The Sports Page, Where Grill Comes Before Bar
Vanessa Wolf is a former head chef. She offers her frank assessments in the interests of honesty and improving Maui’s culinary scene.
By Vanessa Wolf
Your dreams of winning a billion dollars courtesy of Warren Buffet and a bullet-proof bracket dashed, you can still lose a little of your own money in a friendly Final Four bet or two.
While you’re at it, consider taking in the games, some brews and some classic pub grub at the The Sports Page Grill & Bar in South Kihei.
Located in the Kamaole Beach Center in the corner slot between the Hawaiian Moons grocery store and Maui Tacos, the Sports Page offers a variety of basic fare with an emphasis on what your trainer probably refers to as “junk food.”
We started there in muffin top country with the Onion Rings ($7).
Hot, crispy and accompanied by a side of rich, creamy ranch dressing, they’re everything your spin instructor lays awake at night worrying about.
In the mix was a thoroughly coated and perfectly fried onionskin: simultaneously a letdown and suggestive of the possibility they’re making these themselves from real, live onions. (Although signs point to no considering the batter selection is none other than ye olde ubiquitous breadcrumbs.)
The Cheese Sticks ($7) come coated in the same breading and all but scream, “Fresh from the freezer to the fryer to you!”
Nothing wrong with that, though. What’d you expect from cheese sticks? Besides, it’s a bar already. If you’re looking for creative cuisine made from locally sourced produce, well, see above.
Speaking of which, if you possess a superhuman, bloodhound-like sense of smell, brace yourself for the Sports Page’s, er, olfactory ambiance.
Your nasal palate will detect notes of mildew, ashtray and stale grease with a Salvation Army thrift store finish. It’s kind of like taking a time machine to someone’s dark, dank, 1979 single-wide trailer: funky town.
So about that food…
If you’re looking for something a little less deep-fried, the Zesty Burger ($12.50) is cooked-to-order and arrived perfectly prepared. Usually the “stick to the basics so long as that doesn’t include pickles” type, we were inordinately fond of the bold, intermingled tastes of green chilis and pepper jack cheese inside it.
A flavorful change, this was upstaged only by the spot-on medium rare preparation.
The burger comes accompanied by. Oops. Sorry. We lied about the whole deep fryer thing.
It comes with fries.
The matchsticked potatoes are thin and crisp, a la French-style frites.
The Juicy Lucy ($12) – a burger concoction invented by a bar in Minneapolis (there is a fight as to which one) and defined by its sole characteristic of the cheese being located on the INSIDE – was way overcooked.
“Dry like the Sahara,” we noted. Granted, the interior reservoir of cheese was melty – if not molten – but dang.
There was no moisture – much less a single drop of juice – left. Reminiscent of AL 288-1, the skeleton of a female Australopithecus afarensis hominid discovered in 1974 in Ethiopia’s Awash Valley, this Lucy was also desiccated.
The accompanying sweet potato fries, however?
We admit it.
We’ve got a thing for sweet potatoes.
That stated – and maybe this is just post-Lucy dehydration talking – those sweet potato fries were superb. Fresh and crunchy, yet light as air: how do they even do that?
Continuing with the standard bar options/deep fryer frenzy, we decided to sample the Sports Page Buffalo Wings ($10).
The eight wings are on the small side, but they arrive crisp, yet juicy and stick to tradition. Fried and tossed with butter and Tabasco, there’s no unnecessary batter or creamy chipotle Buffalo chimichurri sauce nonsense here. Playing to win? This is your horse.
Order up while you can, especially if the place is busy. Service is aloof, with a focus on regulars. This isn’t to say you can’t get the attention you deserve; it’s just going to take a bit longer than you might like.
Moving on, the Potato Skins ($8) are exactly what you’d expect from cheese, bacon, sour cream and potatoes prepared by a bar.
Thanks to an intimidating mother who pushed the eating of the skins on our plates like she was working on commission, we’re not fans of the overall concept.
Nonetheless, that evening’s dining companion (who ordered them) gleefully devoured all but the plate despite earlier claims that he was ‘stuffed.’
Last up, we tried the Nachos ($8).
A swing and a miss.
The mountain of chips comes topped with salsa, jalapeño slices, and (in decreasing order of generosity) a criss-cross of sour cream, spoonful of guacamole, smattering black olive pieces and scant smidge of un-melted shredded cheese.
How hard is it to screw up nachos?
Pretty hard, we’d venture to guess, but the Sports Page laughed off those perceivable odds and won. If you’re of the stripe that always bets on the long shot, consider T. Nachos your top pick.
If gambling is not so much your bag, stick with burgers and wings.
The Sports Page Grill & Bar is located at 2411 South Kihei Road in Kihei. They are open from 11 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week.
**Correction: We mistakenly indicated that The Sports Page was located between “Paradise Grocery” and Maui Tacos. We meant to say Hawaiian Moons and Maui Tacos.