Sandcastle owners (from left): Amy Greeley, Doug Flicker, and Chele Payer
Lake Harriet has Bread & Pickle, Minnehaha Falls has Sea Salt, and Lake Calhoun has Tin Fish. Lake Nokomis is arguably a just as popular and beloved warm-weather recreation destination, but somehow it had been overlooked as a site for a small waterfront eatery. That is, until last summer, when the Minneapolis Parks Board began accepting proposals for a concession stand that was wallet-friendly, accommodating to families, and would offer some healthy options on its menu. It wasn't too long before they announced that eatery would be Sandcastle, headed by Piccolo chef Doug Flicker, his wife and co-owner Amy Greeley, and business partner Chele Payer. Excitement followed, construction started, menus were planned, and now as beach season is imminent, everyone is wondering what's up with Sandcastle. The Hot Dish caught up with Greeley to get some answers.
1. The Hot Dish: What is your role at Sandcastle? What part of your background led you to getting in on this project?
Amy Greeley: I think of myself as the project manager at this point. I like "project manager" better than "form filler outer," even though that's a lot of what is happening now. Eventually, I will be in charge of operations onsite. My main goal will be to focus on a short wait in line for all our customers.
My previous career was in higher education working for universities. That experience working within bureaucracy has been helpful managing all of the different pieces of getting a business up and running (licenses, negotiations, etc.). More practically, I've been married to chef/restaurant owner Doug Flicker for 12 years. Like any good wife, I thought I could do it better. Not really. We just thought it would be fun to partner on a project. It's important to work with people you trust and that support you.
2. HD: How did you, Doug, and Chele come together, and what has the process of developing Sandcastle been like?
Greeley: Chele has been working with Doug at Piccolo since it opened. She is brilliant and a whiz with numbers. It was kind of a no-brainer to bring her into Sandcastle as an owner. She was really involved in every aspect throughout the proposal process and has a keen sense about quick service.
The process has been fascinating. It often feels like two steps forward, one step back. But then after some weeks we look back and see how far we've come. I've encountered really great people at every step. The MPRB (Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board) has been very supportive, our contractor and architect the Big Room and Locus Architecture are indispensible, and even people who live around the lake and in Minneapolis in general have been really encouraging. It makes us feel like the challenges that come up are surmountable.
3. HD: What menu items are you most excited about? What kind of beer will you be serving?
Greeley: I'm really excited for two items. I think the sweet pea falafel is amazing! Doug created it at Piccolo, and I think it's great that we are bringing it to Sandcastle as a wrap to share with so many people. The second is the American Indian fry bread. This was Chele's suggestion, and Doug and I jumped on it. Not many people have it on their menu, so it will be a unique option. Chele had her cousin-in-law in to show Doug how it's made. Pairing it with bison and hominy just makes for a filling, great meal.
Beer is a great question! We have the wine list down but I've been putting off deciding on beer since I don't drink beer and my husband doesn't drink. It makes it harder to taste test. However, we know it is very important. We will definitely have local options. We want to keep selections reasonable until we can be sure of space in our new kitchen and storage realities. I'll have to hit up a friend to be a beer consultant. Any takers?
4. HD: I heard you will have a "grab and go" component. Will there also be seating, counter service?
Greeley: The service concept is based on spreading people out as much as possible so they don't have to stand in line too long. During high-volume times the grab-and-go window will be at one end of the building away from the folks who are looking to order a whole meal (and who often take longer to order). It is designed to service the beach, people walking or biking by, and just anyone who wants to stop for an agua or ice cream.
The other order area will have two registers. People will order their meals, receive their drinks, and then take a seat. We will either use a buzzer or text system for letting them know when their food is ready. We then have another spot where they will pick up their food. This is the same spot where people that are eating can refill drinks or get an ice cream for dessert. Again, trying to keep them out of the longer/slower ordering line.
The seating is all outdoors and will be provided by the MPRB since it is all park space. The first summer we will have transitional seating, maybe something like a bunch of picnic tables. By the second summer the MPRB will have built a large and beautiful seating area with a pavilion.
5. HD: When are you set to open? Will you do a grand opening party or event?
Greeley: We don't have a set opening date yet. We are still trying to get all our construction permits. If it all falls into place as we hope, then we would love to be open the first week of June. Depending on when we open, we would love to have a grand opening event. If opening gets pushed back, then we will just open as soon as possible.
4955 Nokomis Pkwy. W., Minneapolis