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Thursday, Jan. 10, 2008

Karmic Sports

Food, drink and HD-TV

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Whether it’s a UFC fight, jai alai, polo or a Packers game, Karma Bar & Grill has molded a space on Ogden Avenue that celebrates humanity’s ability to engage in a shared experience. Key aspects that make up the identity of any restaurant, like ambiance, service and food, have been shaped to create a comfortable meeting spot at Karma, a place to experience the feel of camaraderie.


Seventeen HD plasma screens, as well as a Vegasstyle digital sports-book scoreboard, testify to Karma’s reverence for a good rallying event. Notably absent is anything else that might make you think you’re in a sports bar, like neon beer signs, retired jerseys or darts.

Instead, thick wood rafters, diffused lighting, beautifully carved wood panels and a grand stone fireplace from the days of John Ernst lend a sophisticated vibe to this Park East gathering spot. Score one of Karma’s six plush “premium booths” to listen to the event of your choosing. The long bar, aglow from the row of flat screens mounted above it, offers quality spirits, champagne and wine, in addition to import and micro beers. Taps are currently spouting Guinness, Harp, Spotted Cow, Leinie’s, Stella Artois, Miller Lite, Newcastle and Sprecher Amber.

Karma’s menu is elevated above the typical sports bar fare as well. High-quality ingredients like Kobe beef, ostrich, Black Angus, buffalo, turkey and black bean can be found in the burgers, along with toppings like avocado, roasted red pepper and goat cheese. To sample all four of Karma’s burgers in one round, order the plate of sliders, which are burgers of miniature proportion. If tackling your appetite means something more heavy-hitting, these sliders also come in quarter pound and 1-pound dimensions. Karma’s burgers and sandwiches include a choice of flavorful sweet potato fries, waffle fries, chips, Asian slaw or salad.

The appetizer menu showcases a nice selection of flavors, including a respectable number of vegetarian options. The restaurant offers a unique variety of salads and serves up its hot soups and dips in ceramic crocks. From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday, take advantage of the $8 lunch menu, when sandwiches and burgers include a side, soda and tax.

For Happy Hour (5 to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday), Karma takes $1 off taps and offers a $5 appetizer menu. Any service woes that Karma may have experienced when it first opened in September seem to have been resolved. Guests waiting for a table in the main barroom are invited to delve deeper: Below the main level is Sutra Lounge, an extra-chill romper room with a full bar and plenty of snug seating. Until your table is ready upstairs, study the Kama Sutra engravings etched into the walls, courtesy of Flux Design.

At first glance, the employ of an Eastern philosophical term like karma to name what is essentially an upscale sports bar seems a bit of a stretch. But what does the word “karma” imply if not the interconnectivity of our actions and the effects they have on others? Does this cycle of cause and effect not include Brett Favre? Chuck Liddell? And for the rest of us, what better place than Karma to order a drink and celebrate the action?

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