With the growing number of athletes who fail at business once they retire and somehow lose all their earnings, it is great to see some athletes take a passion they have outside of their sport and turn it into a business. One of the most popular ways athletes accomplish this is by opening up a restaurant surrounded by their passion.
Part of the reason athletes are able to succeed with their restaurant business is a partnership with someone who has a proven record of restaurant success. Not all athletes take this step and it turns into a failure.
This list is dedicated to the athletes who own successful restaurants or owned successful restaurants at some time in their life. Not all of the restaurants are still open, but that does not diminish the success they had when open. It's hard to say what gravitates athletes to restaurants. Perhaps it's the fact that there can be a sporty aspect to it. The restaurant business also can create long lasting relationships between the customers and the restaurateurs, as the restaurant business is also the hospitality business.
With that said, here is our list of the top 20 athletes who own restaurants. We always encourage comments with thoughts and opinions because there is no way we could get everyone on the list. Let us know what you think or if you have been to any of the restaurants on our list.
20. Vince Young - Vince Young Steakhouse
Vince Young may not be doing much in the NFL these days, but luckily his steakhouse in Austin, Texas is still open for business or he would probably be broke.
Young is also a local college legend in the area winning a national championship while playing for the University of Texas which makes his restaurant a nice backup plan to football.
His restaurant specializes in beef and provides cuts ranging from high quality steaks to prime rib to the famous brisket burger. If you are in Austin and looking for some good Texas food be sure to check out the Vince Young Steakhouse.
19. Nate Kaeding - Short's Burger and Shine
Did you know Nate Kaeding owned a restaurant in Iowa? Neither did I.
From the name it sounds pretty awesome and they provide home-made burgers along with local craft beers from around the state. It's called Short's Burger and Shine, sounds good to me, I wonder if they provide moonshine?
Anyhow, the menu has a lot of great combinations for burgers and chicken sandwiches that work well with the local brew. If you are ever in Iowa City, stop by and grab a Baxter blackened burger with bacon, provolone cheese, chipotle mayonnaise and the usual veggies.
18. Dan Marino - Dan Marino's Fine Foods & Spirits
We could not make this list without adding Mr. Marino and his restaurant ventures in Miami and then in Las Vegas.
He has opened a total of five restaurants over the years after his retirement and touted high quality wining and dining with fine cuts of steak, a vast wine selection and of course fresh seafood because they are close to the coast of Florida. Unfortunately, his restaurants closed a couple of years ago.
17. John Powell - Boog's Barbeque
If you love BBQ ribs you are going to love the next restaurant on our list owned by former MLB player John "Boogs" Powell.
According to Boogs, they provide the absolute best ribs in Ocean City and they have backed it up by establishing two locations along with a food cart at local Orioles baseball games in the stadium. That is pretty cool.
If you are in Ocean City and craving some awesome ribs, I highly suggest you head over to Boog's Bar B Q for some mouth-watering ribs.
16. Clyde Frazier - Clyde Frazier's Wine & Dine
Opened in March 2012, Clyde Frazier's Wine & Dine provides an experience you will not forget and some high quality eats to go along with it.
The restaurant is fairly large, has around three dozen big TVs and of course there has to be a half-court basketball court in the restaurant! Have you ever been to a restaurant with a basketball court in it? Play some H-O-R-S-E while waiting for your food? Sounds pretty epic to me.
Anyhow, if you are in New York and craving an awesome time, some wine and dine and a quick pick up basketball game, head over to Clyde's and comment on our post.
15. Gary Payton - The KingFish Cafe
Although this restaurant closed officially in January 2015, it was legendary in the Seattle area for its amazing southern style cuisine. When the closing was announced, the locals took to the internet and said their goodbyes while showing the support for the well loved restaurant.
Gary Payton was a primary investor and helped the restaurant take off in the late 90s when it became one of the best southern restaurants in the city.
The current owners claim they will re-open another restaurant in the near future and keep the Kingfish name, but there is no telling if Payton will be involved in the future.
14. Joe Theismann - Joe Theismann's Restaurant
Theismann's restaurant has been open and running strong for over 35 years which is pretty incredible for a restaurant, especially one owned by a former professional athlete who more often than not lack traditional business sense.
Theismann keeps it plain and simple with the menu, but the food is nothing close to plain or simple and ensures the locals come back for more.
With a brunch, lunch and dinner menu, Theismann's offers a variety of high quality food ranging from traditional breakfast plates to sandwiches to steak to seafood and more.
13. Mike Ditka - Ditka's
If you know anything about Mike Ditka, than you can probably make an educated guess that his restaurant is as awesome as he is. The restaurant relates to Ditka in multiple ways from the menu items to the decor and you can even buy Ditka clothes, accessories and more from the shop.
With the "Ditka flair" and solid (yet entertaining) menu, Ditka's had to make the list of athletes who own restaurants, especially because he was able to open three locations.
Aaron Rodgers is one of the few athletes on our list that is still playing his sport at a very high level while maintaining restaurant success off the field.
His restaurant specializes in locally raised and produced meats and veggies to create what they call "farm-to-table" foods.
The menu consists of multiple variations of wood grilled entrees, appetizers and more along with some home-town favorites like the chicken pot pie.
What screams Wisconsin more than a restaurant owned by a Green Bay Packer?
11. Michael Jordan - Michael Jordan's Steakhouse
Jordan basically is successful at everything in life (except gambling) so of course we knew his steakhouse would be successful and it went above expectations when he opened locations in other cities.
After checking out the restaurant website, I must say that I am impressed and intrigued. At some point I will have to go to one of the locations and try this place out.
