Sports, Mexican food are in the game plan at these Valley hotspots – Daily News

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What is it about Mexican food and sports that fits so well — maybe even better than classics like hot dogs and hamburgers. Chips and salsa and guacamole go with every sport. And lord knows, so do tacos, which may well be the quintessential sports chow.

Then, there’s the beer, lots of beer — beer by the pitcher; heck, beer by the barrel. And in the case of the remarkable Jalapeño Pete’s (11618 Ventura Blvd., Studio City; 818-579-4264, www.jalapenopetesla.com), beer by the pseudo blender full. I don’t know where they got these loony Bud Light dispensers, but they’re on virtually every table — and they’re being emptied with lunatic thirst.

There’s also Bud Light Seltzer Lemonade. Which is…eccentric at best. But then, when there’s a game on, no one is complaining about anything. Except maybe a dropped pass, or an interception of a fine throw by Kansas City Chiefs’ QB Patrick Mahomes. For this is the SoCal destination for fans of the Chiefs. During football season, they show up to cheer and howl and bellow — and go downright manic when their team wins a game in the final seconds.

Jalapeño Pete’s is so obsessed with the Chiefs, there’s a video on the restaurant’s website, all about the fans and their Studio City destination. They even print up a “Chief Chow” menu — Mahomes Sliders, Kansas City BBQ, Ponak’s Nachos (Ponak is a famous Mexican restaurant in Kansas City) and Tomahawk Fries, along with a Chiefarita margie with a red rim, and a KC BBQ Bloody Mary.

The rest of the menu hits all the right notes for a Mexican sports bar. It begins with “Mexican Munchies” — guac de la casa and guac fuego (with habanero mash), street corn and jalapeño poppers, short rib taquitos and chicken flautas. There are nine tacos, including one with fried avocado, and another with butternut squash.

There also are “Pete’s Favorites” — asada fries and Mexican wings, Sizzlin’ Fajitas and Pete’s Taco Salad. There’s a hot chocolate brownie for dessert, and a churro waffle.

And, the drink list is…extensive. Eight signature cocktails, with names like the Mexican Pick Me Up, the Cali Cartel and El Chapo; and, yes, they are references to some, ahem, illegal businesses. There’s a full bar, but no beer list far as I could tell — though the visual (and auditory) confusion in the place is so extreme, it could have been right in front of me.

The place has a looseness that keeps it just on the edge of lunacy. There’s a wall sign that reads, “Go grab a seat…the tequila ain’t gonna drink itself.” Another suggests, “Please seat yourself…you ain’t a kid anymore.” There’s a lottery going on nonstop. Drink samples are being handed out. This may be the single nuttiest sports destination we’ve got.

By contrast, Fuego Bar & Grill (19563 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills; 818-578-8847, www.fuegobargrill.com), on the western edge of Ventura Boulevard, is downright sedate. It’s got lots of big screens — though not as many as at Pete’s.

Besides, without a big screen everywhere you turn, and a game on every one of them, you can’t be a sports bar. It’s the very basic ingredient. (And it makes me wonder how the installers do it! When there are multiple games on the screens, my understanding of how they’re controlled and tuned is beyond my simple understanding.)

Fuego has just a fraction of the crowd at Pete’s, in a space where you can sit down and study a more — dare I say it — grownup menu. Instead of “Munchies,” we’ve got “Appetizers” like the mango & mahi ceviche, the spicy Buffalo cauliflower, the elote cheese bites. Far from dull, but made with more care than across town, where, as I said, the food is not the point.

Here, it comes closer. What else would inspire a chicken tortilla soup, and a roasted pepper and tomato bisque, a barbecue steak salad, and a Tumbleweed Cobb Salad (made with smoked bleu cheese and chipotle ranch dressing).

There are tacos stuffed with potatoes and guac, and tacos with mahi-mahi. Which is it for tacos, which is unheard of in these taco-heavy times. Instead, there’s a Wagyu beef burger, and a grilled chicken club sandwich. There’s grilled spiced rubbed mahi with pineapple slaw, and penne pasta with grilled chicken. The Alaskan cod in the fish and chips is “wild caught.”

There’s also a long list of beers, both draft and bottled — none of which come in a Bud Light blender.

Pete’s a great fun for a game…especially if you’re a Chiefs fan. Fuego works for me for the entire season. And, while football is my game, it also works until football returns.

Merrill Shindler is a Los Angeles-based freelance dining critic. Email [email protected]

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