Athlete plus restaurant is certainly not a new pairing. It’s become increasingly common for current and retired professional sports figures to own or invest in dining establishments. It’s a field that athletes are usually already familiar with from their playing days, and many see it as a way to stay in the entertainment spotlight while hopefully making a return on their investment. Some do little more than license their names with no intention of ever actually setting foot in the space, while others take a more hands-on approach, looking to be involved in the business as much as possible and essentially taking on the role of restaurateur.
Everyone has heard of Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse, and it’s common knowledge within the industry that John Elway’s three eponymous Colorado steak houses are some of the best athlete-owned restaurants in operation. Our goal here is to highlight a few of the lesser-known athlete endeavors in the dining world, both new and old. While a couple of these ventures are perhaps not the most conventional, they are run by big-name athletes and highlight the diversity of today’s food-minded athlete.
The Ranch Hand
Adam LaRoche (MLB)
The former Washington Nationals first baseman made news this spring by retiring with one year left on his contract, leaving $13 million on the table as a result of the team’s requesting that his teenage son spend less time in the clubhouse. With each subsequent development in the story, the public learned more about the fascinating, laid-back Kansas native. LaRoche and his wife, Jen, own a fifth-generation cattle ranch called E3 Meat Co. (complete with a tongue-in-cheek reference to a defensive miscue) in southeast Kansas, raising hormone-, steroid- and antibiotic-free, grass-fed, grain-finished cattle and selling their premium meat nationwide; the couple also features this beef at their E3 Chophouse restaurant in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Country stars Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean are among the ranch’s most vocal supporters and have become involved over the years. E3 Meat Co., PO Box 1067, Fort Scott, KS 66701, e3meatco.com; and E3 Chophouse, 701 Yampa St, Steamboat Springs, CO 80487, e3chophouse.com
The Health Nut
Ray Allen (NBA)
Smoothies and salads aren’t usually what come to mind when discussing athlete-restaurant partnerships. Yet that’s exactly what former Miami Heat sharpshooter Ray Allen is serving up with his wife, Shannon, in South Miami. Open since late March, Allen’s Grown reflects our society’s obsession with quick, healthy food, using organic, local and nutritious ingredients with the essence of a fast-food locale. Small-batch soups, salads, sandwiches and wraps are available daily and made from scratch, as are cold-pressed juices and fruit smoothies. Nutritional workshops, cooking classes and wellness demos are also on tap at the 1,900-square-foot space, which includes an urban rooftop garden. Talk about breaking the athlete-steak house stereotype, indeed! 8211 S. Dixie Hwy., Miami, FL 33143
The Industry Standard
Craig Biggio (MLB)
Sure, we may have stepped away briefly from the belief that all athletes open up steak houses or sports bars after retirement, but Houston Astros Hall of Famer Craig Biggio is here to make sure that rep sticks around for a bit longer. The former second baseman, who logged an entire 19-year career with one team, is lending his name to a two-level, memorabilia-filled sports bar set to open in downtown Houston this November, and the menu will feature “upscale bar food” in addition to craft beer, wines and cocktails. Biggio himself plans to be on hand as much as possible at the bar, which is one of six total food and beverage options at the city’s new Marriott Marquis hotel. 1777 Walker St., Houston, TX 77010