Regional Dining Guide

Goal Line Sports Bar & Grill: Elevated Pub Menu Scores Points with Customers


This Crystal Lake eatery offers a diverse menu of popular pub dishes, each of which has received a personal twist from a couple of creative chefs.

The Jovany Mexican Burger is topped with pepper jack cheese, jalapenos, sliced onion, Sriracha sauce, avocado and chipotle mayo.

The Jovany Mexican Burger is topped with pepper jack cheese, jalapenos, sliced onion, Sriracha sauce, avocado and chipotle mayo.

Robert Bless stresses three things at Goal Line Sports Bar & Grill, 85 Brink St., Crystal Lake: good food, a family-friendly environment and customer satisfaction.

Before opening Goal Line in July 2015, chef-owner Bless spent some 20 years immersed in managing restaurants and working for several corporate chains. He also honed his foodservice skills through culinary classes at McHenry County College, where he continues his studies as time permits.

“I tried to gear this place to a sports theme and family environment,” says Bless. “From Day One, a slogan has hung on our bulletin board reading ‘It’s not bar food.’ That’s the theme cook Juan Pineda and I concentrated on when developing the menu.”

While collaborating with Pineda on the menu, Bless sought to put a personal twist on every dish, creating a lineup of elevated pub favorites.

Besides the ever-popular burgers and pizzas, the menu offers a myriad of choices from salads and baked French onion soup to slow-cooked pulled pork and a skirt steak sandwich. It also includes various wraps, seafood and pasta dishes, with a few Mexican staples, too. There’s even an abbreviated menu for children. The chef’s special menu showcases new dishes, to gauge customer interest.

Bless believes in procuring quality meat, but he stresses that this is just part of the formula for a winning dish.

“Our customers like that we serve quality meat, but just because a restaurant buys something that’s top-of-the-line doesn’t mean it tastes good,” he says. “It must be prepared properly. My theory is that you buy a quality product and put a lot of love into making it really good. I don’t like mediocre items.”

Pineda and the kitchen crew put a labor of love into their dishes, combining fresh ingredients into scratch-made meals.

“Our prime rib is made from scratch,” says Bless. “We make our own pulled pork, smoked brisket and Reuben rolls. Salsa for Mexican dishes, like guacamole, comes from our kitchen.”

Keeping up with its identity as a sports bar, Goal Line has 16 flatscreen TVs and an assortment of sports memorabilia decorating its walls.

The dining room has the feel of a cozy Northwoods cabin, complete with lightly stained wood wallcovering and a stone fireplace that blazes during the winter. The inside dining area has seating for about 100, while the front and back patios can accommodate another 80 guests.

A current project involves closing a two-floor atrium in the center of the dining room, a move that will provide additional privacy for special events and dinner meetings upstairs.

The bar stocks a wide array of bourbons and whiskeys, plus an ever-changing wine list. It also carries bottled and draft beers, 10 of which are on tap.

Bless credits his hard-working 15-member staff members, including Amy Braido and Chelsea Henderson, as a key to Goal Line’s success. Their people skills and attention to detail are “why we get a lot of repeat customers,” Bless says.

Although many a sports bar experiences a short life span, Bless believes he’s built a winning combination at Goal Line. “When you focus strictly on the numbers and on filling your pockets with money, that’s where you’re going to fail,” he says.

Goal Line Sports Bar & Grill’s kitchen is open Sun. to Thurs. from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. The bar stays open Mon. to Thurs. to 1 a.m. and on weekends until 2 a.m.

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