Sandcastle remakes the concept of lakeside concessions

Lake Nokomis stand offers fancy food at the beach

A few other jobs have been outsourced too. The fantastic Monkey Bars, a Flicker-Greely creation that's dipped in rich dark chocolate and rolled in a pine nut brittle that originated at Piccolo, are made by local confectioner Jules Vranian. Healthy, preservative-free, whole-fruit frozen treats in flavors such as coconut-pineapple and summer strawberry come to Sandcastle via JonnyPops, a company run by a group of enterprising students from St. Olaf. These novelties, along with items like chips, pickles, fresh fruit, and popcorn, are all available from the to-go window, but Greely says that side of the shack has quickly evolved. "We noticed more and more people wanting to get whole meals to go on their way home or wanting to get a sandwich wrapped up to take on a bike ride and eat later. We got the proper takeaway bags and utensils, and so we are doing a lot more of those orders now."

What it seems Sandcastle lacks right now is a little more flair and accommodation in the dining area. Nokomis's four or five old clunky wooden picnic tables and the current makeshift beer garden area leave something to be desired, but Greely says that's the first order of business in getting ready for next season. "The tent that is up right now will be gone, and we'll add a big permanent pavilion in its place," she says. "The trees will be pruned so you'll have a view of the lake while you eat. We're also adding high-top bar seating and a patio that should help define the area a little bit more."

Sancastle's fish tacos and shrimp and octopus ceviche
Alma Guzman for City Pages
Sancastle's fish tacos and shrimp and octopus ceviche

Just as Sandcastle is being responsive to the needs of its diners, customers seem to be appreciating what the restaurant is bringing to the neighborhood. "In the beginning it seemed like we had two camps of people," Greely says. "Half were sort of shocked and maybe disappointed to see we didn't have chicken fingers and nachos, and the other half were expecting full-blown Piccolo food." To me, it seems like Sandcastle has already managed to strike the difficult balance somewhere between those two camps, familiar but, just like Mom says, "a little bit fancy."

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