While some professional athletes have faded into the shadows after their playing days have ended, others have found a different avenue: entertaining the masses through their palates.
Travel the country east to west or north to south and you'll find anything from a legendary football coach serving up a juicy steak in Miami to a former Heisman Trophy winner dishing out barbecue in Oklahoma. Those who once perfected their craft in their chosen athletic field are now perfecting their craft on a plate.
Clyde Frazier’s Wine and Dine
Sitting less than a mile from Madison Square Garden, where the former flashy point guard worked his magic (he lead the Knicks to NBA championships in 1970 and 1973), is Clyde Frazier’s Wine and Dine. There are plenty of TVs to catch all the sports action, and, of course, what sports-themed restaurant/bar/lounge would be complete without a basketball court for visitors to shoot some hoops? 485 10th Avenue, New York, New York
Fred & Steve’s Steakhouse
There’s no gamble when you go to Fred & Steve’s Steakhouse in Lincoln, Rhode Island. Situated in the Twin Rivers Casino, former NFL stars Fred Smerlas and Steve DeOssie (who earned his Super Bowl ring as a linebacker on the 1990 New York Giants) promise farm-raised and fishermen-caught selections. Twin River Casino, 100 Twin River Road, Lincoln, Rhode Island
Shula’s Steak Houses
In 1989, Coach Don Shula, the NFL’s winningest coach—347 wins—opened the first Shula’s Steak House in Miami Lakes. Today, Shula and his son Dave have five different chains and 28 restaurants. While offering a variety of appetizers and entrées, the draw is the steak.
“Being a restaurateur is similar to being in the NFL in that you set a goal for yourself to be the best, and then you work hard at it every day and hire the best people to work with you, with everyone striving to reach that goal,” said Shula. “If you or your team allow anything less than the best, then you are cheating yourself and your customers.” 706 Miami Lakes Drive, Miami Lakes, Florida
On Jan. 11, 2008, 10 years after John Elway’s 16-year career with the Denver Broncos came to a close, the Hall of Fame quarterback opened his first restaurant with longtime friend Tim Schmidt. Today, Elway’s Downtown, inside the Ritz-Carlton Denver, is the home base of four Colorado locations including Dia, Cherry Creek and Vail. Elway's Downtown at The Ritz-Carlton, 1881 Curtis St., Denver, Colorado
Brett Favre’s SteakHouse
With a 20-year, Hall of Fame career, legendary Green Bay Packer quarterback Brett Favre has ensured his legacy lives on. Sitting just two short blocks from and in sight of Lambeau Field sits Brett Favre’s SteakHouse, which has been open for more than a decade. Relive Green Bay's glory years in the bar or dining room with Favre/Packer memorabilia while you wait for your order from an impressive lineup of meat and seafood. 1004 Brett Favre Pass, Green Bay, Wisconsin
It would be hard to attain as much success in the restaurant world as he attained in the football world, but Mike Ditka appears to be pulling it off. After all, the NFL Hall of Famer is the only person in NFL history to have won Super Bowls as a player, assistant coach and head coach. Today there are five of his brands—four in Illinois and one in Pittsburgh—that began with his upscale restaurant and bar in Chicago. Located between Rush and Michigan streets, diners eat at white linen cloth tables that sit on hardwood floors or in leather booths. The multiple award-winning restaurant offers American fare. 100 E. Chestnut, Chicago, Illinois
Long before Joe Theismann’s 12-year career with the Washington Redskins ended in 1985, Theismann had established himself on the restaurant scene. Opened almost 40 years ago and trading on his name to bring in patrons, today, Theismann's keeps 'em coming back by offering a culinary bridge for high-quality, casual dining. One of the first restaurant-bars in Virginia, fresh menu ingredients go into the varied selections. 1800A Diagonal Rd., Alexandria, Virginia
Arnold Palmer's Restaurant
Beloved golf legend Arnold Palmer may have passed away, but his spirit lives on at Arnold Palmer’s Restaurant.
Open since 2004, the restaurant is full of Palmer’s memorabilia and dining in each of the five indoor rooms—including the Masters Room—provides a special ambiance as you track his decades-long journey on the course. The menu promises New American cuisine and a mix of Palmer’s favorite comfort foods. 78164 Ave. 52, La Quinta, California
Wayne Gretzky’s Toronto
A visit to Toronto would be incomplete for any sports fan without a trip to Wayne Gretzkys’ Toronto. Along with the upscale dining room, Gretzky’s sports bar has 40 HD TVs with all sports—all the time. The Oasis Rooftop Patio is a great way to unwind from May to October, and Gretzky’s is also a haven for those going to games as it is located a half-mile from the Rogers Centre—to watch the Toronto Blue Jays—and one mile to Air Canada Centre—home of the Toronto Maple Leafs. 99 Blue Jays Way, Toronto
Greg Norman’s Australian Grille
Just one part of “The Great White Shark’s” brand, Greg Norman’s Australian Grille promises creative cuisine that compliments the harborside views.
