And the 2019 Miami Herald Munch Madness champion is...

Who will be the 2019 Miami Herald Munch Madness winner?
Who will be the 2019 Miami Herald Munch Madness winner?

Cinderella doesn’t need a glass slipper: She’s got a brass trophy, instead.

Sports Grill, which came into the 2019 Miami Herald’s Munch Madness tournament as a No. 16 seed, fought its way to becoming the newest winner. It now retires as the undefeated champion, joining the previous winners, Flanigan’s and Bocas House.

Sports Grill had to be the best of 64 restaurants chosen to compete in our bracket-style challenge, with fans voting online at

“This is pretty awesome,” said Christine Marques, one of the restaurant’s partners, who helped a restaurant founded in Miami in 1978 become one of the county’s favorite spots. “People really enjoyed this and everyone got excited to be a part of it.”

Special Grilled Wings at Sports Grill. Handout

Sports Grill has become a Miami institution since the couple Eric and Lori Haas, former Eastern Airlines flight attendants who met in the skies, founded their original location at 10005 SW 72nd St., in Kendall.

It was their Special Grilled Wings that put them on the map — and they remain Sports Grill’s best sellers and fan favorites. The wings are dipped in their Sports Grill Sauce, charbroiled and basted again in their tangy secret sauce. From their ribs, burgers and waffle fries made them a regular stopover for locals.

The business grew when the Haas’ partner, Mike “Spike” Anderson helped sell a pair of former customers, Carlos Cruz and Frank and Eddie Aixala, the licensing rights to open a pair of other restaurants.

Then it took off after Marques left a job running Burger King’s supply and distribution in Canada to help turn Sports Grill into a seven-location, Miami-based chain.

“As I fell out of love with the Whopper, I fell in love with Special Grilled Wings,” she said.

Sports Grill had quite a climb to reach the 2019 Miami Herald Munch Madness championship.

For this year’s tournament, we brought back the sweet 16 from last year, minus the retiring champ, Bocas House, to fight it out in a Returning Faves category. That left one spot for the top vote getter that did not make the round of 16 — as a bottom 16 seed.

No matter. Sports Grill started by knocking off the runner-up from last year, Tropical Chinese. Then the others fell, thanks to intense voting: Big Cheese, Pubbelly and finally Dr. Limón to win the Returning Faves bracket.

Sports Grill defeated Night Owl Cookies, the champion of the Specialty bracket. And finally, it knocked off Islas Canarias, which won the Miami Gems category and knocked off the winner of the Newbies new restaurants category.

“It was fun for us. It was a blast,” Marques said.

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Miami Herald food editor Carlos Frías won the 2018 James Beard award for excellence in covering the food industry. A Miami native, he’s also the author of “Take Me With You: A Secret Search for Family in a Forbidden Cuba.”