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Cheers and chicken wings

Press Box Sports Emporium

222 S Dale Mabry Highway, 876-3528.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Monday through Saturday; 12 p.m. to 3 a.m. Sunday.

Payment: Cash, major credit cards.

Atmosphere: Locker room charming.

Alcohol: Full bar.

Prices: $3.25 to $10.95.

Menu highlights: Buffalo wings, Buffalo chicken sandwich, homemade potato chips with cheese, soup and sandwich.

Cheers and chicken wings

In the early morning hours when most 9-to-5ers are fast asleep, restaurants have long closed and the traffic has waned, there is a place where night owls gather for hot food and cold beer.

The Press Box is not just a sports bar anymore.

It's true that at the height of football season it's hard to find a seat. Several big televisions, a sports motif and the freedom to yell loudly when your team makes a big play attract hardcore fans.

However, the Press Box becomes all the more appealing after 2 a.m. because it's about the only place besides Denny's-style chains that serves food.

Owner Walter Hill, 31, grew up in Tampa and has been cooking "since I could reach the stove." His wife, Beth Ann, helps run the place.

"I grew up on Press Box," Hill said. "It has that down-home atmosphere, everybody is friendly and a lot of customers refer to it as Tampa's cheers."

The four-page menu boasts food for every possible appetite. Hungry patrons can find chicken, steak, seafood, ribs, pizza, soups, sandwiches and salads.

We recommend PB's famous chicken wings. Served Buffalo style, if you catch them during happy hour (after 11 p.m.) they are only 5-cents apiece with a couple of beers.

Speaking of beer, the Press Box serves it in 10-ounce and 25-ounce glasses. Jaegermeister is now on tap, served at a chilling 5-degrees (Alcohol, remember, does not freeze).

The burger with bleu cheese and mushrooms and the prime rib French dip are satisfying selections. Soft pretzels with cheese make a great snack. Desserts are available, but portions are less than generous.

On good days service is superb. Other days we were hardly noticed by the help.

Lastly, for those who shied away because of a recent robbery at the Press Box, Hill has hired an armed security guard to provide protection.

_ SUSAN CLARY

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