I wasn’t familiar with Sandbar Daiquiri Bar & Grill, but a copy of their menu landed mysteriously in my editor’s chair with the cryptic message “Charlie highly recommends this place” scrawled at the bottom.
Nobody, including anyone named Charlie, took credit. We decided it was just one of those things and that I was meant to go. Besides, some of the stuff on the menu intrigued me.
I went to Sandbar on a Friday night just as the sun was starting to set, hoping I wasn’t too early. That is, early enough to be able to get a seat but not so early that I would be the only patron. Sandbar is in the west end of the Vieux Marche (835 Vieux Marche Mall), close enough to Casino Row that tourists might come across it but small enough that it seems to have a loyal crowd of locals. It’s open 11 a.m. to midnight (or 1 a.m.) Monday through Saturday and 2 p.m. to midnight Sunday. By the way, it’s conveniently across the street from the Saenger.
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Sandbar is as much a bar as restaurant, and it’s as much restaurant as a purveyor of decidedly fun adult frozen drinks. The machines sit behind the bar with such tempting names as Candy Bar, Jack & Coke, White Russian and Amaretto and something intriguingly called Behavior Modification (and those were just the ones within my area of the bar). I chose a seat at the bar.
I decided to forgo a daiquiri and went instead for one of their mules. Moscow mule has become one of my favorite cocktails, joining the mojito and the cranberry vodka in my go-to lineup. Sandbar makes the classic as well as Exotic Mango Mule and Apple Crisp Mule, which combines apple and vanilla vodkas, ginger beer and lime. I chose the Apple Crisp Mule ($8) and enjoyed the clean, fruity combination paired with the spicy slight kick of the ginger beer, all served with crushed ice in a tin cup.
Dinner was the Triple Heat Chicken sandwich ($10.70). Poboys and sandwiches here are served with fries or chips or, for an additional charge, you can substitute onion rings or steamed vegetables.
“Are the onion rings homemade?” I asked Julie my bartender. “Yes, m’am, they are!” she said. Decision settled.
The Triple Heat Chicken sandwich is a spicy breaded chicken patty topped with jalapenos and pepper jack cheese, and the whole thing is dressed with mayonnaise, lettuce and tomatoes in a nice big bun. Well, it’s huge. You’ll need that knife that comes stabbed in the sandwich. Yes, there is heat, but it’s not ridiculous. It’s mostly thanks to the jalapenos, which are lightly batter dipped and fried. The combination is delicious and comforting, with the occasional “whee!” from an unexpected jalapeno chunk. The spicy chicken and the sweetness of the mule made a good pair.
There’s no question the onion rings are homemade. They are thin and so is their coating. For me, this is good — make that great. Many is the time I’ve bitten into a real onion ring (as opposed to the ground-up-onion doughnuts you sometimes get) and the whole ring of onion comes out of its breading shell because the onion slice is thick. These are not proud, puffy lifesavers but languid lounge lizards, begging you to drop them into your mouth like shoestring fries. So how do they taste? They are every bit as oniony, and because the coating is thin, it’s crunchier.
Julie saw me eyeing the daiquiri machines. “Would you like to sample one? Or two or three?” she asked with a chuckle. Earlier I had seen her making a Candy Bar one for another patron but adding some peanut butter per his request. I told her I would like to try the Candy Bar. She squeezed out a trial size into a little paper cup and handed it to me. It’s like an adult chocolate shake; I definitely approve.
“What’s the Behavior Modification?” I asked. I found out it’s their strongest concoction. Julie gave me a sample of that. It’s like a fruit punch with an undeniable jolt of alcohol. “I see why it’s called that,” I said, and Julie laughed and nodded.
By the way, I learned later that Julie and husband Craig Raynor are the owners.
Sandbar offers appetizers, salads, poboys and sandwiches as well as shrimp, oyster and chicken tender baskets. A friend who knew I was going raved about the corn nuggets ($2.25) on the appetizer menu, and I’m still intrigued by the fried green beans served with ranch dressing ($5.99) appetizer. I had considered the Egg Zacklie Burger ($9.95) for my meal; it’s a burger with egg and bacon cooked to order.
If you’re interested in craft brews, Sandbar is, too. A recent Facebook post showed beers on tap included Nervous Waters Raspberry Farmhouse, Freemason, Judge Roy Bean, 30A Beach Blonde and Vanilla Bean Buffalo Sweat. Selections change frequently. And tonightfrom 7 to 9, Stone Brewing Co. will be in the house with four of their flagship beers and celebrating the release of another.
Sandbar Daiquiri Bar & Grill
Where: 835 Vieux Marche Mall, Biloxi
Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight (or 1 a.m.) Monday through Saturday and 2 p.m. to midnight Sunday
Details: Daiquiris in an assortment of sizes, mixed drinks, wide selection of beers plus appetizers, salads, poboys and sandwiches and baskets.