Some restaurants downtown and around the entertainment district say they are changing up their menus, staying open later and offering shuttle service and specials to cash in on the 80,000-plus tourists flocking to town for the upcoming NCAA Men’s Final Four.
The college basketball semifinals and the championship game, set for Saturday and Monday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, are expected to break previous attendance records, officials said. That’s welcome news to restaurant owners hoping to rake in extra sales from hungry university alumni groups and basketball fans.
“On game days, it gets kind of crazy. We fill up pretty quickly,” said Eddie Deen, owner of Eddie Deen’s Crossroads Smokehouse on north Collins Street.
Deen said his restaurant, which has an outdoor beer garden with views of the stadium capable of seating about 3,000, will stay open later during the weekend and will open up Monday, a day they are usually closed, for the championship game.
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Deen said the restaurant has already confirmed about 800 people for a private party on Saturday, Deen said. At least 1,000 pounds of brisket, 500 pounds of smoked sausage and 500 racks of ribs are planned for that day alone, he said.
“We will be cooking fresh every day for the crowds,” Deen said.
At Lincoln Square, Olenjack’s Grille is not only offering drink and food specials but has created new menu items as well. Basketball fans can chose from dishes such as the $10 Ode to the Burger, a beef burger that features bacon jam, gooey cheese sauce and butter lettuce, or a $24, 12-ounce ribeye steak topped with Gorgonzola Grape Tomato Relish, chef Ryan Gallagher said.
Basketball fans who spend at least $40 at Lincoln Square shops and restaurants can leave their receipt on their dash to park at the shopping center for free during the games. Olenjack’s offers a free shuttle services to and from AT&T Stadium for its diners as well.
“Just come into the restaurant, eat and grab and drink and then get on the shuttle.” Gallagher said. “We drive you over to the stadium and then pick you up and bring you back after the game is over. People really seem to like that.”
The Fishbone Grill and Oyster Bar at 816 N. Collins is the official tailgating destination for University of Kentucky fans Saturday and Monday, a restaurant representative said.
Downtown Arlington restaurants farther away from the stadium are also hoping to score big in food sales.
J. Gilligan’s Bar & Grill owner Randy Ford said he has reached out to alumni groups for the four universities to let them know about his restaurants private party accommodations, free parking and $8 shuttle service.
“Even if we are not game day headquarters, there are still a tremendous amount of people to serve,” said Ford, who said his restaurant sees hundreds of extra guests during Dallas Cowboys home games, college football games, concerts and other events at AT&T Stadium.
“That stadium has been the greatest thing in the world for J. Gilligan’s.”