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'Not-Hooters-Style' Sports Bar Hopes Pink Walls Will Draw Female Patrons

By Heather Holland | February 13, 2014 6:39am

UNION SQUARE — A new sports bar with pink decor is hoping to attract a female following, its owner said.

Mexican-themed bar Campeón opened on East 16th Street last week, offering Mexico City-style street cuisine, 36 flat-screen televisions and bright fuchsia walls.

“It’s highly stylized and geared towards women in that it’s not a typical Hooters-style bar that [is] overly masculine with the Guinness mirrors,” said owner Ken Sturm. “We did a softer design. We wanted to make it very inviting for women so that they don’t feel like they’re sitting in a men’s kind of club.”

Upon walking in, guests are met with a row of plush leather couches, chandeliers and mirrors shaped like suns. The bright pink walls are decorated with blue- and pink-patterned tiles, contrasting with dozens of TVs that on a recent afternoon were showing men's basketball games and the Olympics.

Aside from the rosy decor, Sturm hopes to draw both male and female customers to Campeón with a unique menu inspired by chef Juan Reyes' childhood memories of Mexico City.

The 140-seat bar specializes in the food you'd find walking through the outdoor farmers markets of the Mexican capital, with signature dishes including flautas de la Merced, long crispy corn tortillas that are rolled into a flute shape and filled with chicken or beef.

“The chef is bringing regional stuff to the place, like tortas...you’d find in Mexican delis,” said Sturm. “There’s no Southwestern fajitas here.”

Another specialty is the massive champion-Campeón super torta, inspired by the classic Mexican sandwich, which is packed with hot dogs, chorizo, carnitas, scrambled eggs, Oaxaca cheese and pork, Reyes said. The prices for super tortas range from $14 to $18.

“I used to eat this when I was a kid,” said Reyes, who grew up in Mexico City and has worked in several Connecticut restaurants, including Lolita and Red Lulu.

“There’s one section of the Mexico City farmers market where you can get prepared food, and you’d see these foods there,” Reyes continued.

The 3,400-square-foot restaurant and bar, located at 9 E. 16th St. between Fifth Avenue and Union Square West, features a raw bar offering oysters and made-to-order guacamole. 

Campeón, which is open for brunch, lunch and dinner, also serves frozen margaritas made with fresh fruit purées. One dubbed The Most Interesting Cocktail in the World is a frozen margarita topped with Dos Equis beer.

“It’s a pretty kind of place,” said Sturm. “And it’s true to the roots, food wise.”