The menu ranges from fish to steaks but the prime draw is the wine list, which landed the restaurant the Award of Excellence by Wine Spectator Magazine from 2002 to 2015. Norman gets satisfaction from pleasing his loyal and new customers and has been able to apply lessons learned being a top-flight athlete into the restaurant field.
"To be world class in anything you have to pay attention to detail and seek perfection by understanding rule No. 1: never be No. 2," said Norman. 4930 Highway 17S, North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Already a local institution, having played 21 of his 23 years in the NHL in Boston (and finishing as the Bruins longest-serving captain), Ray Bourque struck gold a decade ago with Tresca. Bourque's lauded Italian restaurant offers a stunning array of fish, meat and pasta, paired with wines from his award-winning cellar. 233 Hanover Street, Boston
While David Ortiz laced up his spikes for the last time in 2016, he’ll still have a presence in Boston—just not with the Red Sox. One of “Big Papi’s” favorite places to eat is Yvonne’s, a restaurant he's a partner in.
Yvonne’s sits where legendary Locke-Ober resided, serving Bostonians from 1862 until it closed their doors in 2012. Today, Yvonne’s, named after Locke-Ober’s members-only club, treats its diners to shared plates ranging from steak to octopus. 2 Winter Place, Boston, Massachusetts
Cheli’s Chili Bar
Location is key for Cheli’s Chili Bar, owned by former Detroit Red Wings Hall of Fame defenseman Chris Chelios. Cheli’s prime spot is across the street from Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers and just a block away from Ford Field, home to the Detroit Lions. It promises one of the best tailgates around—and with 36 flat-screen TVs, it’s hard to miss any of the action. Cheli’s also offers a free shuttle to Joe Louis Arena on Red Wings game nights. 47 E. Adams, Detroit, Michigan
Shorts Burger & Shine
Iowa City’s retail development coordinator Nate Kaeding continues to give back to his hometown, where he he attended the University of Iowa. Kaeding—a nine-year veteran of the NFL, who kicked for the San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins—remains a partner in Shorts Burger & Shine, as he’s been since 2007. Being that iconic spot in a college town—the university is just across the street—is one of the joys he gets from being part of what he calls a great team.
"We love being a part of the fabric of the community and a vibrant part of street culture," Kaeding said.
What the restaurant offers is straightforward: fresh black Angus beef from a local farmer, daily hand-cut fries and 10 draft lines devoted to Iowa craft beers and cider. 18 South Clinton St., Iowa City, Iowa
Majerle’s Sports Grill
Now with six locations, “Thunder Dan” Majerle has been making his presence felt in the restaurant scene for almost 24 years. Majerle, a former three-time NBA All Star, opened his Downtown Phoenix location in December 1992 while playing for the Phoenix Suns (who he played with for eight of his 14 seasons). The Downtown spot is a prime one during basketball and baseball season for those who want to indulge pre- or post-game festivities. It sits one block from Talking Stick Resort Arena, where the Suns play, and two blocks from Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. It also features 9 Lounge, perfect for private parties or large events. 24 N. 2nd St., Phoenix, Arizona
Billy Sims Barbecue
Among Billy Sims’ impressive achievements, the biggest might be his empire of Billy Sims Barbecue chain restaurants. In 2004, he met his business partner Jeff Jackson and they opened their first location in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Today they have nearly 50 restaurants across Oklahoma, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and Iowa. Selections include pulled pork drizzled with "Billy’s Secret Sauce" and topped with coleslaw and provolone cheese. 5225 S. Sheridan Rd., Tulsa, Oklahoma
Where he was once renown for his fierce pass rush, today Al "Bubba" Baker might be more known for his ribs. After 13 years in the NFL, the three-time Pro Bowler now is invested in his restaurant and catering service. Among the favorites at his Avon, Ohio, location is the applewood-smoked baby back ribs that are served off the bone. 820 Center Road (Route 83), Avon, Ohio
With all the Manning’s dotting the NFL landscape, let’s not forget the first one. Archie Manning was a fixture in New Orleans from 1971 to 1985 as quarterback of the Saints. Now, his Manning’s is a Harrah’s New Orleans partner in the city’s Warehouse District. The food is standard bar fare but with a Louisiana twist, such as the fried shrimp po’boy and the alligator sausage dog. As not to miss a down of play, Manning’s features 30 flat screen TVs including a 13'x7.5' mega-screen. 519 Fulton Street, New Orleans, Louisiana