Nothing is more important to a restaurant, arguably, than its identity — that unique, difficult to quantify something that sets it apart, helps it develop a loyal following, and instantly says to a consumer this is why you come here. Among the challenges facing fine dining establishments over the tumultuous past few weeks has been the need to tweak elegant, even opulent identities to fit new realities.
Case in point: Sandbar in Cold Spring Harbor, which Newsday’s Peter Gianotti praised as having one of Suffolk County’s “best-looking dining rooms, sleek and polished” when it opened in 2015. The harbor-themed artwork, exposed beams and “handsome woodwork” that helped Sandbar build a loyal following are on hiatus, at least for the time being, and so is much of the menu.
“In these trying times, people don’t want gourmet food,” says James Olsen, Sandbar’s general manager. And even if they did, “our food loses something in the delivery process.”
The solution? Keep some of Sandbar’s most popular, transportable dishes but add family-friendly fare, “something you can just pick up hot, put on the table and have dinner.” To that end, Sandbar closed its doors on St. Patrick’s Day, charging executive chef Guy Reuge and chef de cuisine Amanda Mathosian with the task of creating a family-style menu, one that for the foreseeable future will feature sheet pans of chicken Parmesan, penne Bolognese, shrimp scampi and more. The new menu will be unveiled when Sandbar reopens for takeout and delivery on Friday.
“We’re not usually a chicken Parmesan or française kind of place,” acknowledges Olsen, adding that the Lessing Group, which owns Sandbar, “really wanted something that was more like a home-cooked meal to support the community during this time.” All meals for four will be accompanied by salad and Sandbar’s much-loved sourdough bread, and perennially popular entrees like steelhead trout, roast chicken and marinated skirt steak will still be available (sometimes tweaked to account for the availability of ingredients). Cheeseburgers, fish and chips, chickpea fries and meatballs made the cut as well.
“We didn’t want to completely change the concept of the place,” says Olsen. The hope is that Sandbar’s many fans will still recognize Sandbar in the new menu, even as it changes along with the availability of dishes (“nothing comes out of a bag here”), and is executed by a smaller than usual number of personnel.
“It’s still a really good meal,” says Olsen. "That's for sure."
Sandbar is at 55 Main St. in Cold Spring Harbor, 631-498-6188, sandbarcoldspringharbor.com. Takeout and delivery begin Friday. Opening hours are Friday through Sunday, noon to 8 p.m., and Wednesday and Thursday, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Closed Monday and Tuesday.