From the crowd, a collective "OOOWWWHHHHHH!"
The sound is unmistakable and exciting; something either really awful or really kickass has just happened.
In this case, it's both.
Sprinting out of the backfield for what should've been a two-yard gain, Rob Gronkowski, the six-foot-six rhinoceros with a human head that plays tight end for the New England Patriots, received a pass from Tom Brady, then withstood a shoddy would-be bump tackle from an uncommitted member of the Kansas City secondary and began galloping toward the end zone.
When he neared, another defensive player approached, this one with far more menace in his heart. Gronkoswki, titanium nerves, attempted to leap over him.
The defender caught his thighs perfectly, sending Gronk into a tailspin. His legs came out from under him, his left arm stretched backward haplessly, feeling for Earth, and his right arm stitched to his rib cage, protecting the ball. He spun, cartwheeling around 180 degrees, until crack!, he landed firm on the back of his neck, his body springing around after him.
It's nearing 10 p.m. on a Monday, and Saint Dane's Bar & Grille (502 Elgin), Midtown's adorable three-year-old sports bar, named after a hybrid dog breed that combines Saint Bernards and Great Danes, has erupted.
At one table, a group of males is devouring meat ($10 steak night on Mondays) while watching the game, because that's the kind of shit you get to do when you're single. At another, a man tries to balance between admiring his eager girlfriend and Tom Brady's decimation of the Chiefs. And at various other tables and picnic tables, people ignore the game entirely, engaged in conversation.
"I started coming here for the $1 tacos on Tuesdays because I'm cheap," laughs Tina Tam Phan, manager at Urban Outfitters, who also regularly hangs out at Diem Lounge (4701A Nett) and Nox (4701 Nett), likely two of the last places you'd associate with Saint Dane's.
"The fish tacos are the best," she elaborates. "And I like that there's a really large patio; you don't get clusterfucked."
Tonight, there is certainly a chance of getting clusterfucked. The place is stuffed, which, if you're familiar with the teeny layout, means there are between 35 and 45 people here. They gather at the bar and on the side patio and spill out into the parking lot, tables seemingly thrown into any open space available. There is an addition being built near the back of the bar that will open things up considerably (set to be unveiled in a month or so, according to staff).
There's nothing fancy about Saint Dane's — it's mostly just exposed brick, concrete floors and dark wooden accents — but that might kind of be the point. The crowd is noticeably lacking the glitz and smarm most often associated with the area's Young Professional hangouts.
"When we come here, we kind of do our own thing," says Daniela Hernandez, a 23-year-old sales associate. "We mainly come for the food and the drinks. I've never really paid attention to the crowd, which is probably a good thing. It means the people aren't a distraction."
Saint Dane's is a sports bar because sports are on the TVs there, but that's about the only reason. Mostly, it's just a very cool place to hang out.
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You might even get to see a guy nearly break his own neck.
Saint Dane's is open every day of the week from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. As with most places like this, there are all sorts of specials during the week ($0.25 Wings Night; $1 Drafts Night; $2 Funnel Cakes Shaped Like Yao Ming's Scrunchy Face Nights; etc). For information on specials, visit www.saintdanes.com. The Web site also features a Testimonials section. One of the remarks is a fake comment from someone purporting to be the coach of the Denver Broncos, saying, "I was thinking about trading Jay Cutler for this place." That's funny. Finally, and this has nothing to do with St. Dane's, but The Tontons, a Nightfly favorite, will have their tour kickoff show on December 1 at Warehouse Live (813 St. Emanuel). Go. Their new album is splendid.