Bleachers Sports Grill is under new management and above all else, Tedi and Cristina Georgescu want you to know one thing.
They aren’t changing much at the venerable Ahwatukee bar-restaurant at 15410 S. Mountain Pkwy.
They like it just the way it is.
“This is a great neighborhood bar,” Tedi said, likening the atmosphere and location to Pier 54, the other restaurant they’ve owned the last six years at 5394 S. Lakeshore Drive in Tempe.
“I’m not on the main street,” he continued. “It’s a little bit hidden. But everybody in the area knows it’s here. It’s welcoming and it’s warm for every age.
“Before we bought it, we came here as customers and we saw people with kids coming in and having dinner and having a good time, watching sports. The patio is beautiful here. It’s fun.”
It’s also loaded with TVs for sports buffs, particularly Nebraska Cornhusker fans since Bleachers is an official gameday gathering spot.
Indeed, on the last Saturday of September – the first weekend that the Georgescus were officially in charge – the couple had to be prepared for more than 50 University of Nebraska football fans.
The Romania natives bought Bleachers last month from Mark Clarke, who decided to retire after 13 years of ownership that capped a career of more than 40 years in the restaurant industry, including a stint as regional vice president for the Carl’s Jr. chain.
In the time he owned it, Clarke upgraded the establishment with new booths, a pool table and dartboard, the patio with its lake-front seating and TVs – lots of TVs.
Indeed, the Georgescus are getting accustomed to a kind of majority-rules, home-teams first approach when deciding what games should be on the larger flat screens among the 40 that hang from the walls both inside and on the patio.
“The services that you offer here in a sports bar, they are different than a regular restaurant,” he said. “That’s why they are so many TVs.”
One group of fans might want to watch their team on a big screen while another group wants to watch their team.
They all get a chance to watch the game, but whether it’s on a larger or a smaller screen can depend on the number – except when it comes to Arizona teams.
“Of course, Arizona wins because it’s our team,” Tedi said. “If you’re 49er fan, you have to watch on the smaller screen. It is what it is. I mean you have to make those choices.”
Even so, Tedi added, the nice thing about Bleachers is that the patrons might be ardent sports fans but they’re not disrespectful ones.
“It’s a welcoming atmosphere and vibe that’s in this restaurant,” he said. “And that’s not very often in a sports bar if you think about it. You have fights. Everybody’s yelling. We don’t do that here because it’s not good for kids. We have to be neighborhood friendly, family friendly.”
But sports TV isn’t the only draw at Bleachers – and the Georgescus plan to keep it that way.
With a big selection of beer and booze, Bleachers also has built up a reputation for its food that the Georgescus plan to enhance with some Romanian specialties.
They include stuffed cabbage rolls and a ground beef sandwich that looks like a hamburger except for its sausage-like shape.
Some vegetarian and vegan dishes are being added, said Tedi, who sometimes will spend a little time in the kitchen making up customer orders.
“I love cooking, but it’s not my forte,” he said “I like it, but I don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.”
This month in honor of Octoberfest, the accent will be on German fare such as brats with sauerkraut nestled in a pretzel hoagie roll and Weinger Schnitzel..
But the couple won’t be bringing the entire menu from Pier 54 because they cherish the differences between the two establishments.
Pier 54 has no indoor seating, though all tables are protected on the bilevel patio from the elements.
Instead of being drawn to cheer on a team, the Pier 54 clientele come to their Tempe establishment to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of a lakeshore setting.
“It’s a unique setting,” Tedi said. We have a more private area on the lower patio and the lower deck is right on the water level. And we have turtles, fish, duck.”
The Georgescus relocated to America nine years ago, though they had started visiting Arizona and the western states as tourists in 2008.
They ran an export-import business in Romania and also owned a restaurant.
When they finally decided to take the plunge and move to America, they started a shipping business but eventually became frustrated with the length of time it took the goods they shipped to reach their destination in Romania.
They discovered what is now Pier 54, bought it, remodeled it and this year began looking for a second place.
When they saw Bleachers was for sale, they checked it out carefully, coming in as customers to get a feel for the place.
They liked what they saw and now they’re ready to committed to carrying on the legacy Clarke established over more than a decade.
And that includes making the neighbors happy with their neighborhood bar.
“All our food is made fresh from scratch,” Tedi said.
The couple, who have a daughter at Arizona State University and a son in high school, are splitting their time between the two restaurants – Cristina and Tedi each taking one.
And despite the differences between the two establishments, Tedi explained, there is one essential common ingredient.
“There are differences but the core is always the same – the quality of the drinks and the quality of the food,” he said. “No matter what type of restaurant you have, even a fast food restaurant, it doesn’t matter. You have to have good food and good drinks – always – and a good staff. That’s the core and we’re making sure we keep it.”
Bleachers: bleacherssportsgrill.com, 480-759-4034
Pier54: pier54az.com, 480-820-0660