Western bacon cheeseburger from Sandbar & Grill. (Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire)

Western bacon cheeseburger from Sandbar & Grill. (Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire)

Beyond the Ale: Sandbar and Grill

The standards are solid, but straying off the path can be risky

As the holidays draw near, and the frantic tempo of preparations for friends and family and Christmas shopping draws to a feverish crescendo, one may find themself overwhelmed. I certainly was, as we ducked into the Sandbar and Grill for the third iteration of the Empire’s bar food review series “Beyond the Ale.

Sandbar, a veritable institution in the bar-deprived Mendenhall Valley area, has been located in its present home tucked off of Industrial Boulevard since 1986. Where other bars and kitchens rise and fall, the Sandbar persists and survives. Open for lunch, its menu offers a more seafood-based bar food fare than some of the others may offer, with emphasis on its halibut and shrimp.

A pleasant interior divided into three main spaces, bar and table seating for eating, and quick and excellent service round out this seasoned veteran’s contribution to Juneau’s bar food scene.

Halibut fish and chips (sans chips) at Sandbar & Grill. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

Halibut fish and chips (sans chips) at Sandbar & Grill. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

Nolin Ainsworth — Halibut Fish and Chips

The Sandbar fish and chips are a requisite of any fulfilling stay in the capital city and are in a league of their own, even for us locals. The halibut is fresh, and the batter is one-of-a-kind. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of not ordering the fries with the large-ice-cubed-sized pieces and regretted it deeply.

Fortunately, my colleague didn’t finish all the fries from his meal, so I stuffed my face with his after giving up on trying to convince myself the coleslaw was tasty. Don’t make the mistake of trying to “eat healthy” like me by passing the fries, and you’ll be glad you stopped in.

Western bacon cheeseburger from Sandbar & Grill. (Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire)

Western bacon cheeseburger from Sandbar & Grill. (Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire)

Michael S. Lockett — Western Bacon Cheeseburger

The burger was somehow mathematically satisfactory. It arranged the parts, meat + bacon + cheese + sauce into a strangely cubical whole that was greater than the sum of its parts; I had to dig into the bed of fries to find the bottom, it just kept going down. It crunched where it ought to crunch, and I made a proper mess of myself trying to unhinge my jaw wide enough to eat the whole thing like a snake.

Also a plus: A speaker located next to our table. The song selection was somehow exactly what I’d expect from the Sandbar, and the decor was comfortable, not distracting from the conversation at all.

Fries were good, too! Service was excellent.

Shrimp tacos from Sandbar & Grill. (Honour Miller-Austin | Juneau Empire)

Shrimp tacos from Sandbar & Grill. (Honour Miller-Austin | Juneau Empire)

Honour Miller-Austin — Shrimp Tacos

The tacos themselves looked appealing at first glance. But digging deeper into the meal, the tortillas were somewhat soggy/under-cooked. The shrimp had a good crispy texture, and they provided a good amount of condiments (salsa and sour cream) but that probably wasn’t the right condiment choice. The coleslaw was dry and quite warm laying underneath the shrimp, and lastly, the chips were under seasoned. Quite frankly, the visit was underwhelming, although the service was exceptional. They’re not known for their tacos and maybe this is why.

Super French Dip from Sandbar & Grill. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

Super French Dip from Sandbar & Grill. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

Peter Segall — Super French Dip

The Super French Dip wasn’t exactly super but it was pretty good. It had all the classic French dip accoutrements but with added mushrooms, cheese and mayo giving it a bit more flavor diversity than the standard sandwich. The au jus had a nice deep beef flavor, and they gave you a good amount of it. Fries were crispy, no complaints there.

BUT

I have to say the best part of Sandbar was the dramatized true-crime show on the TV in the background. At one point, it turned into a Victorian-era, historical true-crime dramatization. 12/10.

Overall

6.8/10 It’s a nice solid bar, and some of the food, including the burgers, sandwiches and fish and chips were great, but straying off the beaten path was a risky gamble. Maybe it was a fluke, maybe stick to the staples.

About Beyond The Ale

Our staff picked a range of food and evaluated it independently. All of these evaluations reflect the experience of the individual journalist, and shouldn’t be construed as a recommendation for or against any given restaurant.

Beyond The Ale will return next week with our next bar food review.

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