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Revived Adams Morgan Sports Bar Opens This Week With Filipino Barbecue Bowls

The Game replaces the shuttered Ventnor Sports Cafe

The Game’s Pinoy BBQ Bowl (grilled pork belly or chicken, green mango, tomato, onions, eggplant, shrimp paste, and rice) is an ode to co-owner Jo-Jo Valenzuela’s Filipino background.
Alex Dunbar-Fernandez/official photo

The former home of the beloved Ventnor Sports Cafe will flip into another kind of sports bar this week, and Filipino food will play a starring role.

The Game Sports Pub is scheduled to open Thursday, February 7, at 2411 18th Street NW in Adams Morgan. The venue’s 22 TV screens will be back, but the bar food will look a lot different.

Nachos can be topped with grilled pork belly, dark beer chili, or tequila shrimp. Wings come two ways to start: Buffalo style or in a Filipino adobo, a sauce made from soy, vinegar, spices, and garlic.

The revitalized two-story venture comes from D.C. bar vet Jo-Jo Valenzuela — formerly at Brine in Mosaic District and Jack Rose — and Think Food Group alum Oscar Guardado.

Guardado’s family owns the building formerly occupied by Ventnor Sports Cafe, which closed last fall after a 14-year run.

Much of the kitchen staff has stayed on to whip up three types of burgers and a half-smoke with dark beer chili ($7-$18). Valenzuela hopes to add more items to celebrate his Filipino heritage, telling Washingtonian he plans to serve pares — an Asian-style beef brisket with garlic fried rice and beef broth.

The bar will open at 5 p.m. six days a week (closed on Tuesdays) and will close at midnight on Sunday and Monday, at 1:30 a.m. on Thursday, and at 2:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Brunch will join the mix later.

Updates to the 89-seat space included adding a metal ceiling, says co-owner Jo-Jo Valenzuela.
Alex Dunbar-Fernandez/official photo
Gambas al Ajillo (shrimp, garlic, chili oil, and lemon with ciabatta) reflects the influence of Spanish colonizers on the Philippines.
Alex Dunbar-Fernandez/official photo
Mahi-mahi ceviche with lime, orange, jalapeno, onion, cilantro, and tortilla chips.
Alex Dunbar-Fernandez/official photo

The new owners plan to turn the upstairs bar into more of a restaurant and lounge with lower tables and banquettes. Despite Guardado’s connection to the nightlife scene as manager at Dupont Circle’s Rosebar Lounge, the team won’t go for a “clubbish” vibe at the Game.

“It’s not going to be too pretentious, because it’s a sports pub,” says Valenzuela.

To iron out opening kinks, Guardado and Valenzuela performed the ultimate stress test by hosting a packed Super Bowl party over the weekend. Because Valenzuela is a Redskins fan and Guardado is a Cowboys fan, the two came to common ground by labeling the former Eagles bar a place for fans from across the NFC East.

“Everything else is local,” he says, of sports team affiliations.

Just because it’s a sports bar doesn’t mean the team is skimping on cocktails, some of which will be made with fresh fruit. There’s a strong Filipino elixir dubbed “weng-weng,” filled with six spirits, pineapple and orange juices, and grenadine.

For beer, there’s six taps on each level pouring local brews alongside lots of canned and bottled beers, including Tecate and a Filipino brew, San Miguel lager.

Valenzuela is excited to join the revitalized neighborhood and share the strip with recent arrivals like Lucky Buns and Green Zone.

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