Aurora’s Spartan House was named for the owner’s Greek background and his love of Michigan State. But the decor also celebrates nearby Aurora University’s Spartans. That’s fitting in a place that embraces the comfortable feel of a sports bar while broadening its appeal beyond the usual beer and ballgames.
Motif: Spartan House is run by Michael Poulakidas and Ron Woerman, who also oversee Aurora’s 43-year-old O’Malley’s Pub & Eatery.
Spartan House’s u-shaped bar with overhead TVs stands in the center of the space, with lots of high-top tables nearby. Black and white photos and framed jerseys hang on the walls. There’s a video gaming area and an outdoor patio overlooking the road.
Liquid consumption: Beers on tap include the major domestics plus locals Two Brothers and the Geneva-based Penrose. Another 35 beers are available by the bottle. The wine choice, meanwhile, comes down to about 20 reds and whites by the glass.
If you look beyond the beer and wine list, you might want to give Spartan House’s signature Mediterranean Mule a try. Served in the usual Moscow mule mug, this version draws added flavor from Figenza Fig Vodka mixed with ginger beer and fresh lime juice. My initial skepticism gave way with the first sip of this tangy, delicious cocktail — a refreshing choice for a warm summer night.
Other cocktail options include more traditional mules and the spicy watermelon margarita.
Food: Spartan Cheese Bricks made with Bacio mozzarella are the No. 1 selling starter. The cheese is first baked, then cut into squares, battered, fried and served with marinara. Starters also include the usual nachos, hummus and guacamole, but we went with our own personal sports bar favorite: warm pretzel logs. They arrived hot and soft, with a rich, creamy Fat Tire Beer cheese sauce. The pretzels were dusted with Parmesan cheese, a nice twist that set them apart from so many other renditions of this appetizer.
Burgers are popular among diners and you can build your own by piling on quarter-pound patties, cheese and toppings. I opted for a single and found it moist and flavorful, with no skimping on the sauteed onions and mushrooms I added. It was also a bargain at $6. Hungrier folks might want to double up on their patties.
Other options include pizza, a selection of sandwiches, pork kebabs, grilled salmon, and fish and chips. We decided to give the build-your-own mac and cheese a try, customizing it with veggies added for $1 each. The cavatappi pasta was made with the same beer cheese sauce we enjoyed with our pretzel logs and topped with a dusting of Parmesan-crusted bread crumbs. It was creamy and satisfying, but lacked a real wow factor.
Service:Our server was friendly and enthusiastic. She was quick to deliver our drinks and checked back often. And her recommendation — for that memorable Mediterranean mule — was spot-on.
Crowd: We found couples and groups of friends at Spartan House on the night we went. The spot also brings in families for dinner, as well as an after-work crowd.
Overall: Spartan House is a comfortable place for drinks and a bite to eat. And for something different, give that Mediterranean Mule a try.