20/20 Sports Bar and Grill offers 20 TVs, 20 draft beers, 20 varieties of cocktails, 20 distinctive appetizers, 20 red wines and 20 white, 20 assorted dips...
You get the picture. Especially the football, basketball, baseball and soccer games shown on the wide-screen HD TVs (two 8-foot projection screens and 18 42-inch plasmas) that decorate the walls.
And starting in October, 20/20 will offer a live country-western band, Jack Daniels Steak Nights and DJs on specified weekends.
With its soft opening on Aug. 31, the bar received almost uniformly positive reviews on YELP. One customer, delighted the bar was “capable of supporting a Fantasy Football draft” and a large group of friends, praised the Wi-Fi as "top notch and fast.” Another patron extolled “the food, drink specials, bar, TVs, and surround sound (as) 5-Star quality.”
The few negatives had to do with wait-time for meals, group discounts, and an air-conditioning malfunction—things owners say they have repaired. They've even hired 10 new staff members.
It’s not as if the two-story building at the corner of 190th Street and Inglewood Avenue hasn’t changed hands often enough. But as soon as one enters the new Redondo Beach sports bar, with its sky-high ceilings, neon-lit bar and competing college/pro games, one gets the feeling 20/20 is here to stay.
U.T. Somaiah, who prefers to go by “Sam,” is one of three owners, all of whom, including Lordwin D’Souza and Ben Agarwal, hail from India. The men also share extensive hotel and hospitality management backgrounds.
Somaiah, for example, has worked for Sysco Food Service, Taj Hotels Resorts, Carnival Cruise Lines and Holiday Inn and served as a consultant for several U.S. franchises, he said.
“Lordwin and I are the main operation guys here,” Somaiah said during an interview around noon on Saturday. “Ben is the one who designed the interior, revamped the bar” and created the layout, including TVs, two pool tables, tables and chairs and high-tops (counters with facing stools).
The shy-smiling Sam, who admits to being “50-plus,” is in charge of the menu.
“I am the food guy,” he announced, explaining in detail how he trains his cooks to prepare everything from crab cakes (“only pure crabmeat,” he stressed) to a delicious Sriracha Aioli (a sort of rémoulade sauce), one of the 20 standard and exotic dips. (Appetizers run between $6 and $8.)
For many on Saturday like first-time customer Shea Spencer, hamburgers and hot dogs held special appeal.
“Look!” she said, pointing gleefully to the menu. “You can build your own burger, build your own dog.” (You can also build your own pizza, burrito and quesadilla.) Spencer, an ad rep for South Bay Monthly and other magazines, was also impressed with “the whole variety of draft beers.”
But the sports bar, which is divided into a front bar area and large restaurant in back, offers everything from $6 kids meals to entrees like an 8-ounce filet mignon ($19.95).
Somaiah is particularly proud of the creative aspects of his extensive menu, especially the build-your-own meals.
For the hamburger, for example, choices range from meats (Black Angus, turkey, garden) to types of buns (Brioche, Ciabatta, Focaccia, Telera, hamburger bun or lettuce wrap), various cheeses, toppings, even lettuce (green leaf, iceberg, shredded iceberg or butter lettuce). Burgers run $8 to $10, including two toppings—50 cents for each additional.
As for the sports-bar standby, chicken wings, they come steamed, fried or baked in the form of Tandoori, Louisiana, Chipotle BBQ or Smokey BBQ.
I had the crab cakes, which are more like little crab balls (I needed a fork), but they were perfection, as were the Louisiana Wings, as Spencer noted.
Somaiah's main concern, he said, is that the hot food comes out hot from the order window and the cold food comes out cold. To that end, the cooks have detailed lists and notes the owner is constantly updating.
“Most of the (dishes) are prepared at the time the ticket is received,” Somaiah said, retrieving a server’s iPad to demonstrate how orders are taken on the Apple tablet and sent to the kitchen. “The moment the cooks see the ticket,” he added, “they start to put (everything) together.”
But a sports bar is not so much about food (although 20/20 may prove the exception), it’s about games: football, basketball, baseball, soccer and field hockey. College and NFL games are the main draws, but some customers asked to watch tennis during the U.S. Open and soccer during the 2012 Olympics.
Then there’s NASCAR, the Kentucky Derby and some local televised high school games. About the only no-show sport is boxing. Serviced by DirecTV, 20/20 does not offer fights due to the expense.
“To watch a fight, they charge for capacity, or 121 people,” said Somaiah, who deemed the fee exorbitant.
Guests can play pool in the bar area ($10/hour) and there is a junior table in the restaurant area ($1/game). Yes, kids are welcome at 20/20, up until about 9 p.m. After that, or following big games, the music gets loud, DJs are apt to appear, and tables are shoved back for dancing on weekends.
At about 1 p.m. on Saturday, Robert Reed, 42, and Linda Connor, 42, of Redondo Beach were deep into the Alabama-Arkansas game. They had just finished off some nachos, which they gave a thumbs up to, and were working their way through a pitcher of draft Coors Light.
Reed, who is in construction, said he kept driving by the bar and finally had the chance to drop in. “I like it,” he said, as did Conner, who works at Kaiser. Both plan to return.
Same for Clark Corey, an international marketer for Airworld Alliance. Ordering “a draft Bud,” the Redondo resident said, “I just saw the sign and thought I’d stop in and check it out.” The bar has “good visibility from the street,” he said, “the way it wraps around the building.”
Corey also liked the friendly staff, the “ample free parking” behind the bar, and that happy hour specials included both food and drinks “with college football and NFL packages for weekends.” As for his order, “the fish and chips (were) good (and) the seasoned fries nicely done.”
Shea Spencer said she came on the recommendation of her roommate, Shanna Gregory, who happens to be one of several bartenders. 20/20 has about 25 employees, all told; it started with 15. Some patrons mentioned they couldn't tell the servers from the customers, which was a nice touch.
Before selecting the Redondo Beach site, Somaiah and Lordwin D'Souza, a friend from the early days in India, toured the entire South Bay, sizing up all the sports bars. They chose 2701 190th St. due to the “high ceilings, spaciousness and the bar,” Somaiah said.
They particularly wanted to own a sports bar, he said, because both always loved to watch sports, drink good beer and eat good food.
Somaiah, who came to the U.S. in 1988, graduated from Mysore University in India. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and political science and said he came close to completing his masters. But his knack for hospitality, food, and a love of sports dictated his professional choices.
Married with three teenage “princesses” (13, 15, 18), Somaiah and his wife Mala live in Placentia where Mala works in food services for the Placentia/Yorba Linda School District.
All three 20/20 owners are married with children.
A light-hearted man, who enjoys greeting customers and seeing to their needs, Somaiah has a raft of anecdotes from his Carnival Cruise days and how guests would spot him in his spiffy white uniform and ask questions like, “Does the staff sleep onboard the ship?”
He grins at what he was tempted to say, “No, they come rowing out every morning from shore.”
Or his favorite question, “How do you get power for the ship?”
He winks, concocting his imaginary response, “We have a long extension cord under the sea that we plug into Miami.”
No doubt, Somaiah is building a new catalogue of stories about owning a sports bar and the many-faceted clientele 20/20 is sure to attract. I’ll bet the questions will have a bit more heft, however.
20/20, located at 2701 190th St. on the border of North Redondo Beach, is open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. seven days per week. Happy Hour runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Call 310-469-6636 for additional information or visit the Facebook page.