to the bar, so I could sit there and survey those eight screens like a security guard working the overnight shift at a top-secret weapons plant.

It has the usual bar fare – wings, sandwiches, pizza – but both my visits were kicked off with wonderful Bloody Marys. The dark red beauties had plenty of spice – after giving my OK for the heat when asked by my server – and included lime and olives. If you ask, they will throw a fresh, crispy celery stalk or dill pickle spear in it, too.

They went great with Dupont Bar & Grill’s wings, which also brought some heat to the table. The sweet heat – a mix of teriyaki and hot Buffalo sauce – had just the right mix of the two to make them, indeed, sweet and hot. The ones I tried with just hot sauce were hotter, of course, but that level of heat was just what I would expect from a “hot” wing – not crazy hot, but enough to fire up the crowd.

All of the wings were of good size, were fried until crisp and stayed crisp even though the bar went heavy with the sauce, which is something I appreciated. The only drawback was that there was an up-charge for splitting the sauces on my 12 wings – something I just don’t understand even though many places do it – and that I was not offered ranch or bleu cheese with my hot wings.

If wings aren’t your go-to bar snack, surely nachos are, and Dupont’s version was a touchdown for sure.

The tortilla chips were loaded with nicely seasoned and not too spicy ground beef, lettuce, tomato, onion, black olives, sour cream and either nacho cheese sauce or grated Colby-jack cheese. Or, if you want, you can have both cheeses, which I did, and it was a good idea as the chewy, melted Colby-jack and oozing nacho provided textural contrast.

The breaded pork tenderloin at Dupont Bar & Grill has long had a reputation as one of the best around, and it pretty much lived up to that hype. It was big on the plate in true old-school tenderloin fashion, but the meat was still plenty thick and juicy. The coarse breading had flecks of black pepper and other seasonings to give it some zip, and I enjoyed every morsel. It was easily one of the best around 10 years ago or so when I first tried it, but there are many new ones I find to be a bit better now. Still, this one easily ranked as All-Pro.

The hand-breaded fish sandwich was a respectable role player. It was a big fillet of whitefish and its breading, like the tenderloin, had visible pepper and seasoning in it which gave it some added flavor. It was crispy and not at all greasy, and the fish inside was moist, flaky and subtly sweet.

The fries on the side were your standard frozen crinkle-cut variety and were nothing to really talk about, but the coleslaw at Dupont Bar & Grill was. It was really creamy – borderline overdressed, but I liked that – and very sweet. It also had some celery seed to offset that sweetness.

The Meat Lovers pizza was a decent play but didn’t find its way to the end zone. The crust was crisp on the exterior but still soft and sort of doughy inside and had a profound yeast flavor. The sauce was rather sweet, but there was a generous amount of salty ham, bacon, sausage and spicy pepperoni to offset it.

The only item that I would punt was Dupont’s burger. The patty was rather gray, dense and obviously had been frozen. It lacked juiciness and, honestly, flavor. I had a mushroom and Swiss burger, which was an off-menu daily special, and there were not enough sautéed mushrooms to really make it special.

The service during both visits was great. My friend and I were checked on regularly, the table was kept cleared and all of the folks working there were friendly. The crowd on Sunday afternoon was also quite hospitable. Although full, it didn’t get too loud and the banter with regulars was an added bonus.

But I do have to throw some penalty flags at Dupont Bar & Grill’s atmosphere.

First and foremost was the smoke. The bar allows smoking throughout the space, and its customers took full advantage of it. Having a no-smoking section would not have helped as it was not ventilated well enough to make a difference. And, during both visits, there were a lot of flies buzzing about. I can understand a fly sneaking into a place, but when I find myself shooing them away frequently during two visits that were well spaced out, it shows that there is a problem.

Luckily, my team won, so there weren’t any problems from a fan standpoint. And if smoke doesn’t bother you, I don’t think you will have a problem with Dupont Bar & Grill, either.

Restaurant: Dupont Bar & Grill

Address: 10336 Leo Road

Phone: 483-1311

Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Monday through Saturday; 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday

Cuisine: American

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: Full bar

Smoking status: Smoking throughout

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: No; 21-and-over only

Menu: Wings ($4.99 for 6; $7.99 for 12), burger ($6.99), tenderloin ($6.59), Meat Lovers pizza ($12.59 small; $14.59 large), nachos ($6.99 full; $4.99 half)

Rating breakdown: Food: * 1/2 (3-star maximum); atmosphere: 0 (1 maximum), service: * (1 maximum)

Note: Restaurants are categorized by price range: $ (less than $20 for three-course meal), $$ ($20-$29); $$$ ($30-$39), $$$$ ($40-$49), $$$$$ ($50 and up).

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at rduvall@jg.net; call at 461-8130. DuVall’s past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.