NAVARRE – Craft beer and pitchers were flowing, LSU fans were rowdy and eyes scanned the wall-to-wall TVs Jan. 13 at Stripes Pub & Grill, appropriately named in this military-centric pocket of the Emerald Coast.


The euphoria would have been easy to dismiss as a product of the College Football Playoff Championship, yet another exercise in SEC dominance. But it was clear this scene was not exclusive to the big game.


This Navarre staple is earning its pub and grill stripes (pun intended) every night.


The healthy selection of beers on tap, pitcher specials and game-room shenanigans delivers. As does the food.


Order the best sweet potato waffle fries you’ve ever tasted.


Sample some crispy, saucy wings that’ll have you licking your fingers.


Pick a juicy, meaty burger that will excite any carnivore.


Cruise that expansive starters menu – Reuben egg rolls! – and share.


And thank me later.


THE FOOD


Quintessential pub food is salty, stick-to-your-ribs, lip-smacking goodness.


This, at least based on first impressions, is Stripes.


It’s unfair really. The menu is huge and everything looks good.


For the indecisive table, this could be problematic. But I’m always the man with a plan, and after the waitress affirmed my starters choices, I went all in for the 10-count hot sauced wings and Reuben egg rolls.


The meaty wings came out first, so unbelievably crispy yet sauced liberally with my choice of hot over the other offerings of mild, fire, honey sriracha, sweet chili, whiskey glazed, BBQ, spicy BBQ and teriyaki. The sauce was a winner – offering the tang and heat on the back end that awakened the palate. Ranch wasn’t even needed.


The wings were made even more delicious as they paired with a game special that features 10 wings and a pitcher for $16 – a discount of $5.


Soon the Reuben egg rolls emerged, an order of two split into four haves and served with a house-made sauce. The corned beef, Swiss and sauerkraut each shined, the mustardy-based sauce the perfect creamy accent for the surprisingly light bite.


Other starters options include meatless wings, potato skins, spinach artichoke dip, queso dip, buffalo chicken dip, chips and salsa, loaded nachos, fried pickles, fried cheese sticks, fried mushrooms, jalapeno cheese curds, fried green beans, onion rings, sweet potato fries with apple butter, scratch-made soups and the sampler platter.


A stickler for good sweet potato fries, I opted to add those to a burger so I could enjoy the starters.


But what burger? Stripes makes the decision hard once again, offering the Afterburner with pepper jack, bacon, special sauce and grilled jalapenos, the patty melt, the Wolverine with blue cheese and bacon, the bacon and cheddar, the mushroom and Swiss and the BBQ Big Boy.


I opted for the latter, which was dressed with cheddar cheese, Swiss cheese, bacon, onion tanglers and BBQ sauce.


I was not mad over my choice, the burger cooked perfectly medium as I had requested with loads of cheese and thick-cut bacon. Paired with the BBQ sauce and crispy onion tanglers, every bite was salty, meaty, crispy goodness.


As for those fries, they reminded of the funnel cake at the fair – lightly sweet, crispy and addictive. I couldn’t stop eating.


Sandwich options include the Reuben, the club, grilled or fried chicken, beer-battered cod, prime rib and Swiss, chicken Philly, chicken Caesar wrap, BLT wrap and a quarter-pound all-beef hot dog dressed any way. There are also flatbreads – BBQ chicken, spinach and artichoke, pepperoni and buffalo chicken.


As for the entrees, the pub staples are there: fish and chips and shepherd’s pie, surrounded by other options such as salmon, smoked pork chop, whiskey glazed chicken, chicken tenders, age rib-eye, filet mignon medallions and chicken fettuccine Alfredo.


Salad options include grilled berry, fried chicken Cobb and Caesar, and there’s also a vegetarian and gluten-free menu.


For breakfast and brunch lovers, on the weekend offerings include a fully loaded breakfast burrito, eggs Benedict, chicken and waffles, French toast, pancakes, the everything skillet, three different omelets, biscuits and gravy, a breakfast sandwich or plate, steak and eggs, honey butter chicken biscuit and a strawberry cheesecake waffle.


As for specials, Monday is poker at 7, Tuesday is Taco Tuesday with 2-for-1 margaritas, Wednesday is Trivia with drink and gift card prizes.


Desserts include New York style cheesecake, brownie sundae and cake, none of which I saved room for.


THE ATMOSPHERE


It’s like the best man/woman cave – wall-to-wall TVs blasting sports, billiards tables, games and free-flowing beer.


It’s divey enough to accommodate blue-collar sports fans, and upscale enough for a casual date night. Families are welcome, too, — a toddler was enjoying fruit and the sensory overload in a high chair during my visit.


THE SERVICE


Even with a packed house, the hostess and server were friendly, accommodating and quick with the food and drink refills.


A FINAL TASTE


If I lived in Navarre, I’d make this my local watering hole.


It’s a top three burger joint for me, and the crispy wings and ice cold big pitchers of beer are icing on the cake.