SUN PHOTO/LIZA MORROW
The dish is Grouper Angelina named after Chef Ian Fairweather's wife, Angelina. The server is Katherine Whipkey.
By Liza Morrow
sun staff contributor
With winter temperatures hovering from the mid-70s to the low 80s, alfresco dining is the thing among Anna Maria locales. There are lots of places for it, often with heat lamps at tables for cooler evenings. But the best outdoor patio in town may be the newly constructed pavilion at The Sandbar with its tall-beamed ceiling and sandy wooden deck. By 6 p.m., now that the time has changed, you’ll need to drop what you are doing and head straight to the Sandbar in time for the sunset – an impressive show that summons tourists and locals alike. As you wait for the applause-generating daily masterpiece and watch the pelicans dive for their dinner, keep an eye out for the occasional dolphin and enjoy the couples exchanging wedding vows, as the Sandbar is still the favorite beach spot for weddings.
The Sandbar is one of three spiffy but uncomplicated, waterside seafood restaurants (including Mar Vista and BeachHouse) founded by the Chiles Group with very simple promises. Keep the food straightforward, rustic and reasonably priced. Serve plentiful portions. Be nice. The result is highly satisfying food, fresh and flavorful.
The Sandbar is a casual seafood restaurant. It also has casual prices. It is an every-night-of-the-week kind of place, like a best seller that isn’t too challenging but you still can’t put it down. Or a typical best picture nominee, something the children, the parents and their parents can watch and then watch again. The Sandbar confirms the enormous charm of the middlebrow, the special place where "happening" sparkles next to "been there" and sophistication winks at user-friendly. It presents good food without fussiness.
You need not venture all that far to happen upon a sirloin, pork chop or piece of chicken of comparable taste and quality. But you would be hard pressed to encounter a fish dish as generously portioned, moist and delicately seasoned and well-prepared at this price. Did we mention grouper? Kitchen manager, Chef Ian Fairweather has one more grouper surprise up his sleeve and it is named after his wife, Grouper Angelina. We think it is the perfect choice for dinner as the nights start to turn cooler especially with the warming jolt of white wine. Elegant and yet easygoing. Hearty but not too filling.
Sandbar’s Grouper Angelina
2 8 oz. fresh grouper fillets
4 oz. flour
2 oz. cooking oil
6 oz. chopped artichoke
8 oz. fresh spinach
2 oz. white wine
3 oz. lemon butter
Dredge grouper in flour. Heat pan with cooking oil. Add fish to hot pan. Cook 4 minutes, then flip grouper filet. Add white wine, artichokes and spinach. Let cook for 2 minutes. Plate the grouper. Add lemon butter to spinach/artichoke mixture and let thicken. Pour over grouper. Enjoy!!