Champs Sports Bar & Grill
Best Bar/Pub: Walworth County
There are sports bars that have a decidedly corporate feel – the décor chosen after the careful study of marketing reports, the patrons’ faces ever-changing, the food uninspired.
That is not Champs.
Champs Sports Bar and Grill has occupied the former First National Bank building at 747 W. Main St. in Lake Geneva for the past 35 years. It’s a “one-of-a-kind” sports bar, says Jes Christenson, who, with siblings Jake and Grace, are partners in the bar with their father, Greg, one of the three original owners.
The wood floor, polished wood bar and tabletops make the interior warm and inviting. The outdoor beer garden, added in 1990, hosts bands on Fridays and Sundays, and a live DJ on Saturday nights. Sports memorabilia covers the bar’s walls. In the poolroom, the wall-sized photos of Kinnick Stadium and Camp Randall are nods to Jes’s and Grace’s alma maters, respectively. On the opposite wall, a mural of skier Lindsey Vonn represents the family’s passion for the winter sport.
While summers, weekends, holidays, and big sporting events like March Madness always draw crowds of customers, Champs has a loyal daily clientele that ranges in age from 21 to 80. Cubs and Brewers fans as well as Bears and Packers loyalists coexist peacefully. Children are always welcome and can shoot hoops while waiting for their food to arrive.
Customer favorites include hand-rolled taquitos on the “Munch Madness” menu, burgers, the walleye sandwich, and the ribs slow-cooked in the rib shack, are washed down with a Spotted Cow or a cocktail with Tito’s Handmade Vodka.
Champs doesn’t owe its success only to its downtown location and its sports theme. What their loyal customers appreciate most of all is the sense of inclusion the place provides.
“We’re 100 percent family,” says Christenson of the owners and the staff. “We all come together really well.”
Location: 747 W. Main St., Lake Geneva, WI