From the gridiron to the griddle, Ditka tackles the restaurant business
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Football hungry, and just hungry, Pittsburghers have a new dining destination, as the former Atria's in Robinson has been reborn as Ditka's -- Mike Ditka's newest restaurant.
Many know Ditka as "Da Coach" -- former coach of da Chicago Bears and a national sports broadcaster. But did you know he's a local boy -- born Oct. 18, 1939, in Carnegie -- who played football at Aliquippa High School and at the University of Pittsburgh?
As he says in a news release, "I've always wanted to come back."
Ditka has the distinction of winning NFL championships with Chicago as a player (a tight end, 1963) and head coach (1985), and he also won one with the Dallas Cowboys as an assistant coach (1977), making him one of two people to win three that way.
After 11 years as head coach of the Bears, he coached the New Orleans Saints for three years, working in between and since as a broadcaster, now with ESPN.
But as the Hall of Famer said when staying away from the 2007 induction ceremony to protest the disability system for NFL players, "I'm in the restaurant business. I'm busy" -- with two Mike Ditka's restaurants, in Chicago (that opened in 1997) and nearby Oakbrook Terrace, Ill. (2007).
They're managed by a Pittsburgh company -- Restaurant Holdings Inc., which owns and operates seven Atrias around Western Pennsylvania. The Robinson Plaza one, which closed at the end of August, has been transformed into the clubby comfort of Ditka's Chicago chop houses: mahogany and other hardwood accents, leather and white linen -- and, of course, sports memorabilia and massive big-screen TVs.
You can order the big signature steaks and seafood entrees, including "Da Pork Chop" -- 20 ounces of it. The restaurant is big, too -- 6,500 square feet, 240 seats -- and has several private dining rooms, with seating for 10 to 80 guests, including the Panther Room, the Coach's Room and the Hall of Fame Room.
Busy "Iron Mike" himself -- who, despite having other ventures ranging from cigars to resorts, is said to regularly greet patrons at his Chicago eateries -- was to be here for the VIP Party and grand opening earlier this week. If you missed that, the management promises it won't be your last chance.
He'll be back.
Ditka's, at One Robinson Plaza at Routes 22 and 60, is open from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Thurs.; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun. For reservations and more, call 412-722-1555.
First Published October 25, 2008 12:00 am