By Arthur Bovino

Whether on the gridiron, hardwood, diamond, or ice, athletes raise our hopes, and in crucial moments, dash and fulfill our dreams. Some cement fame and glory by following through on guarantees. Others fall, get backpage bullied, and live accepting they never won a ring. Whatever their success in the record books, many gridiron heroes and ballpark messiahs have splashed their names on a dining establishment that also serves as a shrine to their athletic glory. But there's not necessarily a correlation between winning and ability to open a great restaurant.

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Slideshow: Best Athlete-Owned Restaurants

Last year, The Daily Meal evaluated the 10 best athlete-owned restaurants in America, looking at restaurants owned or invested in by boxers, golfers, skateboarders, hockey players, quarterbacks and basketball legends. For most, the formula is pretty standard: Generic pub food, lots of TVs, even more memorabilia covering the walls, and always, always, spinach artichoke dip. The only thing usually missing is the athlete.

Don't expect to spot Brett Favre greeting guests at his steakhouse in Green Bay. And what about say, for instance, Michael Jordan's The Steak House N.Y.C.? The web site may claim that the restaurant was "designed to reflect Michael's sense of taste and style," but the way its representatives respond to the most innocent of questions about His Airness' basic involvement lead you to the conclusion that the only connection to him is a name licensing one.

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But the reality is that whether or not the athlete is there, or even regularly involved, there are athlete-owned restaurants that put out popular food -- and some of it's even good. On the West Coast, skateboarder Tony Hawk has invested in a restaurant that's kitchen is run by a James Beard Foundation "California Chef of the Year." Meanwhile NFL quarterback Vince Young not only has a steakhouse in Austin, but also supplies his own brand of smoked meat to area grocery stores.

Last year's list of the 10 best athlete-owned restaurants brought many comments and suggestions about other great places owned by sports stars (including nominations like Rusty's, Johnny Unitas' Golden Arm Restaurant, and Jared Allen's Sport Arena and Grill, that, unfortunately, are no longer open). So it's time to take another look, a longer look -- to reevaluate the rankings and see which jock-invested joints should be included on an expanded list of the country's best athlete-owned restaurants.

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To determine this year's champs we investigated reader suggestions, evaluated local reviews, tallied popular rating sites, and scoured menus for more than 35 athlete-owned restaurants across the country to narrow the list to just the 20 best. This year's list includes steakhouses, Southern specialists, barbecue joints, sports grills, high-end dining, and Chinese restaurants that are owned, or partially owned, by athletes. Check out the slideshow for all the details.

Best Athlete-Owned Restaurants Slideshow


14. Fred & Steve's Steakhouse, Lincoln, R.I.

Fred Smerlas (nose tackle with the Bills, 49ers, and Patriots) and Steve DeOssie (linebacker, long snapper, and former Cowboy, Giant, and Patriot) opened their steakhouse, Fred & Steve's Steakhouse,in the Twin River Casino in 2007. House specialties on the self-described "wicked good menu" include sweet creamed corn off the cob with pancetta, smothered cubanelle peppers, lobster mac and cheese with truffle oil, and "tobacco onions."


13. Brett Favre's Steakhouse,
Green Bay

Packers replacement Aaron Rodgers has already cemented his reputation among cheeseheads, but Brett Favre's Steakhouse still continues to pull in the regulars. The restaurant is filled with Packers memorabilia, trophies, and personal items of the peripatetic quarterback. It's "the one place on Earth that captures the spirit of #4," notes the restaurant's website, reflecting "Brett's Southern upbringing in its menu and warm, welcoming atmosphere." Largest cuts include the 32-ounce porterhouse, Brett's Signature Steak (a 20-ounce portion of London broil seasoned with cracked pepper, and garnished with sautéed button mushrooms), and Brett's Cut (20 ounces) of Titletown's Best Prime Rib. That Southern upbringing shows itself on the menu, with items like Bayou pasta, blackened grouper, and jambalaya. And Friday nights feature perch, walleye, and all-you-can-eat cod.


12. Clyde Frazier's Wine and Dine, New York

Walt "Clyde" Frazier opened his sprawling eponymous restaurant on the far west side of Manhattan in March of 2012, and its a floor to- ceiling paean to the gregarious Knicks legend and broadcaster, with wall-to-wall photo murals and portraits, and oftentimes the man himself on hand. The bar boasts three dozen TVs, theres an oak-paneled half basketball court (in all odds the citys only one in a restaurant), and portion sizes are generous. Menu items are all over the map, from wild mushroom ravioli to blackened salmon in vanilla-bourbon butter.


11. Ditka's
Pittsburgh, Chicago, Oakbrook, Ill.

The menus at all three locations of Da Coach's steakhouses are sprinkled with references to him, but if that's not enough, take a little bit of Mike Ditka home by buying Da Coach's clothing and accessories, specialty wines, and cigars. Menu highlights include the "Fullback Size" filet mignon with spinach and onion rings, and "Da Pork Chop." The restaurant was good enough to reach the ninth spot on our list of the 25 Best Celebrity-Owned Restaurants.


