The Arena Tavern is a bar that does plenty of business with sports talk radio. Advertisements and promotions with the local radio stations are a major parts of this small chain’s identity. And when I saw the 790 the Zone truck in front of the bar, I changed plans (even after lunch) and stuck my nose inside.

Yes, I’ll go inside if a local radio station is talking with bar customers.

This bar and Marlow’s Tavern are close by, and “the book” on these two is that the Arena is a better place to watch a game and Marlow’s has the better menu and food. My experience here suggests that might not be as clear cut a choice as in the past.

Catfish Bites. These things were fantastic. If I was blinded and told these came from a high end traditional all you can eat catfish spot, I’d have believed you. Tender, moist, perfect crust and flavorful.

Some of the best crust on cheese sticks I’ve seen in a long, long time.

I only ordered appetizers because I had already eaten, and besides, the rep for Arena was that it was the lesser of the two large taverns for food. And what I received were two of the best appetizers I’ve had in a long long time.

Crusts on the catfish bites were really good. Crust on the cheese sticks was about as good as any I’ve ever had. The cheese sticks alone are better than anything I’ve ever had at a classic wings n sports chain, and reason enough to drop the wings n sports chains and come here. That doesn’t count the catfish bites, which were as good a bit of catfish I’ve had in ages.

The beer selection is large, not huge, but there is plenty of most things for most tastes. There were good craft beers, good Georgia craft beers, good English, Irish and German brew, and plenty of American light lagers. Dozens of beers were on tap, and dozens more in bottles.

Having said all that, the Arena a roomy bar with plenty of wide screen TVs, with large roomy tables on which to watch those televisions. Yes, it’s a spot to watch games, and listen to sports talk. Further, Arena has rather surprising appetizers. Consequently, the culinary competition between this restaurant and Marlow’s is closer than the generic consensus suggests.

Arena Tavern
2000 Satellite Boulevard
Duluth, GA 30097
(770) 623-4585

Arena Tavern on Urbanspoon

Update: fixed typos.

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