Few topics ignite more passionate debate than sports and barbecue. The two incendiary subjects happily converge at Pacer's Ribhouse, a bustling downtown sports bar where fans cheer on their teams, commiserate over losses, and savor wings, barbecued ribs, and pulled pork covered with Pacer's legendary sauce.
"It's smoky and tangy and not overly sweet" says Pacer's general manager Jennifer Radcliff.
The most popular menu items are BBQ Spare Ribs and Babyback Ribs, slow-cooked and coated with that famous sauce; and the Pulled Pork served on toasted, cheesy garlic bread.
"It's delicious," says Radcliff, a restaurant-industry veteran who started out waiting tables at the original Pacer's in Euclid.
The menu also features a BBQ Burger with American cheese, and soups, salads, and sandwiches, including a Veggie Wrap. The Broiled Tilapia, with Cajun or lemon pepper rub, has become a word-of-mouth favorite. "People are just loving it," Radcliff says.
Building on their success in Euclid, the owners opened the downtown Cleveland location in April of 2010, completely remodeling the former Scorcher's on East 12th Street.
"Euclid is more of a restaurant that has a bar, and here we're more of a sports bar that has great food," Radcliff says. There is also a separate dining room for family gatherings and celebrations.
While anyone can put some TVs in a bar and call it a sports bar, success takes commitment. "You have to have food choices your neighbor doesn't have, and commit to your hours," Radcliff explains. "We'll let you in that door until 2 a.m., so you have late-night choices here."
That commitment extends to the presence of 27 TVs. "We have the games broadcast on the TV, but also have the sound available, so people can really get into the game," she says.
Sunday afternoons are sacred — especially during football season — and so are Monday and Thursday nights, as well as Saturday afternoons for Ohio State games. And every year, Pacer's hosts a big Super Bowl party.
Situated in the heart of downtown and offering the hearty food and sports-friendly atmosphere Clevelanders love, Pacer's is positioned to benefit from downtown's ongoing renaissance, including the nearby medical mart and casino projects.
"This is the exciting place to be," says Radcliff. "I see Cleveland like our sports teams. We've worked and worked and we haven't seen that championship yet, but I really think it's coming.
"I'm very excited about the changes."