10. Island Way Grill
Clearwater Beach, Fla.

The creation of businessman and restaurant-owner Frank Chivas, who partnered with former Buccaneers running back Mike "A-Train" Alstott and tight end Dave Moore, Island Way Grill boasts that it's "all about fresh fish." The site says the restaurant has its own boats, which "make daily trips to the middle grounds to bring back fresh tuna, mahi, snapper, and other local species ... If it's any fresher, it is still in the Gulf." Fish is cooked around an oak- and citrus-fired open pit.


9. Vince Young Steakhouse
Austin, Texas

Though he has struggled sticking in the NFL, quarterback Vince Young remains king in Austin for leading Texas to the NCAA national championship in 2005. A few years ago he returned to his college stomping grounds to open his first restaurant downtown. The menu specializes in beef, from short rib chili to locally sourced Texas prime grade steaks and a rich Wagyu brisket burger balanced out by briny house-made pickles.


8. Bubba's Q, Avon, Ohio

After retiring from professional football, defensive lineman Al "Bubba" Baker and his wife Sabrina opened a catering business featuring "Southern-style barbecue cuisine." Bubba's Q has since done pretty well, at least according to the accolades they list (among them Cleveland Magazine and Silver Spoon Awards for "Best Ribs" and "Best Barbecue Restaurant" from 2009 to 2011).


7. Greg Norman's Australian Grille,
Myrtle Beach, S.C.

An Australian grille in South Carolina? It might not be the first thing that comes to mind for the Southern states cuisine, but its there, set along the Intracoastal Waterway in the golfers paradise of North Myrtle Beach. From the open kitchen comes tuna sashimi crusted with sesame seeds served over a cucumber seaweed salad tossed in a plum vinaigrette, oven-roasted half duckling served with black pepper fettuccine and garnished with asparagus tips and a cherry ginger sauce, and slow-roasted 28 day-aged prime rib. The links legends signature chardonnays, rieslings, and cabernets round out the Wine Spectator Award for Excellence-recognized list of spirits.


6. Yao Restaurant & Bar, Houston

Yao Restaurant & Bar was good enough to be featured at number 19 on The Daily Meal's list of 25 Best Celebrity-Owned Restaurants. Former Houston Rockets center Yao Ming and his wife joined with friends and local restaurant owners to create a large space serving Chinese and Chinese-American food. Lettuce wraps, Peking dumplings, Kung Pao (Yao?) beef -- it's all there.


5. Short's Burger and Shine, Iowa City

Though he kicked clutch field goals for the San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins, Nate Kaeding has maintained a connection to his hometown of Iowa City, Iowa, by buying a stake in this bare-knuckle burger and beer joint. The corn-fed beef comes from Ed Smith’s Farm, just 26 miles down the road, and the craft beer comes from breweries around the state, like Old Man River. If you ever find yourself in Iowa, stop here for the Popejoy burger, a messy medley of patty meat, capicola, provolone, and muffaletta sauce.


4. Arnold Palmer's Restaurant, La Quinta, Calif.

"Taste the good life" is the tagline of Arnold Palmer's Restaurant in La Quinta, Calif. Makes sense. If anyone's living the good life, you'd think it would have to be Palmer. He won 92 national and international championships (61 of them on the regular PGA Tour), he's designed golf courses, and hey, he even invented a famous drink. Menu highlights include date and strawberry salad, honey-soy glazed Chilean sea bass, rack of lamb, and pan-seared sea scallops.


3. The Kingfish Café, Seattle

While playing for the Seattle SuperSonics in the late 1990s, former NBA point guard Gary Payton became a co-owner of this authentic Southern spot. The menu is as fun to read as the food is to eat: Sho'Nuff Fried Green Tomatoes, Hoppin' John Griddlejacks, and Down Home Mac and Cheese. Save room for dessert -- the red velvet cake layered with cream cheese frosting is a winner.


2. Tresca, Boston

Twenty-one seasons with the Boston Bruins made Ray Bourque a legend in Boston. Even though it wasn't until joining the Colorado Avalanche that he won the Stanley Cup, Bourque chose Boston as the place to open his Italian restaurant, Tresca. There's a four-course tasting menu to help you navigate choosing between crespelle, vongoline, cioppino, osso bucco, maiale Abbruzzese, and other promising and authentic dishes.


1) Elway's, Denver

In Denver, John Elway is God. The former Broncos quarterback did what few legends have done: won his second Super Bowl in 1999, retired on top, and then stayed retired.His foray into fine dininghas been equally successful. He co-owns three eponymous restaurants, one in the Ritz-Carlton in downtown Denver, one in Denver's Cherry Creek neighborhood, and a third in Vail, Colo. The steakhouse menu will please carnivores with a cavemans appetite, but skirt the standards to find the creative apps and sides, like lamb chops dipped in green chile fondue, crunchy calamari tossed with stuffed olives and cherry peppers, and truffled beet and mozzarella salad.

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