In fifth grade I played Little League baseball. Struck out my first twelve times at bat. Then, studying the dandelions in left field, I had an insight: Most fifth graders can't throw strikes. In my next twelve at bats, I walked eleven times and then, feeling lucky, swinging blindly, stroked a ball into left for my first (and only) hit.
The following year I played on my school's sixth-grade basketball team. (Roll, Dons, roll!) My main asset? I was the tallest kid in class: twelve years old, six feet tall, with orangutan arms and two left feet. In September I'd broken my left wrist playing touch football. I was on the court for maybe ten minutes, total, all season, the bulk of it in the waning minutes of our blowout defeat in the championship game.
Thus ended my athletic career.
But my love of sports continues to this day. I'm not ashamed to admit that I spend an unhealthy amount of time (and calories) watching them on TV, following them online, agonizing over the sad fact that my beloved Baltimore Orioles haven't posted a winning season since I was a college sophomore. Nor am I ashamed to admit that, when the mood strikes, a sports bar is exactly where I want to watch the game: cold beer, sloppy burgers and TV monitors bigger than some of the taco joints I've reviewed.
At the Post Sports Bar & Grill, the beer is cold, the burgers are sloppy, and while the TVs might not be taqueria-size, the menu does include Buffalo chicken dip. That, dear readers, is a winner.
The Post opened last spring on Maplewood's main commercial strip. It looks exactly as you would expect, the walls crammed with flat-screen TVs of varying sizes and all sorts of St. Louis sports memorabilia. The Post also bills itself a fantasy-sports mecca, so there is a large display of fantasy-league standings. (I don't play fantasy sports, but if I did, my team would be called the Provelveteen Habit, and it would always finish dead last.)
If, however, you expect to find a high-testosterone, frat-partyesque nightmare, you might be surprised. The Post is chill. (Sometimes overly so, with the servers, though never less than friendly, taking time to find their way to your table.) In fact, an essay — yep, an essay — on the back page of the menu describes a quasi-philosophy of relaxation, "the post" (in the generic sense) as a sort of Platonic state of hangin' out. Or something like that. I was preoccupied with a bowl of Buffalo chicken dip, so I just skimmed the thing.
The "Blazin' Chicken Dip" is pretty much everything that's great about Buffalo wings — chicken, Buffalo sauce, ranch dressing and blue cheese — folded together and served with pita bread and tortilla chips. In a less charitable mood, I would say that ordering it, rather than going through the actual physical labor of dipping a chicken wing in ranch dressing or blue cheese and then pulling the meat from the bone with your teeth, is a sure sign that you've given up on life. But that doesn't make it any less tasty: tangy, spicy, creamy.
Of course, you can order actual Buffalo wings, which come in standard fried and "baked" forms. I put baked in quotation marks because these wings are, in fact, fried first and then tossed in sauce and baked. The result is skin that is crisper than the usual wing's, but this comes at the expense of the sauce's flavor, which is dissipated. I preferred the regular wings, the skins of which, though drenched in sauce, retained their crunch.
Another great thing about sports bars? The appetizers could be labeled entrées and no one would know the difference, as I learned when I ordered the garlic-cheese fries. These could serve two as a meal, easily, with leftovers. What impressed me was that under a blanket of melted cheddar and jack cheeses were decent fries, most of them still crisp rather than grease-logged.
Only a few dishes (fish and chips, ribs) are labeled entrées. The bulk of the main courses are burgers, sandwiches and pizzas. Of these, burgers are the best bet. The "Bavis" burger — named after an owner's father, it's nothing fancier than a bacon cheeseburger swimming in a sweet, tangy barbecue sauce — was excellent. The patty looked to have been formed by hand, thicker and thus juicier in the middle than at the edges, and the medium-thick bacon was fried exactly right. The "Oshie" burger, presumably named for the young Blues star, was the aforementioned sloppy burger, overloaded with cheddar cheese, guacamole and chipotle-seasoned onions. Tasty, though without the "sting" the menu promised, it fares far better than its namesake's team has so far this season.
I'm pleased to report that the "Oshie" burger is one of only a few dishes that bear cute, sports-inspired names. Others include the "Texas Fredbird," a chicken-breast sandwich with the same accompaniments as the "Bavis" burger, and the now unintentionally hilarious "Tiger Tamer," after what the menu claims (though I could find no proof) is the embattled golf megastar's ritual pre-round meal of chicken with Swiss cheese and mushrooms.
Pizzas are solid but not spectacular. The sauce has a very mild sweetness and a strong bite of oregano, and the pies are heaped with melted mozzarella and toppings. But the crust was much too thin to support all of this and turns soggy and flimsy under the weight. The edge of that crust did show promise, with a light flavor and a slight doughy chew.
You want beer? Good, because if the Post has wine, I didn't see it. At any rate, the beer selection is run-of-the-mill, with a few craft options (Anchor Steam, Schlafly) rounding out the usual megabrew field. Of course, that's not surprising, considering that ads from megabrewers are the lifeblood of televised sports — which, in turn, is why sports bars can exist in the first place.
Will the Post or any half-decent sports bar attract the sports-averse? I don't know. This isn't a restaurant so much as an experience: the food, the drink, the other people, the TVs, the games, the debates. It's an exciting escape from everyday drudgery — with Buffalo chicken dip.
Before I go.... On the off chance that Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak is reading this: If the team needs a table setter for Pujols, I know a certain restaurant critic with a lifetime .500 on-base percentage.