Stop me if you’ve heard this. So a few weeks ago I was on one of my food tours, back down to the Southeastern U.S., Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, and one thing I was looking forward to was a lot of seafood and fish, of course.
One particular item I was hot for was grouper fish, a quite common offering in Florida, I ate it a lot living there, and it’s also popular in Southeast Asia, so I had my share living there, as well.
So after having my fill at all you can eat catfish buffets, I started a search for grouper. Two places had it on the menu, both were “sorry, we’re out.” Pretty much gave up after that.
So I spot it on the menu at this boater’s bar on the Illinois/Wisconsin border (literally). WTH? They bill themselves as a “Tropical Oasis in the Least Likely of Places.” Apparently the owner spent quite a bit of time on FLA’s west coast, and wanted to transfer a bit of the culture and cuisine to Illinois. I mean Wisconsin.
It’s cutely decorated on a marine theme, with nets and decorative fish and crustaceans, as well as theme “signage,” and a list of exotic sounding tropical drinks.
But I came for the grouper, fingers crossed, please don’t be “out.” They weren’t. And chef delivered.
Perfectly grilled, a dusting of blackened seasoning (not actually “blackened” as the menu states, and that’s just fine, it’s a delicate fish. It’s plated as a sandwich on a toasted bun (firm enough to cradle the contents, pretzel bun available as upgrade), with a lemon zest mayo, which is an interesting addition.
Lettuce, tomato and red onion slivers. Fries or slaw are standard accompaniments. I upgraded to get rings.
Rings have medium thickness of breading with a beer based batter. Done correctly. Nice crisp. Nice sized onion.
Lots more interesting things on the menu, worth a return visit. I’m sure curious where they source the grouper around here.
Sandwich is a little spendy at $15.95 plus $1.98 upcharge for the rings, but this place is probably jammed jammed jammed in season and they have a captive audience. If they can do, they should. Oh, full bar including large selection of “tropical” cocktails.
Modest amount of indoor seating, outdoor patio for more temperate weather. Server Cate did a fine job, checking in as necessary, but not too often.
Co-located facility has water toy rentals available by hour or day. Boat launching facilities and dock. Saw a sign for live bait, as well.
Finally, a note to women. I am told that the women’s facility is small and narrow. To the point that the only place to put one’s purse is in the sink basin. Unfortunately, it’s an auto-on sink. So if you don’t want a complimentary purse wash, have a different solution. Might be good if a couple hooks were placed somewhere on a wall? That’s all.
Highly recommended. Menu is online and also below.
The Sand Bar Review