By Stephen Robinson
Sports bars were a staple of the town where I grew up. Delicious food, cheap drinks, and usually a couple of pool tables or other activities to pass the time with friends while downing plenty of both while banks of TVs showed of all manner of sports in any direction you looked. After moving to China, I discovered that there wasn’t an equivalent in Xi’an, so I chalked it up to a cultural difference and had to wait until the next trip home to get my fix. So, when I heard about Sharky Sports Bar and Restaurant, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but was excited to give it a try.
Located directly inside of South Gate (literally on the corner of the first building), Sharky’s is immediately noticeable, with a red exterior, neon sign, and a decent amount of outdoor seating that lets you take in the South Gate area and all the people walking by. Probably one of the best restaurant locations in the city. Walking in through the double doors, you get the feeling of being transported to a different country. The feel of the place is immediately something familiar. The walls are lined with sports memorabilia, the bar is packed with spirits, and even the tables have that red-and-white-checkered table covers that you seem to always find at sports bars. There is a lot of seating inside, more than initially appears as the inside is Z-shaped, with a back area filled with booths, a stage with front row tables, a general seating area near the front, and even a soon-to-be-opened area glassed-off area that will open up to the outside when the weather is nice. Whatever your group size, there is a table for you. In the back, there is a pool table and two dart boards, one electronic and one cork, with tables and a railed bar for drinks. There was definitely some thought that went into the design of this place.
As we showed up around 7PM, we took a look at the dinner menu, which is absolutely massive. Plenty of bar snacks, burgers, pizzas, salads, and even steaks fill up page after page of the menu, all with descriptions in English and Chinese – usually accompanied by a picture. The manager recommended a few things off of the menu, so we settled down with a few icy cold Goose Island IPAs and waited for the food to roll in. First to arrive was the Grilled Chicken Mango Salad, which was just about as good as any salad you can get in Xi’an. The mano tasted fresh and sweet and the chicken had that signature smoky grilled flavor that paired with it nicely. The salad dressing was also something more than the Kewpie sesame dressing that seems to be go to on salads here, and had a balanced, vinegar bite to it. My main was the Molten Cheese Burger, which comes with bacon, onion rings, and nacho cheese along with the usual lettuce, tomato, and pickle. The beef patty was not overly thick, but still was juicy cooked just about medium. This burger has an almost nostalgic taste to it, really the kind of flavor I think of when I think of a good burger. It was definitely a messy experience with the nacho cheese, but worth it. After all, good burgers usually are a bit messy. I’d definitely rank this as a top five burger in Xi’an. There are also a ton of other burger combinations on the menu, so I’m looking forward to coming back and trying some more. The most expensive burger that I noted on the menu was 78RMB with fries and a small salad, with most burgers at 58RMB and 68RMB, making it also one of the more reasonably priced burgers in Xi’an.
My friend who was dining with me that night had one of the steak dishes, a really decent plate of steak covered in mushrooms and a light gravy that doesn’t overpower the steak flavor, which was really pleasant. The steak was also tender enough to cut with a fork and was served with some steamed vegetables. At just 138RMB for the plate, it’s a decent enough meal and better priced than similar offerings at other restaurants. They also brought out a plate of tacos, which come in sets of three with a side of tortilla chips and salsa. These tacos were interesting, because they hade a really decent flavor to them – jalapeno, sour cream, and nacho cheese on top of what was essentially the fillings for a fajita, grilled chicken, onions, mushrooms, and peppers. This mixture seemed to be a bit wet for the crunchy taco shells that they were served in, but they maintained their integrity even after sitting for a while, so overall they were quite good. At just 48 for the taco plate, it’s actually a decent deal and goes really nicely with a beer.
In addition to lots of food options, Sharky also has a long list of drinks, from bottled and draft beers to wine and cocktails and the previously mentioned huge selection of spirits. The bottled beers start at 30RMB and the drafts beers are 40-50RMB a glass and the rest differs depending on what you are looking for. The bar also has it’s own branded draft beers, including one that is a fruity suanmeitang flavored beer and a wheat beer that offers something a bit more unique, while they also have Guinness, Goose Island, and Stella for your more standard varieties. From the look of the posters on the wall, there will also be daily specials and other offers that will give you the opportunity to get drinks at a cheaper price. One of the posters was advertising a Boys Night with a 200RMB bottle of Jim Beam and 20RMB tequila shots, so that might be something that is coming in the near future. (The bar originated in Haikou and this is the first bar in Xi’an, so we’ll see how the event schedule develops.)
Overall, Sharky has a good vibe, and seems to already be gaining in popularity, despite not officially opening until Saturday, August 26th. They will also have a live band from the Philippines that will be arriving soon who will play most nights, and in the meantime they are playing a mix of classic rock and other great music. It should be noted that the music volume goes up around 9PM as the bar and restaurant starts to focus more on the bar part, so if you’re looking for a quiet dinner, wrap it up before then. The restaurant opens daily from 11AM and served brunch and the kitchen closes at 10PM for regular food, at which point they continue to serve bar snacks until 12PM. The bar doesn’t close until 2AM each day, so if you like drinking until later at night, then they are there to serve you.
This place is likely to become a regular spot to hang out in the city. We had originally planned to just come for dinner but ended up playing a few rounds of pool and having a few more drinks just because. I feel that that is going to become a habit for many, as you just have a generally good feeling hanging out here. Definitely, worth a try, and according to the manager, they will be showing all the major sporting events, if that’s something that you’re into.