By Becky Billingsley
Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012, Myrtle Beach - All the restaurants Todd and Sharon Tavares have owned in recent years (two locations of Vito's Deli, Forestbrook 50's Diner) have had great food and pleasant surroundings, but The Coliseum in Myrtle Beach is my favorite, by far.
The couple previously owned a restaurant in the same location called Cafe Italia before they sold it two owners ago, but now the ambiance is more family-friendly. The decor is sports-themed with a Yankees corner, lots of football memorabilia and nods to basketball and boxing. There are several televisions so guests can watch their favorite teams, but this place is more where sports teams - from T-ball to adult leagues - can visit after their games with spouses and children in tow, and everyone will be comfortable and happy.
The restaurant is non-smoking.
A big part of this happiness is because the Tavareses removed several tables and inserted a pool table, three darts machines, pinball and many more games. The front hostess stand was removed to open up the front, and the roomy bar is still located at the rear.
The menu showcases the best of the dishes for which Chef Todd Tavares, who is also a caterer for private planes flying into Myrtle Beach via Crosswinds Catering, has become locally known and appreciated. He offers salads like a Buffalo Chicken Salad with loads of veggies and blue cheese crumbles, and appetizers including Fried Calamari, Cajun Chicken Quesadilla, wings in eight flavors (Buffalo, barbecue, spicy barbecue, honey barbecue, southern barbecue, garlic Parmesan, teriyaki and hotyaki) and house-made chili.
I tried the Beer Battered Onion Rings, and for $4 you get a heaping serving with fresh onions on the inside and a delicate crispy coating on the outside.
Sandwiches run the gamut here, from a pair of Hot Dogs with house-made chili for $4.50 to several different burger and chicken sandwich choices. Grilled Cheese can come with tomato and bacon, and there's Tuna Melt, Clam Rolls, Pulled Pork, Reuben, Sausage with Peppers and Onions, Italian Sub and French Dip. I tried a medium-rare Ribeye Sandwich, which is $8, and loved the meat's tender juiciness and toppings of lettuce, tomato and grilled onions on a soft roll.
Sides are a la carte and include fries or one of Tavares' house-made salads: Macaroni, Potato, Pasta or Coleslaw. I've long been a fan of the chef's Macaroni Salad: it's more savory than sweet without too much dressing, yet it's still creamy.
Many diners in the Socastee area became familiar with Tavares' Italian dishes when he worked with his late brother, Gary Pagliaro, at Socastee Station. Several of those favorites are on the dinner entree list ($8-$13, comes with side salad and bread) including Lasagna, Chicken Parmesan and Spaghetti with Meatballs or Sausage. Other entrees include Fish and Chips with slaw, Barbecue Chicken with fries and slaw, and a Fried Fish Platter with flounder, clams, calamari, fries and slaw.
The menu says to ask about dessert choices, and I sure hope when I go back the chef has made some of his famous cheesecake.
After it's the kids' bedtimes, the grownups take over and enjoy more adult pleasures, like a long list of sports-theme shots including The Trojan (Soco and lime), the Celtic (Irish Whiskey, Baileys and Midori) or the Carolina Panther (Blue Curacao and Black Haus).
The Coliseum is at 3901-A Dick Pond Rd., in the Socastee area of Myrtle Beach at the intersection with Big Block Road. It's open daily from 11 a.m. to at least 11 p.m., and the number is (843) 215-6093.