By Jason Genegabus

Friday, October 18, 2002

Bad service undercuts
super pupus

Open noon to 2 a.m. daily
600 Kapiolani Blvd.
(at the intersection of Kapiolani,
South and S. King streets)


ON FIRST GLANCE, TJ's Sports Bar & Grill has a lot going for it. Tons of space for darts and pool, a number of big screen televisions to go with the other 10 or so around the bar, and a decent pupu menu are all good reasons to stop by for a pitcher or two. Getting those pitchers, however, is what proved difficult when the Barfly visited earlier this week.

The live broadcast of Monday Night Football had finished a few minutes before we arrived, so all of TJ's booths were full. Most of those sitting down appeared in their early 30s to mid-40s, with a few younger patrons and a surprisingly good ratio of females to males for a sportsbar setting. Settling in at the bar, we ordered the first pitcher of the night and watched this week's weather report for the Denver area while waiting for the local replay to begin.

Tess Aguinaldo throws darts while friends Alma Piaha, her husband Kaipo Piaha and Arlene Boltron watch at TJ's Sports Bar & Grill.

There was a lot to choose from TJ's pupu menu, including ahi belly ($10), fried rice ($8), calamari ($8) and even omelets ($6). Those menus turned out to be as close to the house grinds as we were going to get for the moment -- it soon became a twisted game to see how many servers would pass our empty pitcher and mugs at the table we had moved to without bothering to ask if we needed anything else. I stopped counting at four, but that was only after discovering the guys from Sushi Supreme were also there with made-to-order nigiri, specialty rolls and variety platters.

If you've ever bought sushi from Aloha Stadium concession stands during UH football games, then you've tasted what Sushi Supreme has to offer. On Monday and Friday nights at TJ's they serve until closing, with prices ranging from $5 for a simple nigiri plate to upwards of $40 or $50 for a custom-made variety platter.

We tried the Spicy Tuna Dynamite, the signature item from Sushi Supreme, and the "TJ's Special Roll," a combination of tuna, salmon and hamachi that must be tasted to truly appreciate. Both are worth the $10 price. And as it turned out, only after standing in line behind another server at the bar with our empty pitcher did the Barfly ever get service. It even seemed to be almost too much for the bartender when asked to take a food order.

While it was pretty busy when the Barfly landed at TJ's, something's wrong when you have to get up and go to the bar for a refill every time you finish a pitcher. Other people seemed to be getting decent service though, so stop by and check things out for yourself. I'll definitely come back on a Monday or Friday night to check out what Sushi Supreme has to offer -- as long as someone else is ordering the beer.

How much for a Bud Light?

$7.50 for a pitcher or $2.75 a bottle; imports are available for $4.25. Well drinks cost $4.25, and calls range from $4.50 to $6.

Get things to do?

Eight dartboards, three pool tables and three Megatouch game machines, and a "Golden Tee" video game takes up about half of the bar. There's lots of room to move, and televisions are still easy to see, which is a must when football is on.

What about the grinds?

Typical bar food is on the menu at TJ's, with items like shrimp tempura ($12), miso butterfish ($10) and tofu salad ($8). Make sure to visit on Monday or Friday when Sushi Supreme sets up near the front door and churns out all kinds of ono sushi, all made to order.

And the help?

The Barfly spotted at least a half-dozen servers on duty Monday night for the football game, yet none of them were attentive enough to notice our mugs and pitchers, which sat there empty on more than one occasion. All the comfortable seating, games to play and beer to drink at TJ's aren't worth it when you have to wait 10 minutes or more to get some service.

Barfly appears every Friday in Star-Bulletin Weekend.
E-mail Jason Genegabus at with suggestions of neighborhood bars to visit.

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