Giants win, and fans celebrate in the neighborhood
Story by Laura Gabby and Isaacc García
Photos by Isaacc García
Bars were crowded around the city this past Sunday night for the Giants-49ers playoff game.
And the Applebee’s Restaurant in the Gateway Center of the Bronx was no exception.
Despite the enthusiasm, there was no rowdiness; the atmosphere was mellow in this family-style restaurant.
The game began at 6:30pm, and by then, all the seats at the bar were taken.
The booths and tables were also filled, some with fans making sure to get comfortable and stake out seats for the next 4 hours. Families chatted during commercials to explain the game to their children, and friends toasted to a victory that they said they knew was assured.
The aromatic smell of barbeque sauce and ribs carried through the room.
Most of the fans were from the neighborhood, choosing to stay local, in the neighborhood, instead of traveling to a more crowded bar downtown.
For ten years, Letty Lopez and her boyfriend have been fans of the Giants team.
“No matter if they lose, I’ll always support them,” she said, with a pumped fist in the air.
The last time the Giants went to the Super Bowl, and won, in 2007, Applebee’s and the Gateway Center did not exist.
Opened in 2009, the restaurant has made an effort to incorporate Bronx and local neighborhood history into the décor. According to restaurant manager Jamie Podojil, Applebee’s researches every neighborhood it opens in for decorating ideas and themes.
In this case, that included painted panels depicting landmarks such as the Bronx Zoo, the Madison Avenue Bridge, and of course, the nearby Yankee Stadium.
Chiffon Granger, a teacher at the Bronx’s P.S. 29, and Wendell Rid, a juvenile justice officer, came out to Applebee’s for the drink specials, and because it was in the neighborhood, a good combination for a playoff game.
By the second half of the game, the bar area remained full.
With each play, the sighs and groans got heavier, and the cheers louder.
“People come to have fun. We focus on providing excellent service, so your experience is second to none,” said Samantha Suarez, an Applebee’s waitress, as she tended to patrons.
At one table, a father enjoying a burger with his 8 year-old son, while paying close attention to the game, agreed.
“This is a place where I can enjoy the game and bring my son without worrying; [this is] totally a family atmosphere,” he explained.
As the game neared the fourth quarter, security guards and employees from neighboring stores and cab drivers began to gather outside in the cold, just outside the clear glass window near the entrance. They peered in at the game on the flat screen, taking a break from their rounds or waiting to taxi fans home at the end.
As restaurant business slowed, all attention pivoted on the game.
Robert, a Bronx native and a server with Applebee’s for the past year, stopped to applaud the Giants on his way in and out of the kitchen. Robert and many of the other servers wore Giants jerseys; although a few wore Jets jerseys.
A fumble by the 49ers in overtime set the Giants up for the winning field goal.
Fans around the bar jumped out of their seats, whooping and hollering.
A loud cheer came from the kitchen.
The Giants had done it again, a victory touching every corner of New York, including a favorite neighborhood spot in the Bronx.