It is a bit pricey, but we are talking about Michael Jordan here and I am sure they have top-notch chefs in each of his restaurants that put together an amazing plate.
10. Mike Alstott & Dave Moore - Island Way Grill
Mike Alstott and teammate Dave Moore partnered together to open the Island Way Grill in Florida and it has been a success ever since.
This luxury restaurant specializes in Island food including an array of seafood dishes, sushi and more. To top it off, they have their own fleet of fishing boats and catch fish on a daily basis in order to serve the absolute freshest fish available.
They offer high quality catering for events as well which is great for their business and provides more opportunity for profits.
Well done Alstott and Moore, I look forward to trying your restaurant the next time I am in Florida.
9. Yao Ming - Yao Restaurant & Bar
Although Yao Ming does not play in the NBA currently, his restaurant in Houston is still flourishing and providing excellent Chinese-American cuisine at great prices.
They focus on high quality foods that have higher protein, but lower fat levels to go along with fresh produce delivered every day in order to be as fresh and healthy as possible while maintaining the authentic flavors.
The menu is pretty extensive and covers the traditional chicken, beef, pork and seafood dishes along with some of the newer or modern dishes to provide an option for everyone.
8. Brett Favre - Brett Favre's Steakhouse
We all knew it was only a matter of time before Brett Favre opened up a restaurant and we also knew that it had to be named after him. (Just like nearly everyone on this list haha!)
Anyhow, Favre knows his cuisine and his restaurant is very successful with a specialty in steaks and seafood. The menu has an array of platters, entrees and more, but the steakhouse also provides catering services and game day tailgating with a massive tailgating party.
Pretty impressive for the Packers legendary quarterback.
7. Joe DiMaggio - Joe DiMaggio's Italian Chop House
Unfortunately, this restaurant has closed so we can no longer take a trip to San Fran and try it out, but the concept sounded pretty awesome to me.
The theme was a 1930s Italian joint more than likely with some classic Frank Sinatra playing, but with a lot of Joe DiMaggio memorabilia everywhere.
The restaurant specialized in traditional Italian dishes and sounded like an overall good experience so it had to get a spot on the list. Plus he's Joe DiMaggio!
6. Greg Norman - Greg Norman's Australian Grill
Norman had an excellent golf career, but was not as lucky in multiple other business ventures he decided to try except for his restaurant in Myrtle Beach called Greg Norman's Australian Grill.
It is a high end restaurant with an epic Australian harbor feel to it combined with an Australian themed menu providing food as amazing as the decor and view.
If you are in Myrtle Beach and looking for a high end Australian restaurant, Greg Norman's Australian Grill should be the first place that comes to mind.
1 John Elway - Elway's
Like the previous athlete on our list, Elway had an incredible NFL career, but was not as fortunate in his business ventures except for his famous restaurant Elway's in Denver.
His first fine dining restaurant was opened in downtown Denver inside of a Ritz Carlton which is a perfect location for fine dining.
Immediate success brought along more locations for Elway's and they all continue to do well today and are best known for their high quality cuts of steak along with a creative/innovative menu.
4. Arnold Palmer - Arnold Palmer's Restaurant
This famous restaurant has been open since 2004 and I assume will stay open and successful for a very long time.
The restaurant itself sounds elegant and boasts multiple eating areas including the Master's Room, the US Open Room, the British Open Room, the Wine Room and of course the Palmer Room which all provide different unique experiences for dining guests.
All of the dishes are Palmer's favorites which include high end dishes featuring Honey Glazed Chilean Sea Bass, Slow Roasted Prime Rib, Filet Mignon Beef Stroganoff and more.
3. Wayne Gretzky - Wayne Gretzky's Toronto
Wayne Gretzky's is a sports restaurant that boasts a main dining room, sports bar/lounge and a rooftop oasis patio for guests to relax and enjoy some sports while they eat from a menu featuring multiple home town favorite dishes (they even have a Gluten Free menu).
Another cool addition to Wayne Gretzky's is the Tuck Shop which allows guests to purchase Gretzky memorabilia including shirts, hats, coffee mugs and more.
If you are in downtown Toronto, it is a must to stop at Wayne Gretzky's and try his "Famous Wings" with a "The Great One Burger" while you're there.
2. Dan Majerle - Majerle's Sports Grill
"Thunder" Dan Majerle has been a big part of the Phoenix area for years ever since he played eight seasons for the Phoenix Suns and has continued to be a part of the city.
He opened the original Majerle's restaurant in downtown Phoenix in the early 90s and has been very successful opening four more locations around Arizona.
The menu consists of dishes named from Phoenix Suns players coaches and announcers serving burgers, sandwiches, salads, BBQ and more. The names of the dishes are pretty funny and include Mama Majerle's Burger, Joe Kliene's Chicago Bleu and of course the Sir Charles Southwest Chicken Salad.
1. Billy Sims - Billy Sims Barbecue
From the brief Billy Sims introduction above I am sure you can see why Billy Sim's Barbecue came in at number one our list of top athletes who own restaurants.
His restaurant story is by far the most impressive and successful with over 40 locations in five different states currently and more coming as the franchise continues to blossom.
Sims has a passion for home style BBQ and his menu shows that he knows exactly what he is doing and his success shows that his food MUST be pretty amazing. (from the website pictures it certainly looks tasty)
His restaurants are not enormous, elegant and glamorous and his menu does not boast anything that costs $50, but his menu theme is perfect for the niche which has led to amazing success and will continue to grow. I cannot wait to try his BBQ!