It’s hard for me to tell, at this early stage,
if the “Pierpont Entertainment District”
(which takes out big ads in City Weekly)
exists only in our minds, exists only in the
minds of clever PR and marketing types, or
is the real deal. I suppose time will tell. The
Pierpont District certainly doesn’t have
the critical mass of patrons or the energy
and vibrancy of, say, Denver’s LoDo.
However, it’s beginning to feel like
Salt Lake City’s fun zone: roughly the
area encompassing West Temple to 200
West and 100 South to 500 South. There,
you’ll find clubs, bars and restaurants
like Lumpys Downtown, Bliss, Elevate,
Donovan’s, The Hotel, Gracie’s, Mo’s,
Spencer’s, Trofi, Christopher’s, Squatters,
Metropolitan, Red Rock, Settebello and a
few others I probably forgot. All are within
easy walking (or staggering) distance
from one another. Oh, and how could I forget
Sandbar? I’ve been eating there lately,
with mixed results.
Unless you’re a total stick-in-the-mud,
it’s hard not to like the island atmosphere
of Sandbar. The floors look like a sandy
beach, reggae-spiked tunes play loudly
throughout the colorful interior, overhead
lamps are made out of tin beer buckets and
there’s even a chandelier constructed from
used Corona bottles. The servers (I haven’t
seen any male servers yet) wear denim
miniskirts, and there are Tommy Bahama
rum and Jagermeister bottles embedded
in the pillars and columns throughout
the sprawling club/restaurant. TV screens
abound, and dining tables consist of beer
bottle-caps covered in an inch of clear lacquer.
Are we in Scottsdale or on Melrose?
Sure feels like it.
Particularly on Thursday, Friday and
Saturday nights, Sandbar is a boisterous,
high-energy scene; it seems as though many
of Port O’ Call’s former patrons (the young
ones) have found their way to Sandbar.
Guys, have your pick-up lines ready; gals,
be sure to wear heels.
The rest of the time, Sandbar functions
primarily as a restaurant. And that’s where
things can begin to break down. At a big,
lengthy lunch with a dozen or so City Weekly
staffers, I had the opportunity to sample
much of the Sandbar menu, and most of the
appetizers. And I’ve gotta say: This
place is all over the map with their
food. Some items are downright
delicious; others are disappointing
and detestable. Order carefully.
For starters, when your Sandbar server
asks you if you’d like chips and salsa, you
should know (and perhaps she should tell
you) that they ain’t free. Chips and salsa
will cost you $4, or $7 with guacamole.
That seems awfully steep, to me, although
the thin, light and crispy chips and trio
of salsas were very good—and very plentiful;
the “bottomless” chips come in a
big metal Corona bucket. Still, why fill
up on chips and salsa when you could
order the best thing on the Sandbar menu
for only $7? It’s the Mexican pizza, which
begins with a fried flour-tortilla “crust,”
topped with tender shredded chicken and
Serrano-pepper cream-cheese guacamole,
along with a 3-cheese blend, tomatoes and
cilantro. The cheese blend, with cojita,
pepper jack and queso fresco, is particularly
flavorful. I’ve never quite understood
the appeal of taquitos and chimichangas:
beef, chicken and such rolled in tortillas
and deep-fried. But, if you like your meat
deep-fried, you’ll like Sandbar’s.
Aside from the Mexican pizza, my
favorite dish at Sandbar is the marvelous
machaca beef burrito ($9), which comes
with sides of rice & beans. It’s a mammoth
tortilla stuffed with lightly seasoned,
shredded, tender machaca and served with
sour cream, guacamole and salsa. But,
here’s the conundrum: I would have liked
to have my machaca in taco form, because
I wasn’t hungry enough for a giant burrito.
Regular taco dishes at Sandbar consist
of two large flour tortilla tacos, plus rice
and beans. The taco choices are Baja fish,
ground beef, Mahi, carne asada, citrusmarinated
chicken and Ahi. No machaca.
Well, that’s not quite true. You can get
machaca in your tacos if you order the
“six-pack” of tacos ($12). But the tacos
at Sandbar are large already, and I can’t
eat more than two. So, I order the beerbattered
Baja fish taco ($7) and, of course,
I’m disappointed. Because what I really
wanted was the machaca. Sigh ...
The Ahi tacos ($8) were bland—thin slices of lightly seared Ahi (pink in the middle with a white outer edge) tasting of little more than mayo-heavy chipotle aioli. That same aioli marred the carne asada taco ($8), although it was DOA anyway: tough, overcooked strips of chewy steak that I’ll bet are also used for the Sandbar fajitas, which I opted out of. Thankfully though, food prices at Sandbar are low and portions are generous. So you won’t lose the farm trying out items like the chipotle BBQ chicken salad (not bad) or the green chile burger (better).
It’s a shame, however, that too many
of Sandbar’s dishes come with sides of
Mexican rice and beans. I’ve tried them on
three different occasions now and they’ve
been, well, I hate to use the word disgusting,
so let’s say, less-than-pleasing. Much
less. The beans, in particular, are a bitter,
gloppy combination of smashed and whole
beans that had to have come from a can.
But even canned refried beans are better
than these. Here’s a suggestion for the chef:
Pick up a copy (I’ll even loan you mine) of
Rick Bayless’ Authentic Mexican and turn to
the recipe on page 207 for “brothy beans.”
You can make them in big batches and, I
guarantee, your customers will go gaga for
122 W. Pierpont Ave.