All my life I’ve been visiting the restaurant at Main Beach, so I can say with authority that The Sandbar & Kitchen is the most polished, versatile, and expansive space I’ve ever seen there. It’s been many great places through the years, but now it is truly ideal for all possible customers.
My friend Patti Burch and I arrived one evening to explore the new restaurant concept, as the current owners had taken over just weeks before. The hostess stand vibe let us know we were in for a treat: amusing signs, eager diners lining up for their turn, colorful tee-shirts for sale. Having spent Thanksgiving in the beautiful upstairs bar a few years back, I wanted to check out this spot before going to our table.
Everyone loves the restaurant’s lively bar: Happy Hour is 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week, with a lively Trivia Night on Tuesdays. Nothing is trivial about this place’s dedication to whiskey: Certified Bourbon Steward Ellie told us about the industry, showed us how to taste bourbon, and described how each nostril processes different sensory data. Bartender Jensen described his favorite drink: an Angel’s Envy Old-Fashioned with Luxardo cherries. Bartenders pick a Whiskey of the Week and offer a whiskey discount on Thursdays.
Those locked treasure coves all around both floors are where The Whiskey Library at SBK is kept and curated. Representing seven countries and 36 U.S. states, the 1,183 bottles make up the largest whiskey collection in Florida. And there’s a Louis XIII cognac behind the bar awaiting its devotees, some of whom may belong to the Amelia Island Bourbon Society that frequents the restaurant.
Back downstairs, we took our seats on the porch near the front so we could enjoy the view and watch the people streaming in. Our fellow diners were families, a girls’-night-out table, older couples, and younger dates. Looking out onto the beach, we saw a small bandshell where people at tables on the sand could enjoy live music, making a note to return one night.
General manager Blaine, who came to the area with his family from Minneapolis, guided our choices based on SBK’s most popular items: Mahi Bites and a rich Crab Bisque were delicious, but we also had our eye on Shrimp, Tuna Poke Bowl, Fried Pickles, and the Blue Cheese Garden Salad. The Millionaires BLT really shone with house-made sweet, spicy bacon. Patti’s Shrimp & Grits was so fine with Anson Mills yellow grits, hot collard greens, shrimp, all under a rich tasso gravy.
Saying good-bye to Blaine at the pizza oven, I caught a glimpse of a thin, crispy pizza crust I knew I’d have to come back for. The Rustica is most popular, says Blaine, so I brought one home to submit to my personal pizzamaker’s judgement. My husband, who has been making our pizza for decades, really liked everything about this pizza, especially the taste of the red onion with sausage.
At The Sandbar & Kitchen, there’s truly something for everyone, from full fine dining to drinks with toes in the sand to a fun upstairs bar for heady pursuits, both elegant and trivial! Located at 2910 Atlantic Avenue at Main Beach.