Thursday, June 22, 2006
I’m staring at the one of the most famous—and most beautiful—tee shots on the planet: the par-three seventh hole at Pebble Beach. This little 106-yard legend in golf landscaping dives downhill and out onto its own perfectly-manicured peninsula of bunker and green. Its gorgeous aesthetics deserve worship. Its dangerous elements demand respect. But all I can think about is chicken—a birdie sandwich, with bacon and avocado. And a cold draft beer.
But that’s only natural. Golf, good grub and sudsy ones coexist wonderfully from this view of the sixth green at Kinger’s Klubhouse in Carmel, offering golfers—or anyone in search of a welcoming local sports bar and grill—a sweet spot. On one of Kinger’s walls, between two brand-new flat screen TVs showing the NBA playoffs, is a big detailed mural of that seaside seventh at Pebble; on my plate is a Chicken Club Sandwich ($10.25); in my hand is a Corona ($4).
Décor is a key club in the sports-bar bag, responsible for helping set a comfortable and appropriately sporty mood, and Kinger’s golf-centric theme works, with framed pictures of other amazing holes—from St. Andrew’s, Augusta, Spyglass and Cypress Point—sprinkled on the walls around the big look at Number Seven. Brown walls, crisp white trim, hardwood floors, and a number of big paned windows looking out on San Carlos and Fourth give the bar a clean, uncluttered feel.
Local duffers can unwind after a round up the coast at the 12-seat L-shaped black walnut bar, gather around solid-wood circular tables, or surround a long wooden island at the center of the small establishment.
But a sports bar worth its sauce requires other key players besides decoration—sturdy pub fare, friendly service, good beer, and, ideally, games—to approach championship caliber. At Kinger’s the food element is a winner, packaged in golf vernacular. Offerings are grouped in bundles like Tee It Up (appetizers including Beer-Battered Calamari, $6.95, and Kinger’s Coconut Shrimp, $9.25); The Greens (Chicken Tostada Salad, $8.95, or a Tossed Cobb, $8.75, among them); Approach Shot (soups, including their creamy house chowder, $3.95-$5.95); and The Back Nine (hand-cut aged rib-eye steaks that run $18.95/12 oz., $20.95/16 oz., and $22.95/20 oz.). There are also big half-pound burgers ($8.25-$10.75) in the Burger Gallery. Rosie, a local teacher and burger expert who accompanied me on a Friday to perpetuate her weekly burger tradition, dug their homemade girth and grilled flavor.
And, yes, the chicken sandwich was distractingly good, with superb smoky character owed to their charcoal grill in the kitchen, melted jack subbed for swiss, plenty of avocado, and surprisingly savory artisan bread. The Fish ‘n’ Chips ($10.95) I took a shot at during my second round at Kinger’s was bountiful, with a flavorful beer batter and crisp ‘n’ pudgy steak fries, though the cod wasn’t as fresh as it might’ve been.
The people at Kinger’s impressed: the gregarious Kevin King—whose golf buddies call him Kinger—was making the circuit on my first visit, cracking self-deprecating jokes and noting that he seeks to cultivate a place for everyday folks, not the rich and famous, to hang out and feel comfortable. Kinger’s spirited wife Nicole is also a staple behind the bar, doing much to perpetuate Kinger’s kick-back atmosphere. Longtime local server Megan, equal parts charm and attentiveness, did very well on my scorecard on both visits.
The roster of beers is healthy, with eight on tap, including Coors Light ($2 all day), Gordon Biersch, Ramsay’s Fat Lip from English Ales, Harp and Guinness ($4.75/pint; $1 off during happy hour), and another 12 in bottles. Like any self-respecting sports bar, there’s no foo-foo specialty drinks—a built-in protection for those unaware of the rule that just one girly drink after 18 with the boys means forever being remembered as the guy who drinks girly drinks. And there’s a selection of Kendell Jackson wines than run $6.50 to $7.50 for a glass and $22 to $28 for a bottle.
A final key player on this golf squad, however, is their in-house game: dice. This guarantees that a noble game can always be had at any time of day, and that the camaraderie of competition can extend beyond the 18th. Nicole says “Boss” and “Liar’s Dice” are the dice disciplines of choice. I say this sports joint is on its game.
San Carlos and Fourth, Carmel • 11:30am-midnight; kitchen open until 10pm • 624-2476.